When your alarm goes off, the first thing you probably think of is your to do list: Get the kids ready for school. Pick up your dry cleaning. Turn in that presentation to your boss.
But there’s one major thing you’re probably forgetting: the person right next to you.
Sure, you think about your partner. You send each other texts throughout the day, and you both put in the effort for an occasional date night. But do you actually take the time every day to truly pause and connect?
The morning is the perfect time for this not only because what you do first thing can set the tone for the rest of the day, but because you haven’t already gotten bogged down with other responsibilities.
Plus, during the early morning, your heart rate and blood pressure are typically the lowest they’ll be all day, say Patricia Johnson and Mark Michaels, coauthors of Designer Relationships and Partners In Passion.
“When we’re relaxed, we’re more open to feelings of intimacy and connection,” they say. “Sadly, couples often roll out of bed by ignoring one another because they’re so preoccupied with getting out of the house.”
We get it: You don’t have the time or the energy to do something grandiose before brushing your teeth. But the good news is you don’t have to.
The six below things are small enough, and worth it enough, to integrate into your morning routine.
1. SAY ‘GOOD MORNING’ AND ‘GOODBYE’
Sounds simple, but this small gesture can have a big impact.
Think about it: Before you close your computer and grab your cell phone to catch a train home, you usually tell your coworkers goodbye, right? Or after drinks with your buddies, you probably wish them well.
Your partner deserves the same treatment.
“Not saying ‘good morning,’ or anything at all for that matter, can make your partner feel isolated and underappreciated,” says Sara Sedlik, MA, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Redondo Beach, California.
“And saying goodbye is as important as saying hello,” Sedlik says. “It is acknowledging that person, whether you are fighting or not. Storming out the door or just leaving feels abandoning to most people.”
2. WAKE UP 10 MINUTES EARLIER TO SIT AND HAVE COFFEE
If it’s not Saturday morning, do you ever sit together and sip a cup of Joe? There’s a reason so many business deals and friendships are built over coffee it takes time to consume and gives you the chance to truly communicate.
Love expert and coach Laurel House suggests setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier so you can actually enjoy your brew before heading out for the day. We know, it sounds painful to wake up any earlier than you have to, but this will likely become a ritual that you look forward to.
“More than setting the tone of the day, you are setting the tone of your mind,” House says.
3. COMPLIMENT ON SOMETHING OR ANYTHING.
When you get caught up in the I have to go don’t forget to buy milk okay love you bye tango, you might forget to tell your partner why you married her. Or why you’re proud of her. Or why you love her so damn much.
Researcher John Gottman argues that to set the tone in your marriage, you need to balance every negative comment with five positive ones.
Even if it’s as simple as, “You smell good” or “You were really great with our son yesterday,” it can go a long way. No better time to start than first thing in the morning.
4. RELEASE YOUR FRUSTRATIONS
You know about the supposed dangers of going to bed angry, but Sedlik says it’s actually more important that you don’t leave the house upset.
If you wake up and need to get something off your chest, taking 5 minutes to say what you mean can actually improve your marriage.
“The morning is an especially good time to set the tone so that the rest of your day isn’t overshadowed with resentment or anger,” says Sedlik. “Who wants to feel distant or misunderstood while they are trying to focus on work or family?”
5. ACTUALLY LOOK AT EACH OTHER
Remember when you first started dating your partner? You couldn’t get enough of each other, and probably spent hours gazing into each other’s eyes.
It’s all part of early love, but eye-gazing is something that should be maintained throughout your relationship and marriage.
“Over time, people often lose sight of each other, literally, so it’s important to re-create the experience of falling in love,” Michaels and Johnson advise. “Eye-gazing first thing in the morning is ideal. There are fewer distractions, and you’re more likely to be relaxed and open.”
And hey, you’re right there next to each other. It sounds corny, but you can’t argue with taking a few minutes to try it out. And even if you end up in a fit of giggles, that’s also an awesome way to start the day.
6. TELL YOUR PARTNER A JOKE
No pressure: It doesn’t have to be a good one. Maybe you both love a good dad joke, or filthy, inappropriate language is more your style. Or you have inside jokes that always get you laughing.
Sedlik says telling or texting your partner something ridiculous while you’re both getting the kids ready for school will deepen your connection. “Being silly can relieve stress in a marriage, and creates a constant connection and a feeling of partnership.”