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It was about 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night and I was on the telephone with one of my girlfriends while preparing my dining table for dinner with my family. She was telling me about the trip she just came back from with her kids and I was half listening while trying to get my boys settled for dinner and bed. I had worked an 8-hour shift, completed a 3-mile interval run, wrote three 500+ word pieces and stood over a stove for the last two hours preparing dinner.

By the time my spouse came through the door I was exhausted and ready to pass the rest of the “to-dos” onto him. He hadn’t even taken off his work boots before I began barking orders: “Run some bath water for the boys, then take out the trash and when you are done doing that come in the kitchen and help me with dinner.” When I turned my attention back to my girlfriend who was still on the phone, she asked, “Was that AJ you were giving all those orders to?” It was funny at first, but after careful thought about the fact that she thought I was talking to one of my sons, I realized that I was unknowingly treating my spouse like a third child.

I’m not going to lie. I could write a book filled with the many moments of our lives that I’ve spent either emotionally or physically neglecting my husband. I often lose myself in the day-to-day so much that I forget that he exists beyond acting as “the help” and that deserves a little bit of my attention just as much as our children do. It isn’t only couples with children that are prone to neglect one another though. It’s easy to get caught up with the long hours at work, hobbies on the weekends, dream chasing at night, talking/texting outside friends during the day, stressful school assignments and a myriad of other activities that can turn into “legit” reasons to allow your spouse to fade into the background.

It wasn’t just my tone of voice that alerted me to the fact that I was ignoring my man’s presence. I realized that the intimate parts of our relationship took place more in memory than present reality. The disconnect had grew so large that we could be sitting right next to each other not saying a word, scrolling through social media on our iPhones. I missed being excited about his arrival simply because I missed him and not because I needed him to perform a chore for me. After that wake-up call, I started paying attention to how I was speaking to him and started changing my perception about his needs. I’ve been making a conscious effort to talk to him first before running to share my stresses with my girlfriends and I realize now that his perspective and commentary is usually the most useful.

Long-term relationships can get repetitive and require a lot more effort to remain spontaneous and fresh. We’ve been told plenty of times to do date night, but sometimes our schedules conflict so much so that we don’t have the time or the ends to do go through with it. We decided to do it old the old-fashioned way and bought a Connect 4 game, a pack of cards and a large bottle of wine. Once we put our kids to bed, we stayed up all night and had fun together for the first time in a long time (too long actually). It wasn’t much, but it was what we need to get the ball rolling.

Whether you choose an extravagant date night or you’re just reminding one another to talk and touch more throughout the day, take notice of the lack of intimate connection in your relationship and do what you can to fix it. Leaving a man yearning for affection can make him feel unappreciated, or worse, it leaves room for his mind to wander, and trust, you don’t want that to happen.

Opal Stacie is a freelance writer out of the Miami area. Follow her on twitter @opalstacie.

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