Due to the daily pressures, distractions, and dynamics of modern life, a romantic couple doesn’t have to be dysfunctional to grow distant over time. Long working hours and the demands of raising children can push date night, sex, and romantic vacations to last place on the priority list.
Researchers at UCLA observed 30 dual-career couples with young children to understand the daily challenges for finding opportunities to build strong relationships and families.
They discovered that these couples:
- Spend less than 10% of their time at home with each other and without their children around
- Are career-focused with long working hours (partner one) and a have a double burden of work and childcare (partner two)
- Prioritize children and household needs over the needs of their spouse or self
- Become more like roommates, drifting apart emotionally and physically
- Miss important opportunities to connect emotionally on a daily basis
With high expectations in our careers and relationships, yet little guidance on how to make love last, we are clearly struggling.
Only the intentional couple has a chance to deepen their emotional connection in order to bond over the years of their relationship.
Learning to Stand in Love
When we are falling in love we are often more intentional than married couples might be about going on dates, having intimate conversations to learn about each other, and making time for shared adventures.
It’s easy to fall in love, but much harder to stand in love, which requires intentionally creating moments of connection and intimacy.
Perhaps a look at another realm of life can reveal an analogous secret to making this all work…
Successful business owners often share that their energy and time is far more important than money. It turns out that it’s how they choose to spend their time and energy that determines how much money they make.
The same is undoubtedly true for a person’s love life. It’s easy to let cell phones, TV, and other electronic devices drain our time and energy while we are home. Social media and TV shows are designed to entertain us by strategically offering the most captivating and shocking stories and memes. Mark Manson argues that “Smartphones Are The New Cigarettes.”
Just recently I was on my phone while my partner was talking about something important. I was skimming all the videos, articles, and quotes on my Facebook feed on how to be a better lover.
It wasn’t until my partner said, “You’re not listening to me!” that I realized I was mindlessly sucked into my phone and half-heartedly listening to one of the most important people in my life.
See the irony?
Couples must stand against the urge to take the easy route of just passively letting things happen in our relationships. The sad truth of love is that if we do nothing to actively improve our romantic relationships, even without doing anything that is actively destructive, the relationships will get worse over time. Relationships require active work and maintenance. After all, even when a couple is first dating, things don’t just happen. The active efforts of the couple make them happen.
According to the author of The Intentional Family, we need to focus on two connection killers to make our relationships better: how we spend our time and how we use technology.
- Many couples are time-poor. Driving kids to soccer practice after a full day of work, only to come home and cook or do the laundry, leaves very little time for oneself and one’s significant other. A busy couple can first focus on improving the quality of their interactions by truly focusing on each other and the relationship during the time that is available.
- Couples fail to intentionally disconnect with the outside world, missing the opportunity to truly connect with each other’s inner worlds. Our electronic devices are always sending us notifications that can interrupt and distract us from enjoying relationship time. The good news is that just making some minor changes in how devices are used can significantly improve the quality of a couple’s time together.
Ritualizing Daily Interactions
One of the best ways to intentionally improve a relationship is to add meaning to the daily habits we already practice, as well as to cultivate new rituals that make the moments we have together, even when we are crazy busy, more meaningful and connecting.
A romantic ritual is an event that is repeated, planned, and, most importantly, designed to be meaningful to both partners.