For a lot of us, we’ve spent more time than usual with our spouses this past year.
Whether it’s been working from home together, business trips getting cancelled, social activities that usually keep us busy and away from the house and each other, lots of couples got a deep dive back into spending many hours of the clock together.
But even in all that extra time, I began finding there were some things missing.
Oddly, in the absence of our frenetic pre-pandemic business trips and social obligations and long hours at the office, the routines my husband and I had set up for being intentional in our time together disappeared.
No date nights. No quick weekend trips away from the kids. No intentionality in planning a movie night at home.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that we’re together more in our day-to-day work lives now, particularly because we’ve spent a majority of our marriage away from each during the day. But I’ve learned that time spent in the same physical space doesn’t automatically mean we stay connected. Heads down in our computers, often in different spaces in the house, with no rhythm of commutes demarcating an end to the business day and a start to family time, it’s been lots of work and not a lot of play over here sometimes.
So how can we stay better connected, particularly when our habits as a couple are interrupted? Here some ideas we’re using that might just help you, too!
Redefine date night:
It doesn’t have to be a night out on the town or a long dinner at your favorite restaurant. Order a to-go meal from your favorite restaurant. Park the kids in front of the television for a while, and dine by candlelight in your rarely used dining room or on a card table in your bedroom. Put the effort in to making it feel different from the usual family meal and see your spouse in a new (candle) light.
Staycation for the win:
Months into the pandemic, we needed a little time away. But with things still pretty uncertain in the world, we weren’t willing to hop a plane and take off. Instead, we Airbnb’d a great little place not too far down the road, where we could honor social-distancing and take a much needed break from the day-to-day. Top tip? Honor the rules of a real weekend away: stay off the business email, don’t work on that project for just an hour or two. Stay unplugged and focused on your spouse.
Revisit the tried and true:
In our lives in the Before, my husband and I texted each other throughout the course of the day. Funny memes, encouragement, little updates about the things going on in our work. When your spouse is now working from home in the home office just across the hall from yours, it can make that former habit seem a little silly. But trust me, give it a try. Start up the text stream afresh. Flirt, laugh, and share what’s going on from each of your desks. It’s a way to show your intentionality in connecting, even when you’re just a hallway away.
Meet for lunch:
This one started out accidentally enough. We’d been on different schedules in our work-a-day world previously, and often had business luncheons with colleagues, not each other. But during this time of WFH, we found we were often rambling to the kitchen about the same time mid-day. And so began a new habit of meeting for lunch. It’s been an awesome break in the day to finish up the morning’s agenda and head to the kitchen island for a few minutes to make a salad and chat. It reminds me of the days of our college romance, when we would be intentional to meet for lunch on campus between classes, a time to see each other in our busy days. And little remembrances of those early days of romance are a great thing.
Studies are telling us that marriages have been under great strain during the pandemic, with 34% of couples reporting greater stress in this last year. And yet, those same studies also show that couples are stronger because of the extra time together and the reduction of commitments and schedules that often keep us away from the house and each other. For many of us, it has given us an unexpected gift of time. How we use it, to reconnect as a couple, to solidify our commitment, to break old habits that needed to go and to establish new ones, that’s on us. So reclaim date night, meet for lunch in the kitchen, and fire up that text meme stream. You might just find yourself feeling a little more giddy around that spouse of yours.
Julie Lyles Carr is a best-selling author, podcaster, and entrepreneur living in Austin, Texas, with her husband Mike Carr. They have eight kids, two unfriendly cats, and an antique dachshund.