Seems Like Old Times: Learning to Reconnect With Your Mate

There is nothing like the flush of young love. We feel alive, full of innocence and hope, completely open to another’s needs and desires. Our emotions and chemistry are skewed in favor of believing: This is someone I will treasure forever.

This is true whether the person is your lover or your child. For most couples, they first have this experience with each other and then fall in love all over again with their children. Of course, with birth comes an incessant demand on a couple’s physical, material and logistical resources, particularly the mother if she is breastfeeding. After a day of caring for the intimate needs of a young child who’s been crying, crawling, chewing, sucking and wetting on you, is it any wonder that personal downtime is often preferred over even more intimacy?

Luckily, there seems to be a point when children start to develop basic behaviors that have them asserting their autonomy. At that point, parents are finally able to pause, gaze into each other’s eyes and ask some essential questions: Who are you, who am I, and more importantly, who are WE beyond these sacred, sweaty robes of parenthood we’ve been wearing for so many moons?

Despite the stressors, I frequently witness couples expressing a lot of gratitude towards each other when they take time to sincerely acknowledge how much they successfully collaborate. Parents tend to spend a majority of their time focused outward, standing side-by-side as a team. Although this side-by-side stance is essential to successful collaborations, adult bonding requires face-to-face intimacy in order to thrive. If a couple desires a relationship beyond parenting, they must be willing to regularly relinquish their parental identities for committed chunks of you-and-me time.

To put it simply, when we get overly identified with any role we play, we have less energy for other roles. Here’s an experiment: Imagine your life as a pie chart that includes all the ways you currently use your precious, finite energy. Note how big a slice each of your “roles” gets in your current “Life Pie” distribution.

Next take a few moments to recall the primary roles you identified with in the first months of your relationship. If you have children, chances are this list recalls roles you fondly remember from your “B.C.” era (before children). If so, you may want to consider (at least temporarily) reapportioning your pie!

Imagine your life as a pie chart that includes all the ways you choose to use your precious, finite energy.

One fun practice you can implement immediately is to take a moment and invoke a role you want to reclaim then appreciate your mate from that part of yourself. Let’s say your inner playmate wants some attention. You can embody that energy and (playfully!) declare to your mate: ”My Playmate has something to say: I so love going on adventures with you! Remember the time we…?”  Then allow yourself to fully express your inner playmate for a few minutes. Who knows? It might inspire you to create a play date together (no children allowed!).

How much time are you willing to invest in nurturing your one-on-one connection with your mate? 5%? 10%? 30%? As it turns out, it requires only about 3% (or five hours) of the 168 hours allotted to you each week, according to Relationship Researcher John Gottman.

Five hours can seem daunting at first, but the dividends are so worth it. You may even find your children encouraging you to have “special time” together when they feel the positive effect it produces. Date nights, joining a couple’s class or receiving relationship coaching are all great ways to reestablish quality time together.

Joy Hosey
About Joy Hosey

Joy Hosey is a Relationship Guide and Coach living in Ashland, OR. You can find out more about her and her work at JoyHosey.com

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