How well do you know each other?
It can be difficult to stay connected to our loved ones in today's hectic world. We struggle to keep friendships strong with coffee dates and quick emails, and we diligently pencil in phone calls to our grandparents even when we're swamped. But our romantic relationships rarely receive the same type of attention that our friends and families do, and the results can be devastating. Imagine looking across the kitchen table at the familiar contours of your husband's face. . .and realizing that the man you married now feels like a total stranger.
YourTango relationships expert Melodie Tucker says this experience is scarily common. "Couples forget to prioritize their time together. Other activities like work, school, church, volunteering and hobbies take precedence. Suddenly every available moment is over-scheduled and the only time the couple shares together is spent sleeping."
Does this sound familiar? These ten signs can help you figure out whether or not your spouse has become a stranger.
1) Sign: Your husband often surprises you (and not in the good way.) It's one thing for your lover to keep you on your toes. But if you're regularly caught off guard by things your husband says or does, it may be a sign that his views or priorities have changed.
Solution: Check in with each other at least once a week. Ask, "How are you doing?"
2) Sign: You don't have friends in common. It's healthy for you to spend time apart, but it's not normal for you and your man to travel in entirely separate circles. If you don't see him interact with friends, you miss the side of his personality that comes out when he's not just one-on-one with you.
Solution: Invite a few of his friends over for dinner one night. You'll avoid impinging on his guys-night-out and you'll get to meet his friends on your turf.
3) Sign: All of your conversations revolve around chores and obligations. This is a common pitfall of cohabitation, but if you communicate mostly through post-its and to-do lists you may end up with a roommate, not a romantic partner.
Solution: "Put the relationship back at the top of the totem pole of responsibilities," says YourTango Expert Lisa Kift. "Ask each other 'How are you doing?' and then ask 'How are we doing as a couple?'"
4) Sign: You don't fight. This might seem like the mark of great relationship, but the truth is that even people who are deeply in love disagree from time to time. If you never butt heads with your spouse, it may be a sign that one of you has stepped back emotionally.
Solution: Don't intentionally pick fights, but pay attention to your feelings and notice if you're ignoring resentment. If you are, speak up!
5) Sign: You can name his hobbies, but you don't know anything about them. If he collects Star Wars figurines, but you don't have a clue which is his most prized Vader, you're missing out on an important point of connection.
Solution: You don't need to take up his hobby, just appreciate his enthusiasm and joy.
6) Sign: The sex stinks (or doesn't exist!) If sex has become a birthday and anniversary chore, you're skipping one of the best benefits of sharing a bed. Physical touch is a powerful ways for busy couples to connect, and the absence of physical touch can be a fertile breeding ground for resentment and miscommunication.
Solution: "Hold hands and give each other at least four hugs a day," says Tucker. Just a little bit of contact will help you stay in touch with each other.
7) Sign: He misses obvious emotional cues. If you've been seething for hours and he hasn't even noticed, you and your spouse may have non-verbal communication problems.
Solution: Don't fall into the "He should know what upsets me by now!" trap. Obviously, he doesn't. Clue him in—nicely.
8) Sign: You can't name a single coworker who annoys him. He spends most of his waking hours at work, and while it's possible to go overboard with bringing work home, it's important to have some insight into his workplace triumphs and frustrations.
Solution: Don't just say, "How was work?" Be specific. "How did that big meeting go?" "How did Jim respond when you asked him to wear earphones instead of playing his music loudly?"
9) Sign: You don't do anything fun together. Date nights help you celebrate your relationship. When you let them disintegrate into King of Queens marathons, you're both sending the message that you value the relationship less than you once did.
Solution: Plan a special night where you do something you've never done before. Try a new restaurant, visit that new park, or just take a walk in a new part of town.
10) Sign: You don't share your hopes, dreams and fears. One of the most important aspects of marriage is the feeling of having someone in your corner. When you and your spouse stop discussing your secret wishes and plans for the future, it can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection.
Solution: Start by talking about what you've shared, then move to more personal stuff. "Have some fun and laugh together every single day. Share your fears as well as your hopes, reminisce about the good old days (and nights!) of your courtship," suggests Tucker. Not sure what to say? "Compliment each other!" she says.