If you're not feeling connected to your spouse after work, if family dinner in your house has disintegrated into a chaotic free-for-all, then it's time to make some changes to your evening meal routine.
True, there are many nights when conflicting kid and adult schedules make sitting down together an impossibility. However, insisting on at least one night per week when everyone comes together can sow the seeds of connection.
With one or more of these simple habits at the table, dinnertime can become more than just another chore on your "to-do" list.
1. Turn off all screens and electrical devices during the meal. If it's not allowed on an airline take-off, then don't use it during dinner. No TV, cell phones, iPods, laptops, or tablets during the meal. Commit to a set period of time -- 10, 20, or 30 minutes -- for everyone to stay at the table, screen-free.
2. Share a highlight during the meal. One at a time, have everyone at the table share a special moment from their day. Listen attentively as others share something positive. Not only is this a way to connect with each other, it will also redirect the evening away from the stresses of the day. It will drive home the point that even a harried day has its small joys or pleasures.
3. Touch your significant other during the meal. Make an intentional effort to touch your mate's arm, hand, or leg while you dine. Most couples forget the power of simple, regular touches to convey affection and build connection. You can engender a feeling of emotional security for your children when they see loving behaviors. And you will also model for them that it is normal and healthy for couples to touch.
4. Gain perspective. Look around the table and breathe it all in. Young children will grow up. Teenagers will leave the house. Partners will get sick and maybe even die before you. Everything you see is temporary, in flux, and precious. Remind yourself to savor each moment because, for better or for worse, "this too shall pass."
5. Compliment your mate after the meal. Pay your spouse a compliment after the meal. Tell them you appreciated the delicious dinner and their efforts. Tell them you appreciate their hard work in providing for the family. Most couples are chronically compliment-deprived. Find something to appreciate -- rather than to nag about -- and let them know. This creates a spirit of kindness for the evening ahead and it models a climate of appreciation for children.
6. Nuzzle your mate's neck during cleanup. Cleaning up is nobody's favorite job. As your mate is at the kitchen sink, go up behind them and playfully nuzzle the back of their neck. The neck is a powerhouse of nerve endings. Help lighten the mood of cleanup with an intimate physical connection.
By practicing these simple habits inspired by Shortcuts to Inner Peace, you'll find that dining together can be a source of nourishment, not just for your body, but also for your family and for your romantic relationship.
For more by Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, click here.
For more on conscious relationships, click here.