Dear Shelby,With Valentine’s Day approaching, I realize I feel very disconnected from my husband and kids. I try to talk with them and spend time with them, but I never feel like I’m really connecting. Sometimes I think my efforts actually annoy them! What else can I do?
Signed, Done with Disconnection
Dear Done with Disconnection,
You are already one step ahead of many women! Finding the time to connect with your husband and kids is half the battle and it sounds like you’ve already conquered that problem. Now, the second problem needs an answer: how to make that time worthwhile.
My advice to you is simple: meet them on their terms. Many moms share with me that it is so hard to get their kids (especially boys) to open up and talk. They say they ask more and more questions to try to connect with their kids, only to find their kids irritated, surly, and rude in response. The mistake you might be making is trying to connect with others in the way YOU most like to connect. Try paying attention to who your loving other is, and how THEY like to connect.
I have to do this in my office. Not everyone likes to talk. Some people have a very hard time articulating their thoughts and feelings. Some people do better using art, some use my sand tray to explore how they’re feeling, and one of my clients likes to write most of his thoughts in a notebook we pass back and forth between us.
Maybe your son might feel loved and connected by playing cards together, or basketball, or sitting silently in front of his favorite show while you give him a head massage. Maybe your daughter might talk more lying in bed next to you with the lights off, or walking side by side around your neighborhood. Maybe she won’t share her deepest secrets, but she might connect with you in an art gallery, sharing her thoughts on the paintings before you. Now take a look at that man you married. What do you know about him? He loves micro-brews and burgers? Show him you love him by taking him to a local brewery and sampling a flight of beers, sharing your reactions to each different taste. He’s deeply faithful? Get tickets when his favorite speaker comes to town and explore your reactions and faith together.
I love that you are aware of the disconnect you feel and are actively seeking new ways to feel close to your family. I’m excited for you to pay attention to who they are and how they connect so you can begin to engage with them on their terms. Now that’s a Valentine’s gift that will last all year!
Shelby Riley, LMFT is the owner of Shelby Riley, LMFT and Associates, LLC. She is currently the President of the Pennsylvania Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (PAMFT). Remember to check out Shelby's website www.shelbyrileymft.com for useful information about therapy for individuals, couples, and families.