FEATURE - February 2020
Improve Your Relationship in Eight Minutes a Day
An excerpt from Love Skills by Linda Carroll
Falling in love is never a straight line to “happily ever after.” Relationships go through seasons of change, renewal, darkness, and light.
So promises long-time therapist and couple’s coach Linda Carroll in Love Skills: The Key to Unlocking Lasting, Wholehearted Love, which offers specific, effective solutions to the most common struggles that couples face.
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One of the most common complaints couples have is not having enough time to work on — and enjoy — their relationship. We don’t need to take long vacations or have extravagant nights out to stay connected. Regular walks, simple date nights, and setting aside short moments during each day when we come together and move apart are even more important than the more dramatic things like climbing Machu Picchu or taking a Mediterranean cruise.
Can you commit to eight minutes a day that will guarantee a huge return on your investment? If so, consider spending two minutes connecting with your partner at each of the four transition times described below.
Moment One: Waking up and reconnecting.
Thanks to Tim’s lattes, I always start my day feeling grateful to him. If you can find a minute (or two) to meet, say hello, ask about each other’s dreams, or silently spoon before rising, you can start the day with a sense of mutual openheartedness.
I know one couple who take a walk on a beach near their house every morning, no matter how busy their day is or how rainy and uninviting the weather. Over their forty years of marriage, they have walked holding hands, sometimes talking nonstop and other times quietly looking in different directions. During some tough relationship seasons, they were so upset they didn’t speak to one another during their walks — but they walked anyway. They have often said this morning ritual has kept them together through the rocky periods in their relationship. Having time for a walk is great, but two minutes of intentional focus can also make a big impact on how you feel toward one another the rest of the day.
Beginning the day with connection also provides our bodies and hearts with a healthy dose of oxytocin, one of the “love potion” chemicals that floods us in The Merge stage of our relationship — and is always available to us.
Moment Two: Leaving and separating for the day.
The idea of the goodbye kiss makes me laugh (and slightly cringe). I think of those old TV programs and movies from the 1960s in which the man rushes out to work and his wife (already dressed in pearls and an apron) kisses him goodbye as she starts to vacuum. I find those scenes annoying, but science has demonstrated the power of that kiss. Even a quick kiss releases a burst of adrenaline and oxytocin. Taking a pause to say goodbye, looking at each other even for a moment, and wishing each other a good day sends you both off with a feeling of being cared for and connected and eager to reunite.
Moment Three: Coming home and reconnecting.
Whatever distractions you may be dealing with, when you walk in the door set aside two minutes — at least — to say hello. Before you check email, return texts, or head for your workout room, stop and look at one another, ask how each other’s day went, and give each other a welcoming hug. Two minutes — you can do that! (Maybe even three!)
Some couples share a ritual of a drink together each night: a kombucha drink, a sparkling Pellegrino, or a glass of wine. For others, mealtimes are a sacred ritual in which each person shares the highs, lows, and small moments of their day. Whatever you choose to do, make your daily reunion a time of welcome, genuine interest, and appreciation.
Moment Four: Going to sleep and separating.
Going to bed is not the time to work out hassles or talk about problems. It is a time to keep technology to a minimum, release some of those great touch chemicals by kissing, holding, or making love, and appreciate that you each made it through the day. If you go to sleep at the same time, take just a moment to connect. If you go to bed at different times, tuck each other in with care and kindness.
Another thing you can do anytime is hug. Research shows couples who hug each other on the same day they have a fight tend to be less upset about the fight. Think of it as an insurance policy. If you hug and don’t fight, it will feel great. If you hug and do fight, you will get over it much more quickly!
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Excerpted from the book Love Skills. Copyright ©2020 by Linda Carroll. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.
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Linda Carroll is the author of Love Skills and Love Cycles. While she has worked as a therapist and couple’s coach for over three decades and has acquired numerous certificates and degrees along the way, she says that her own thirty-five-year marriage is the primary source of her knowledge when it comes to the cycles of love. Visit her online at https://lindaacarroll.com/.