I’m sure you’re probably wondering, especially if you aren’t a smoker, how taking a cigarette break can help your relationship. As a couples counselor I’ve come to learn that couples who stay consistently connected throughout the day and week have more satisfying and longer lasting relationships. This information is also supported by current research in the field of marital and family counseling. Of course there are many other factors to having a great relationship, but when we connect with our partner and our partner reaches and connects back, overall we feel more connected with one another.
I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist who works with couples day in and day out. My work is extremely rewarding. I love working with couples! Working with couples makes me a better person, spouse and partner. I am trained in the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy, a research-based way of helping couples create stronger and healthy relationships, created by Drs. John and Julie Gottman. I also trained with Dr. Sue Johnson on Emotionally Focused Therapy, another evidenced based model of therapy on couples, attachment, and relationships. The couples I work with are often the inspiration for my blogs. This particular blog post was inspired by a couple I am currently working with. One day in session, the couple was sharing with me their relationship history, or as I like to call it, taking a walk down memory lane. This couple originally met one another through work, and their relationship began to form through the small five to ten minute cigarette breaks they would take together outside. Whether or not you’re a smoker, you get the idea of what happens on a cigarette break. If you take a cigarette break at the same time as another person, day in and day out, naturally you begin to develop conversation, and potentially, a relationship with that person. This relationship continues to be built in small moments throughout the day over weeks, months and perhaps years. Conversation often develops from sharing random facts, discussing the weather, your general interests, things that frustrate you, how you’re feeling, what you worry about, what you dream about, your goals, and so much more. These are the types of conversations we have with our partner’s when we first meet and how we get to know them and their world. In the beginning, usually with in the first two years or so, everything is good, even great! We’re in love with the things our partner says, the things our partner does, how they make us laugh, how we think they’re funny, and the sex is often better.
But the honeymoon phase is quickly over and we are forever trying to get some sense of that back. Couples who don’t work on their relationship or make their relationship a priority can find themselves feeling distant. Distance, physical or emotional, can be a symptom of many things happening within the relationship. When we fail to meet our partner out back for our proverbial cigarette break, we forget to connect with our partner. When they come home from work, we’re on an important call for work and we forget to kiss them “Hello” or the next morning we’re running late and heading out to our next meeting, we forget to say “I love you”. There’s only so much alone time before we have to hop back on the phone for another conference call. What we know and what research shows is that couples that connect consistently throughout the day maintain their connections. These connections come in a variety of ways like sharing a funny story, calling your partner when something bad happens or you’re feeling frustrated at work, replaying a funny story about your child, the list could go on. When a partner takes the time to listen, respect, and reply back, it makes us feel secure and helps us stay connected and a part of each other’s lives. Just like what happens outside on a cigarette break.
When working with the couple that inspired this blog, I asked them to go back to taking their cigarette breaks. Although they have both quit smoking, and I wasn’t encouraging them to pick up the habit again, I was encouraging them to go outside, sit down together, and connect for five, ten, or even fifteen minutes or more. It’s in these easy, naturally flowing moments that many magical things happen for relationships. Often, nothing big or grand happens on one cigarette break, but the consistency of the communication and connection overtime builds the relationship. So, whether you’re a smoker or not, I suggest you invite your partner to go have a cigarette break. And if you’re finding it difficult to talk or connect and you’re finding you need some support, I’m here to support you and help get your relationship back on track.