It can often be tricky for couples to connect meaningfully in the busyness of everyday life.

Stephen Hayes, our head of content creation, shares five pointers that can help you avoid feeling like ships in the night.

You may already know this, but oceans are big. I can’t say precisely how big. But they’re sizeable enough that the chances of two ships passing each other at night are really low. However, in the unlikely event of a chance encounter, captains would usually just shine their lights to acknowledge each other – almost like waving – and then continue their course into the dark of night. Now, for any seafaring readers out there, don’t be too disappointed, but the rest of this article isn’t entirely nautical …

See, the metaphor of ships passing in the night is commonly used for couples during particularly busy seasons of life. Perhaps careers take off at the same time and evenings are taken up with overtime, maybe you’re renovating your fixer-upper and every spare moment is used plastering or painting, or if you’ve had a child, it might be that the demands of being a parent are leaving little room for romance.

Whatever the case, these seasons will almost certainly arise. So it’s helpful to have a strategy for ensuring you’re able to do more than just wave, but still find times for meaningful connections when life is hectic. Here are five ideas …

1. Defend your time

Do everything you can, not just to plan meaningful time together, but to defend it once it’s in the diary. It’s actually fairly easy to plan date nights and the like, but when other pressures arise, they can be the first thing to fall by the wayside. Doing life in a reactionary way in the early stages of a relationship can be fine, but proactivity is often preferable later on, especially when you’re in the thick of it. Care for the Family founder Rob Parsons uses the phrase, ‘a creeping separateness’, and it describes how couples can drift away from each other without even realising it. So that’s why it’s vital, to both plan time together, and then to defend it with all your might. 

2. Over-communicate

Couples naturally fall into rhythms – but when life is frantic, priorities can change overnight. A woman emailed us recently and this is exactly what happened. She hated leaving the house in a mess, so her husband always made a point of cleaning before they left home. Then recently, they adopted their first child, and priorities changed. She wanted to ensure everything needed for the child was in hand – snacks, a change of clothes, more snacks. But while sorting these things, her husband was busy hoovering away, and this really wound her up. They almost had a blow-out, but then she brought it up, they were able to acknowledge that her priorities had changed and they adjusted accordingly. So phrases like, ‘What do you want today to look like?’, and ‘How can I help today?’ can be really effective in busy times.

3. Adjust expectations

If your ideal date night involves a limousine ride to town, a three course meal at an Italian, a show, and then a couple of drinks in a cocktail bar to end things, you may need to revise your expectations during busy times. What you do has to become less important than the fact that you are actually doing something. When you feel like ships passing in the night, there will usually be a legitimate reason, which means time will be tight. Your dates may have been more lavish in times gone by, and they may be again. But for now, just do something and enjoy the time together.

4. Ask for help

There’s a saying that no man is an island, and nor should couples be. Yes, in the early swept-off-your-feet stage of a relationship, you don’t really need much help. But when things normalise, and you’re busy, and you have a home, with bins that need taking out, attics that need organising, and kitchen drawers that collect pointless knick-knacks like a spider web collects flies, you may need a little more support. So ask a parent to do a few wash-loads for you, if you have kids – or a dog for that matter – see if some trusted friends would have them for a day, or if you can afford it, pay for extra help for a short time. Don’t let your relationship become an island.

5. It's the little things that count

If you’re reading this, presumably, you’re in a full-on season. You may find moments of proper connection with your significant other really hard to come by, so try your best to maintain the little things that show the other you care for them. Take a minute to write them a note to encourage them in the day ahead. Wake up ten minutes earlier to have a cup of tea together before work. Order a little something for the other that would give them a lift when it arrives at the door. These little touches really can have a profound impact on the long-term health of your relationship.

So when you’re passing like ships in the night, perhaps give a little wave, but also be sure to be proactive in keeping your love alive in as many ways as you can.

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