Nurturing Your Spousal Relationship

by Gary Holmes MS, LMFT

Nurturing Deeper Levels of Intimacy with Your Spouse while Increasing Positive Feelings of Well-Being in Your Children

Lasting relationships involve navigating many of life’s passages together.  From the moment a couple makes the decision to start their family to pregnancy to birth of your first child through the various developmental phases of your children’s lives to the youngest child’s launch for independence, your relationship with your spouse will present opportunities for you to grow together stronger as a couple as well as challenges that will create barriers to emotional and physical intimacy.   How we experience and express love for our spouse during periods of challenge, such as facing illness, fatigue, fear, disappointment, conflict and sadness, as well as such times when you are celebrating milestones, accomplishments and successes are important for couples to understand in order to develop continuously deeper levels of intimacy in your relationship and provide positive role models for your children and family.  A couple’s relationship health will directly impact their children’s emotional well being; therefore, it is vital that couples make time to focus on their relationship, not only for the sake of their own emotional intimacy, but also for the emotional health of their children and families.

One way to enhance emotional intimacy on a daily basis is to take time to check in with your spouse at the end of each day, or at Daily Temperature Reading or DTR.   This check should be more structured and beyond simply a report of your day’s events.  The DTR is a tool for watering the garden of your most important relationships and is a foundational skill for couples to create and sustain thriving relationships.  Make sure you can commit about 20 minutes to this activity where you aren’t interrupted or distracted by cell phones, kids, the television, etc.   This activity starts by having you sit face to face and follows the structure outlined below:

Start by sharing/expressing Appreciations for each other – those traits, gestures, behaviors that you appreciate in your spouse.  Maybe your spouse woke up early and prepared breakfast for the kids to give you an extra 10 minutes of sleep that particular morning, or you want to recognize your spouse’s commitment to being there to coach your daughter’s basketball team.  Think about one behavior, gesture, trait that you appreciate about your spouse and share that with him/her.

Next, take time to share New Information keeping each other up-to-date on the developments in your lives – changes in family/kids’ schedules, work commitments/travel, plans for visits by extended family or in-laws, etc.

Next, address any Puzzles you may have, asking questions about anything either of you are wondering about so you aren’t making assumptions.  For example, perhaps your spouse has been distant or quiet lately, and you are wondering if you did or said something to hurt his/her feelings.  This would be the time to talk about the change you have noticed in your spouse’s usual behavior and ask for clarification.  It may be that your spouse is distracted with something at work, or with a parent at the kids’ school, and not something personal to you.  It’s important to clarify confusing behaviors and not make assumptions.

Finally, end your daily check in with your individual and shared Wishes, Hopes and Dreams for yourself and your relationship and your family for the future.

The goal of the Daily Temperature Reading is to keep you connected to each other in a more emotionally intimate way by listening to each other and really validating each other’s experience for that particular day.  This is also something you can do with your children on a daily or weekly basis to provide structure to your family meetings.


Gary Holmes, M.S., LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has worked in the behavioral health field for over 25 years as a clinician, consultant, educator, and administrator. Gary is currently in private practice in Encinitas working with Individuals, Couples, Children/Adolescents and Families His focus is on couples struggling with communication, parenting styles and differences, and conflicts navigating life’s passages together, especially related to the developmental phases of childhood. Gary’s enjoys assisting couples to develop the skills necessary to keep their relationships fresh and create deeper levels of intimacy while balancing demands from their children, career and extended family. Gary obtained his B.S. in Psychology from Western Illinois University, and his Master’s of Science Degree from the University of Central Florida in 1987 in Clinical and Community Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. Gary has worked in a variety of settings including community mental health and social service agencies; foster care; elementary, middle and high schools as well as community colleges and Universities; corporate behavioral health; and as a consultant and clinician in private practice. Gary is married with boy/girl elementary school aged twins. To schedule a consultation or to request more information, visit his website at or call him at 858-880-7091.

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