Wake up. Go to work. Come home. Throw together something that resembles dinner. Plop on the couch with your spouse and watch Netflix. Scroll Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Go to bed. Wake up and repeat.
Sound familiar? Let’s face it–some days you just need to disengage. The problem is, disengaging can quickly become the easy way out as you fall into the humdrum of everyday life and you wake up one morning forgetting who the person is lying next to you. My wife Melissa and I have been married four years now, and there are still days where we look at each other and say, “I feel like I haven’t seen you in weeks.” It happens to the best of us, especially as work and friends and activities take over, and we get stuck in the tedious rhythms of life. Sleep. Eat. Work. Sleep. Eat. Work.
Fight the desire to veg and let’s bring back that spark! That connection you once had with your loved one as you talked until 3 in the morning about Star Wars and jelly bean flavors.
Here are the rules of the game. Make it intentional: Set aside a purposeful time with your husband or wife, be it a weekly date night or any dedicated time to focus on each other and not talk about work. And number two: Ditch the tech. No phones, no social media, no TV. I know it’s hard, but the result is worth it.
Now try these ten tricks to trigger communication with your spouse that have worked wonders for my wife and I.
01. Draw Each Other.
Wait, what? OK, you don’t have to specifically draw each other, per se, but try letting your artistic juices flow. I remember when Melissa and I went to a “wine and painting” class. We drank a bottle and left with two Picasso masterpieces that somehow looked like a guy with a ponytail and a toucan. It doesn’t matter what you draw or paint or how good you are, just get creative together and let the laughter ensue.
Childhood is a bottomless trove of fascinating stories and insights about the one you love. I’ll never forget visiting my grandparents who have been married for more than fifty years. My grandma told us a story about a play she wrote in grammar school (I think it was about a potato) that left us all rolling, and afterward my grandpa said, “I never knew that about you.” It was amazing. So dive into those awkward childhood photos. Ask about third grade. See what comes up. Everybody loves stories.
03. Cook Something Exotic.
Ever made chicken tikka masala or Vietnamese pho? Me neither. But you could! Research it, find the ingredients, and enjoy whatever concoction you make together. Some of the most memorable conversations I’ve had with Melissa have been in the kitchen.
I love to dream. Where do you want to be five years from now? Ten years? If you had to move to a new city right now, where would you go? What would you do? You may learn new things and all you have to do is ask.
05. Experience Art.
I'm not talking about a movie, but art at the theater or a museum. Find out what inspires the two of you. What do you like or not like? Why?
06. Read Spanish Poetry.
I recommend Pablo Neruda. “Te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras, secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma." Translation: “I love you the way certain dark things are loved, secretly, between the shadow and the soul.” Talk about love! A common question my wife and I ask each other is this, "How can I love you better?" Sounds trite, but it's often revealing and helpful.
07. Play a Game.
Monopoly, chess, checkers, Scrabble, you name it. Find your inner child. It's all about having fun together and enjoying one another’s company. (And winning. It’s also about winning.)
08. Have a Dance Party.
That’s right: Sometimes you just have to take off your shoes and dance. Even if it’s playing the song from your first dance at your wedding or singing karaoke to your favorite 1990s rock ballad ("Wonderwall" by Oasis, anyone?), don’t be afraid to be goofy and bust a move.
09. Get Physical.
Not that kind of physical—at least, not yet. Get outside. Go for a run. Take a Zumba or body pump or trapeze class. Sometimes you just need to get the blood flowing before the conversation does.
It probably does seem unusual, but volunteering in our city has brought my wife and I together in a special way. It’s the type of bond only forged with those who are willing to get in the mud with you for the sake of something greater. How can you make a difference together?
Not every tip will work for every couple, but these are ten simple suggestions to get you started. The idea is to look for something to break the monotony, spark conversation, and develop those shared experiences that truly knit us together.