Baby, it’s cold outside—but your love connection doesn’t have to be! Just because we’re feeling those chilly temperatures doesn’t mean your relationship shouldn’t be heating up at this time of year. In fact, with more people spending time indoors and craving those cozier indulgences (think blankets, hot baths, and candles), this season can actually be the perfect time to connect with your significant other.
On the other hand, winter also brings a lot of factors that can cause us to feel disconnected from our loved ones: the post-holiday letdown that many people feel as the new year begins, family resentments that may have reared their ugly heads during the season’s celebrations, or the onset of seasonal depression, to name a few. So, if you feel like you’re disconnected from your partner right now, don’t worry—there are ways to close the distance. Start with these 4 ideas to get (and stay) closer this season, then keep them in mind for the entire year ahead.If your schedules are packed to the brim and you need to officially schedule time to spend with your partner, do it. Click To Tweet
1. Set aside some time.
You can’t connect with your partner if you’re both always running in different directions. If your schedules are packed to the brim and you need to officially schedule time to spend with your partner, do it—put it in your planner and consider it a non-negotiable, whether it’s a date night out on the town or a quiet night at home. If you go out, try bonding activities like playing games or sports. If you stay in, choose something that requires mutual engagement, like collaborating on a creative project or cooking dinner together to build team spirit.
By the way, thanks to many Americans’ obsessive reliance on technological devices, you and your partner can be running in different directions without ever leaving the room. Being on the same couch while your noses are stuck in a phone, tablet, television, or even a book does not count as togetherness. Put down the technology for the time you’ve set aside together and put any devices on silent. Spending quality time means you need to focus on the other person, so carve out some privacy and drop the outside distractions.
2. Quiz your partner.
Sometimes, we get so comfortable with the ones we love that we take their thoughts, ideas, and opinions as a given, but human beings are always evolving. When is the last time you and your significant other asked each other questions—and really listened to the answers? It’s fine to review basics like “How was your day?” but it’s more fun and enriching to chat over deeper inquiries, such as: What fears are most prominent for you right now? What do you think are your greatest strengths and challenges? What is your favorite memory of us? How can I be a better partner to you?
If you need inspiration, you can find hundreds of question suggestions online to create a deeper connection. You’ll probably be surprised at how much you learn and being vulnerable with another person never fails to bring you closer. If one or both of you have a hard time expressing emotions with each other, start with less intense questions and gradually move into more serious topics. Realize that opening up more with each other can be a journey, not a destination.
3. Don’t avoid the negative.
No one likes to run head-first into conflict in their relationships, but avoiding any unpleasant conversations causes people to bottle things up and creates resentment over time. If you and your loved one have been butting heads lately—even over “little things” like household chores—sit down for a calm and thoughtful discussion about it. Be ready to listen and speak without accusations, and try to delve into the underlying sentiments beneath the surface issue. (For example, your argument about the dishes might actually be about someone feeling underappreciated.)
Then, once the problem has been discussed and addressed, let it go. Over time, as you both see that you can confront problems without high-stress arguments, stony silences, angry outbursts, or hard feelings, you’ll both be more comfortable bringing up concerns in the moment rather than stuffing your emotions down and putting on a false happy face. With honesty, communication, and understanding, everyone wins.
4. Pay attention to everyday efforts.
Scheduled weekly date nights, conflict-resolution sessions, and deep-dive pillow talks all have their place, but let’s keep in mind that when it comes to relationships, sometimes it’s the little things, practiced daily, that matter most. Here are some ideas: Do something kind for your partner—unasked, unexpected, and without the need for payback. Begin a bedtime or morning (or both) ritual for the two of you so that you spend time starting and/or ending the day in a connected way. Write love notes or offer words of appreciation. (As an extra boost, you can both find out your preferred “love language” so you know what kinds of acts are most appreciated.) Or ramp up levels of feel-good oxytocin through physical touch and affection.
Also commit to regular check-ins so you can ask your significant other about how they’re feeling if they’re struggling with anything, how you can better support them, and anything else that’s cropping up that day or week. And, when they have done something right, don’t forget to swoop in with positive feedback—people tend to respond more positively when they’re told what they’re doing right versus only what they’re doing wrong.
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