I’m often asked what things I’ve learned that people can do to improve the communication in their marriage. That’s like asking a chef how you can improve your home cooking. It’s hard to know how you can improve your communication without a lot of context, but I’d like to share something that has helped me. 

In fact, it’s easy to dismiss, almost undetectable unless we pay attention to it. It has to do with how we handle micro-moments of connection in our relationship.

Researchers studying how healthy couples relate to each other were reviewing video tape footage of healthy couples discussing an issue in their marriage. In one video, at one point in the dialog, while the wife was speaking, the husband yawned. You’d think the casual observer wouldn’t think much about a yawn, but it spoke volumes about the quality of the relationship and the strong connection the couple enjoyed. Yawning is involuntary (try holding back a yawn sometime!) and our body doesn’t yawn when we’re stressed or tense. The fact that the husband and wife could discuss a potentially volatile issue and still yawn means that the husband felt safe about their relationship enough to relax and listen to his wife. This “yawn” subconsciously sends the message to the wife that she’s safe with him, as well.

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Micro-moments matter in our everyday conversation and even in the plain and ordinary way we interact with others. The way we greet each other when we get back together, the way we glance at each other, the way we pass the potatoes at the dinner table, the way we handle being interrupted by our spouse, and so on all speak to our connection. 

The way we respond to these mundane, everyday “micro-moments” do more to build intimacy and connection in the relationship than a sporadic yet grandiose actions for connection. Responding positively to our spouse’s micro bids for connection and how we handle the tiny micro-moments of interaction will do more good for your relationship than relying on a swanky two week vacation in the Bahamas. 

Recently while on a flight I noticed a man and a woman sitting next to each other in the seats diagonal to where I was sitting. The woman (I’m assuming the man’s wife or girlfriend) would caress her man’s back, shoulder, or arm. She’d talk to him from time to time to try to get his attention. But he had his Airpods in and was engrossed in a movie playing on his phone. It’s not my place to pass judgment on other people not knowing their circumstances, but it did make me want to firmly shake the guy and say, “Hey! She’s trying to get your attention!”

More often now than ever, our phones and devices are getting in the way of genuine human-to-human connection. Some school districts have banned hugs, a basic form of human connection… and set up charging stations at cocktail tables in the commons area! It seems they prefer people to connect digitally than face to face, in person. Don’t let this be a pattern in your marriage where the digital connection (or disconnection) takes precedence over the human connection!

If you pay attention, you’ll notice dozens of tiny bids for connection in the every-day interaction with your spouse and children. When you pay attention to them and respond positively, you’re making micro-deposits into each other’s so called “emotional bank account”. These bids for connection show up in non-verbal ways, too, such as: 

  1. Being able to relax around each other instead of being tense
  2. Listen when the other is speaking
  3. Make eye contact
  4. Smiling back

Remember that the micro-moments of how you connect and respond to bids of connection with your spouse do more to build intimacy and trust in your relationship than sporadic grand overtures. Do away with distractions that put up barriers to human connection and pay attention to each other in real ways instead. Doing so adds deposits into each other’s emotional account. You’ll be surprised how much these tiny micro-moments can accumulate into a relationship with healthy & wealthy connection that can last a lifetime and beyond.

What are some of the bids for connection you’ve noticed from your spouse or children recently? Comment below!