A new year is upon us! Fresh beginnings bring a revitalized energy to refocus our attention and efforts on what really matters to us. What do we really want to be spending our time on?
One of the biggest areas that we all usually wish for “more” in is our relationships, especially with our spouses. We desire more connection, closeness, intimacy, more understanding, and, the biggest one, more time. With the demands of medical training, moments to simply relax and enjoy time together can be limited, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t remain connected.
In last month’s article, I addressed some ways medical couples can grow apart in their relationship and what to do about it (see “When You Start To Grow Apart“). In this article, we’ll discuss some simple ways to deepen our connection with our spouse, almost instantly without the need for big plans or stretches of time. These actions actually take just a moment, but can greatly help your relationship stay not only close, but fun and intimate. Here are five actions you can do today! Try them out and see what unexpected things happen!
- Physical Closeness and Touch
I’m not necessarily talking about “in the bedroom” closeness, which of course is a wonderful way to connect; I’m talking about finding moments during the day to be physically close to your spouse and give them loving touch. Loving touch could be a hug, a few rubs on the the shoulders, pretending to bump into them in a playful way, or even a simple touch on the arm and eye contact. Take a moment to notice how you can exist in the same space and actually have very little contact with each other. It’s quite surprising! So let’s turn this around. Go sit close to your spouse, just because, and let the sparks fly.
When was the last time you flirted with your spouse? When have you teased or had a little light-hearted fun like staring at your spouse seductively from across the room until they met your gaze? Even though we’re “grown up” and married now, it doesn’t mean we can’t still be playful. With all the demands of daily life, we can easily get stuck in a serious, get-things-done, mindset, and we forget that we can break from its grasp at any moment. Free yourself from productivity for just a moment to allow for something spontaneous and unplanned to happen.
- What’s Your Spouse’s “Love Language”?
In the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, the author discusses five ways to express or feel love: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), or physical touch. Figure out your spouse’s love language and do one of them! Most of these don’t actually cost anything and take just a bit of time. For example, my husband loves gifts, especially gifts of food. When I make something just for him because I know that he likes it, it is one of the easiest ways for me to show him how much I love and care for him. In return, it can quickly raise his spirits and bring him “back to me.”
- Invite them to take a short (or long!) walk with you.
For medical couples in-training, opportunities for leisure activities can be few and far between. However, a short 10-15 minute walk not only gets you some fresh air and outside time, which is incredibly rejuvenating and reduces stress, it gives you an opportunity to be completely present with each other. No distractions from phones or to-do lists at home. Just the two of you together. Instant connection!
- Tell your spouse you are so proud of them and thankful for all their hard work.
Life as a medical spouse can be lonely, overwhelming, and unfair at times. We can easily get absorbed in our own experience, and forget about how different and challenging our spouse’s experience can be. Luckily for us, we get to participate in life outside of medicine (unless you’re a dual-medicine couple!), but our spouses live medicine all day long, with only short breaks.
Take a moment to imagine what your spouse’s day was like, the demands, pressure, and exhaustion. Even if your spouse isn’t a real “talker” and doesn’t seem like they need any affirmation, a simple acknowledgement of their hard work still goes a long way. A confirmation that their efforts are noticed and appreciated shows them you are on their side, trying your best to be supportive and are ready to help. When they feel supported they can relax, which then makes it so you can come together without fear of judgement or inadequacy. Don’t we all need to hear once in awhile that, “I see you. I see all your efforts and your work. You’re doing a great job and I’m so proud of you?” I think we do!
I hope these suggestions inspire you to take a new look at ways to connect with your spouse. Give them a try and see what works for your relationship! Best wishes for a beautiful New Year with many fun and fulfilling moments with your partner!