Everyone wants the secret. How do we jump start a career? How can we lose weight without diet and exercise? How do we change our relationships without making major changes? In most situations, secrets don’t exist. Change requires more intention and effort than we desire to give. We desire a way which requires no work, but meaningful change always requires work.
While effort is always necessary, there are some small changes that couples can make which will make a significant change in their relationship. They won’t rescue a relationship that is dying, but they can greatly improve a marriage that is in a rut. (See: The Number One Cause of Divorce)
5 Connection Hacks
By including these five habits into our weekly routine, our marriages will be greatly enhanced.
1. Walk. The simplest prescription I give to the average marriage is: take a regular walk. It’s amazing what 30 minutes away from our regular routine can do. Not only are there great physical benefits to a brisk walk, it can greatly impact a marriage. As a couple walks, we interact with nature, engage in conversation, and connect with one another. Couples who struggle to find time to communicate benefit the most from a walk. Without screens, they are free to communicate with each other. If physically possible, walk together as much as possible.
2. Smile. As we age, most people gradually smile less. We forget the impact a smile can play on a relationship. Nearly every relationship begins with a smile. Few things express connection like a shared smile. If it was effective in starting your relationship, it’s reasonable to believe it will be useful in sustaining your relationship. A smile communicates recognition and invitation. A shared smile symbolizes a true connection. It invites the other person into our lives, even if just for a moment. Don’t fake a smile, but go out of your way to make sure your spouse sees your smile. (See: Three Things a Husband Needs to See)
3. Touch. Yes, sexual touch matters. Adding more of that to your relationship would likely benefit it, but if the only touch you ever have is sexual touch, your relationship is likely wilting from a lack of intimacy. Increasing non-sexual touch will greatly impact your relationship. Holding hands, touching as you pass one another, resting your hands on their leg, and cuddling is an easy way to stay connected. Non-sexual touch will decrease feelings of stress, make you sleep better, and give you a general sense of safety. Most couples stop touching out of apathy. They don’t mean to stop, but as kids come along and life gets busy, they simply fall out of the habit. It’s a pattern worth changing. It might feel forced at first, but if a couple can push through the awkwardness, it will be well worth it.
4. See. Too many couples simply stop seeing one another. As life gets busy, they see their responsibilities, problems, and expectations, but they stop seeing each other. By taking time and looking at your spouse, recognizing their stresses, contributions, joys, sorrows, and worries, we can better understand them. In a moderately healthy marriage, just a little more awareness of everything your spouse is doing and feeling will greatly increase your connection with them.
5. Appreciate. Gratitude changes everything. As you appreciate your spouse, you will communicate, serve, and love them better. Few things signify a relationship in trouble like diminishing appreciation. If your gratitude for your spouse is waning, either you need to appreciate them more or they need to start acting in a way that can be appreciated. When appreciation is genuinely felt, communicated, and reciprocated, marital satisfaction greatly increases.
The problem with these five hacks is that many of them are byproducts. If our relationship is healthy, we will naturally do these things. In many cases, trying to force ourselves to do these five things will not last. Without the underlying connection, our best efforts will fail. However, in some cases the good relationship is there, it’s just been hidden by the stresses of life. Doing these five things can bring back the connection and love which we once felt.
Try these five hacks. If you reintroduce them and sustain the behavior, your marriage will benefit. If you attempt them, but can’t make them a regular practice, get help because there is likely a greater problem in your relationship which is preventing these from naturally occurring. (See: 13 Questions to Gauge If You Need Marriage Counseling)