5 Ways to Improve Your Connection

“When we were dating, we downplayed our relationship because our family and family friends didn’t know what dating was. If you’re dating, it means your relationship isn’t serious. I was getting marriage proposals from aunties even though I had been dating Rajan for 3 years,” Sapna explained.

“We didn’t want to be disrespectful to the elders, to our family or to the culture so we just didn’t act like a couple except when we were around our friends. We did this for all 3 years until we got engaged,” echoed Rajan while Sapna nodded.

“Then we got married and thought, ok now we can focus on our relationship and make that priority. We’ll be taken seriously by our family and family friends now that we’re a ‘legitimate’ couple in their eyes,” joked Rajan. “But then came the transition period of learning how to be married and still go about our regular routine, how to balance time with each of our friends and each of our families. It wasn’t easy.”

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“After we felt like we had established a good routine and felt settled in our married life, which took a lot longer than we thought, we had kids. And when you have kids, everything else goes out the window,” Sapna said.

“I remember we thought about leaving the baby with your parents one night a week,” Rajan said looking at Sapna “and they asked what we were doing. We told them we wanted to go on a date. They had the strangest look on their face. They just didn’t get it.”

“And now we have 3 kids all under the age of 10. We don’t see each other much and our priorities are, again, anything but our relationship,” Sapna stated. “We never saw our parents prioritize their relationship and I think we just automatically fell into the same pattern because that’s all we knew. You’re parents first, spouses later.”

South Asian culture values maintaining positive and strong relationships with family and children.

It makes South Asians very group oriented and many become very attentive parents who are closely involved and invested in raising the best children possible.

However, the downside is that the romantic relationship, which is the foundation of the new family, gets lost and undervalued.

Research by John Gottman has shown that it only takes about 5 hours a week of prioritizing your relationship to strengthen it and give it the nurturing that is necessary to maintain a happy, healthy relationship.

Healthy relationships also play a role in protecting against physical ailments and illnesses as well!

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Here is how he suggests spending the 5 hours per week:

1) Parting:

Before leaving for work or beginning your day, find out one thing that is on your spouse’s to-do list for the day.

That can be anything from an important meeting to lunch with a friend, to a phone call to a doctor. (This 2 minute activity, done 5 days a week, totals 10 minutes.)

2) Reunion:

At the end of the day, have a stress-reducing conversation about the events of the day.

The conversation should focus on the highs and lows and should be a conversation that you both look forward to.

Ensure that no other diversions interfere, such as phone calls, emails, etc. If you have children, this may be a good conversation to have after they have gone to sleep. (This activity can take about 20 minutes. If done 5 times a week, totals 1 hour 40 minutes.)

3) Admiration and Appreciation:

Every day, say at least one thing that you genuinely appreciate about your partner.

Examples can include, “I really love how great you are with the kids” or “I’m so impressed with how patient you are” or “Thank you for buying the milk today”. (Try spending about 5 minutes on this activity 7 days a week to total 35 minutes.)

4) Affection:

Find a way to show affection to your spouse every day.

This can be by:

  • Giving a hug
  • Holding hands
  • Kissing
  • Expressing a kind thought
  • Giving each other a kind look or smile, etc.

Affection does have to and should not always be sexual in nature but instead should cover a wide range of behaviors and expressions. (Doing this for 5 minutes each day for 7 days totals 35 minutes.)

5) Weekly date:

Once a week, find 2 hours per week where the two of you can spend time together, just the two of you.

  • Try out new activities
  • Engage in old ones
  • And find reasons to laugh.

The date does not have to be elaborately planned, especially if your schedule does not permit it. But it should be a time of genuinely enjoying each other’s company doing whatever makes you both happy.

This could happen:

  • Over dinner one night
  • During an infant’s nap time
  • While children are at a slumber party
  • Or after they’ve gone to bed, etc.

This time should not be used to discuss areas of conflict, which should be scheduled for a different time of the week.

Doing these five things each week totals 5 hours.

As you can see, these 5 suggestions are quite small and easy to do.

Romance and strengthening a relationship often does not require lavish, romantic gestures, but instead small acts that you can do often. So while you plan an elaborate evening for Valentine ’s Day, try to also incorporate these smaller gestures next week and make a note about how your relationship feels.

As Gottman says, and a plethora of other research supports, “Remember, working briefly on your marriage every day will do more for your health and longevity than working out at a health club.”

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Article ContributorMySahana, meaning my “patience” or “fortitude” in Sanskrit, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health issues as they pertain to the South Asian community.

By providing culturally-sensitive and relevant information, they aim to correct misinformation, remove stigma and begin a dialogue about mental health and healthy living. They believe it is from these dialogues that South Asians will feel more comfortable seeking services and making the necessary changes to live a healthier life.

For more information, please visit their website at http://www.mysahana.org, follow them @MySahana on Twitter and connect with them on Facebook.

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