By Christine Murray, PhD, LPC, LMFT, Director of the Healthy Relationships Initiative
Our Healthy Relationships Initiative (HRI) team is excited to partner with Triad Moms on Main on this blog series. In this series, we offer general guidance to relationship or family questions submitted by TMoM community members. If you’ve got a question to ask, please share it anonymously on the form here.
“My husband and I have been married for over 10 years now. We tried to do date nights to stay connected, but I feel like all of our conversations are surface talk. If we aren’t talking about the kids and our schedules, I feel like we don’t have much to talk about. Any ideas to help us connect more?” ~ Bored in Winston-Salem
First, kudos to you and your husband for trying to connect through date nights. It’s understandably frustrating when the steps you take to try and reconnect fall short, but keep hope alive. It’s normal for couples to go through periods when they’re feeling less connected, especially when you face busy schedule demands and parenting. Often, couples who go through times like this come out on the other side with an even stronger and more satisfying marriage than ever before. So, before anything else, stay hopeful that there’s a great marriage buried under your busy calendars and the exhaustion that can come with parenting!
Date nights are a great way to connect as a couple, especially for parents who find it difficult to have meaningful conversations with the kids around. If you find it hard to find things to talk about when you do have alone time, it may be time to rethink how you approach your date nights. Instead of a more passive approach to date nights, like going out for a nice dinner, consider activities you can do together that push you each out of your comfort zone a bit and help you start creating new memories and topics to discuss.
Triad Moms on Main offers a great list of some activities for local couples to try on date night as one starting point for coming up with new ideas. If you’re feeling especially disconnected from your spouse, it may be a good idea to do something that doesn’t require much talking–such as a ropes course, cooking class, or arcade. Most couples who have grown disconnected have a hard time going straight to in-depth conversations, so activities like this can help you start to rebuild your friendship while having fun. At this point, it’s about starting to renew your sense of fun and enjoyment with each other. The deeper conversations can come later!
Once you’ve been with a partner for a long time, it’s easy to lose your sense of curiosity about them. It’s a common paradox in long-term couples that people feel like their partners don’t know them anymore, but they think that they know all there is to know about their partners! What would happen if you tried to build a spirit of curiosity about each other? While you certainly do know a lot about each other now, there’s always a lot to learn, especially as each of you have new experiences in your day-to-day lives. One tool you may find useful to learn about each other can be found in our Healthy Relationships Initiative Toolkit for Couples, where we offer Conversation Starters in a free, downloadable format. The Conversation Starter questions are designed to help couples go beyond surface-level conversations to really get to know one another better.
Finally, if you try some of the tips above and still find that you’re having a hard time connecting in your marriage, consider reaching out to a counselor, ideally for couples counseling with your partner. A trained counselor can help you explore more individualized ways of rebuilding your connection, such as by identifying unresolved conflicts, creating a deeper sense of emotional intimacy, and strengthening your sense of partnership.
Rebuilding a sense of excitement in a marriage that has grown to feel stale can take some time and effort. But, the effort is well worth it, as you’re building a solid foundation for your children’s growth and your own enjoyment of your marriage for years to come.
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