Seven Great Ways to Connect in the New Year

It's important to find time for building stronger connections with your partner, but even with good intentions this is just plain hard to do!  When we are busy we often just respond to what's hot.  It's stressful to feel as if “urgency” is the criteria that runs your life.  And, quite frankly, “urgent” says little about value to you, just timeliness.  The result is that we often leave the less urgent, but more valuable marriage and family parts of our lives behind.  Here are seven very specific tips for reclaiming your marriage and family time in the face of this pressure.

Set aside technology free time each week.  The message that comes to us via the Blackberry or the smart phone seems immediate, but often is not.  So set aside a day or evening dedicated to spending time together – attending to each other with no technological interference - either as a couple or family (depending upon your specific goals).  Call it date night or family night – it's good for your health and relationships.

Start what could become a long-standing rivalry or project.  I remember my father and grandfather's 10 year running gin rummy game – they played every time they got together and loved every minute of it (they finally tallied the total after something like 25,000 hands of cards to see who had “won”!)  Your version of this might be family football games, Dance Dance Revolution contests, mini-golf, doing craft projects together, working the Sunday crossword, or making music.  Whatever it is, try to create something that has the potential for long-term continuity and fun.  This will encourage meaningful interaction and connection around shared pleasure.

Drop three projects from your current work load.  There has to be something you are doing that “feels” urgent or necessary but, upon deeper reflection, is not.  With your “found” time, take a walk with your partner, read the weekend paper in bed, or build a snowman.

Make bedtime a “sacred” time.  Some of your best connection with your kids came during story time (remember that wonderful cuddling together?!)  Your marriage is no different.  Carve out time to be together at night to talk, share, read together – whatever.  If one of you goes to bed much later than the other that's okay.  Spend the time together, then get back out of bed.  You'll find that paying attention to adult bedtime is a huge plus for your relationship.

Take mini-breaks.  When stress and urgency seem to be taking over, give yourself a 10 minute break.  This will help you “reset” you brain (chemically) to manage whatever is looming more productively and creatively, improving your mood.  Try a few minutes of jumping jacks followed by some calming breathing to see if the ultimate result is more energy for the people you love.

Eat together.  Food bonds us at a very primitive level, and eating together gives everyone a chance to talk about whatever interests them at the moment.  So turn off the tv, put aside the homework and make it a priority to get home from work at an hour that allows everyone to share dinner.

Recognize at least one accomplishment a day.  We all thrive and feel connected when we feel appreciated.  You can start a dynamic of supportive recognition by modeling the behavior yourself.  Tell your partner how pleased you were that he put away the laundry or filled the car with gas.  Compliment your daughter on her diligence with her piano practicing.  The atmosphere in your home will quickly improve.  Don't be afraid to ask for the recognition you deserve, too!

Now, I invite you to add your own favorite ways to connect so other readers may benefit from your experience...