Blog : couples counseling

Dating your Spouse

Dating your Spouse

Whether you have been with your spouse for 2 years or 20 years, it’s normal to hit a period of boredom in your relationship. The everyday responsibilities of life like taking care of the household, going to work, taking care of the pets or children and the many other roles each partner may take on; all add up. And it is often your relationship that comes last on the list.  This often means lack of quality time, romance and adventure in the relationship. And this lack of quality, intimate or fun time together can lead to less connection, distress in the relationship, potentially to lead to conflict and feelings of being unsatisfied.

One way to address this is to ‘date your spouse’. Most couples know the importance of quality time together, but making it happen is another story. Many things can get in the way such as schedules, money and other responsibilities. But by making the commitment to each other and to the relationship, it can not only bring a much-needed spark, but an also prevent hardships in the future.

First make the commitment mutually. Talk with your partner about the importance of quality time together. Discuss what the hopes are for this commitment and the outcomes for your relationship. Then decide together what that time could look like, how that times together will be decided and how often if could realistically happen. Make it a team effort with commitment on both sides.

Next decide on a budget. Committing to ‘dating your spouse’ should not break the bank or cause financial stress. It may be unrealistic to go out on a dinner date once per week. So, decide on what else could be a date. A walk together, a picnic, or a movie on the couch after the kids have went to sleep.

Maintenance is key when you make a commitment. Do not let other things get in the way of your time together. It’s so easy to push aside a scheduled date when life gets in the way. ‘Dating your spouse’ is not easy. So set a schedule and do your best to stick to it.

And if life does happen to get in the way, don’t be afraid to get creative with your time; a breakfast or coffee date, a quick lunch, a nap together, a mid-day walk or even intimate conversation over the phone.  Yes, sometimes things get in the way that are unavoidable, like an important event, travel plans, sick children or pets. But maintaining the commitment means sticking to it and making it a priority. Put your relationships first.

One Thing Couples Can Do to Improve Their Relationship in 5 Minutes

One Thing Couples Can Do to Improve Their Relationship in 5 Minutes

My wife and I recently got in a fight about pajamas. There weren’t pajamas for my daughter in her drawer. But it wasn’t about pajamas. It was about roles, household duties, and fairness.

Have you ever had the pajama fight? You know it’s ridiculous, but it really matters to you. It’s tapped into something beyond pajamas, it’s what we cover in couples counseling often.

In marriage and long term relationships, there is one skill that will change everything. If you master this skill, you’re more likely to stay married, have long term health, and be happier. Also, you may avoid needing to come to couple counseling as frequently or get more out of your marriage therapy.

Marriage reseracher, Drs. John and Julie Gottman have been studying couples for 40 years. They are able to predict divorce with over 90% accuracy. This is because they have found the exact formula that people fall into to tear apart their relationships. They teach marriage and family therapists how to do this. 

So what’s the skill? Active listening.

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is a skill where your main purpose is to full understand your partner. There’s no judgement, only inquiry. Example questions/statements might be:

“Why is this important to you?”

“Tell me more about that.”

“Is there any more to this that is worrying you or stressing you out?

When you’re listening to your partner, your main goal is for them to know that you fully understand their point of view.

What to Say Next

After your partner gives their point of view, you reflect back what you have heard. For example you might say, “You’ve been really busy with the kids, cleaning the house, and your new job, so you didn’t put pajamas in the drawer, did I capture your perspective?”

After asking if you captured everything, your partner may clarify, change, or adjust what they said. It’s a time for them to work out exactly what their point of view is. Some people are verbal processors so they may need to say it out loud a few times. Others might have to think about it. Maybe they didn’t say it right the first time.

Connect with Their Feelings

Lastly you want to connect with your partner’s feelings. How do you see yourself in their story. An example might be, “I would find it hard to keep up with the household tasks too if I had all that on my plate.”

During this phase, you don’t have to agree with everything your partner said, just find anything that you can relate to. Where do you see yourself in their story? What feelings did they express that you feel also?

There are tons of ways to screw this up. You could interrupt, share your opinion, or put your own agenda into your summary. People don’t usually compromise and take action unless they feel that they have been understood. That is why the single biggest thing you can do in your relationships is to learn to employ active listening, even if it’s about pajamas.

private practice consultant joe sanok headshot on stairsJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is the owner and a licensed counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in downtown Traverse City. Mental Wellness Counseling helps angry kids, frustrated parents, and distant couples, to schedule an appointment go to