If you've been with your partner for a while, or have simply become overwhelmed by the busyness that is life, you may start to notice a divide forming in your relationship. Maybe you spend a lot of time on your phone, or your partner is always checking their email. And as a result of all the distractions, neither of you ever feels fully present.
This is something that can happen to even the most loving of couples. Because again, life is busy. It's normal to be distracted as you go about your days and get things done. And you really can't expect each other to be fully present 100 percent of the time.
But if you'd like to slow down in spite of it all, and feel connected again, often all it takes is a little mindfulness. "Mindfulness is a fantastic tool for creating and maintaining a healthy and happy relationship," licensed psychotherapist and relationship coach Adamaris Mendoza, LPC, MA tells Bustle. "Being present with your partner and being able to focus, listen, and process without distraction helps improve communication."
And better communication isn't the only benefit. Mindfulness can also help you to get to know each other better, remain grateful, and show support when life gets tough. Read on below for easy ways to be more present in your relationship so you can do just that, according to experts.
To add an extra layer to that undivided attention, it can help to get closer to your partner physically, particularly during important conversations. "Place your hand on their arm [or] hold hands," Dr. Young says. "Show physical affection while you are listening and that [will deepen] the connection even further."
Do One Thing At A Time
Whenever you're hanging out one-on-one with your partner, make an effort to only do one thing at a time, so you can truly enjoy what's going on around you.
"If you are talking, focus on the conversation and words coming out of your mouth," lifestyle and mindfulness coach Wade Brill, tells Bustle. "If you are cooking together, focus on cooking together. If you are brushing your teeth, focus on brushing your teeth."
Multi-tasking can be a tough habit to break, but you can "train yourself to not over-complicate and stimulate the situation by focusing on one thing at a time," Brill says. "These practices will support you feeling present overall in your home-life and especially impact how you interact with your partner."
Pay Attention To Their Facial Expressions
One of the simplest ways to stay in tune with your partner — no matter the situation — is by paying attention to their facial expressions. As Mendoza says, "Our conscious speaks with words but our subconscious communicates through our body.
So keep an eye out for subtle gestures and other body language, which can be easily missed if you aren't paying attention. "This will help you determine the impact of what and how you communicate is having in your partner and your relationship," she says.
Talk About Sex
Having sex is a great way to bond and feel close to your partner. But only if you're actually enjoying it. So make sure you speak up and chat about what you both want and need.
"To do this, couples should have conversations about sex, and give feedback on their likes and dislikes during a relaxing, fun time — for example, when out on date night [or] while hanging out in PJs at home with a glass of wine," sexual wellness expert Rebecca Alvarez Story, MA, tells Bustle.
It may take some time to get used to talking about your love life. But you'll be glad you did.
Set New Boundaries
Take a look around for the small habits that may be tearing you and your partner apart. And then decide together on some new boundaries.
"Is someone glued to their phone for a while after they walk in the door from work? Does someone jump onto their laptop [first thing when] they wake up? Notice the patterns and then together start to set boundaries," Brill says.
Once you create a few rules — like "no checking email after 9 p.m." — you might notice that a sense of calm comes over your lives, and you both feel more present.
Create New Habits
If it seems like your current habits are getting in the way of your ability to connect, it may help to replace them with someone new. Instead of watching TV all night, for instance, "you can take a hike or walk in nature, work out, play a game, or any other activity that allows for both of you to truly connect," Mendoza says. And sometimes, simply switching things up can be enough to help you feel grounded again.
While sex is great, showing affection in other ways can provide a sense of safety and security in your relationship, as well as a sense of closeness. Think along the lines of hugging at the end of a long day, or giving each other a massage before bed. Whatever you choose, Mendoza says, will help facilitate a deeper connection and sense of intimacy between you.
Create Meaningful Rituals
Rituals can come in handy when you're looking to feel closer and stay connected, not only because they give you something to look forward to, but because they serve as a sort of anchor in your week.
"Relationship habits matter, including [...] creating rituals within your relationship, such as date nights or walks in the evenings," Steve Dziedzic, founder and CEO of the couples counseling app Lasting, tells Bustle. "In some way, shape, or form, successful couples make healthy habits a priority."
It's little things like this that can bring you back together after a long week, improve communication, and help you feel more present — even when there's a busy world whirling around you.