Yesterday when I was having breakfast with my family in Chinatown, next to our table was an elderly couple enjoying their breakfast. While waiting for our order, I was unintentionally “ear-dropping” in to their conversation, fascinated with their laughter and the intense conversation.

Even though I am not well versed in Cantonese, I could make out from their body language, and their tone and laughter, that they were obviously having a wonderful time enjoying each other’s company and conversation.

I was thinking back to all my elderly relatives, have they become closer or become more apart? Most of them seem closer, and they are now enjoying the fruit of their forty odd years of commitment and love for each other.

So what is the secret to a long and happy relationship? Being honest and making time?

I remembered having lunch with a few friends, and unfortunately they were going through their divorces. One piece of advice they shared was this: always keep the communication channel open.

When we were in our twenties, career was the top priority; in the late twenties and thirties, the priority shifted to one parent spending more time with the children and the other focusing on the career. When couples hit their forties, they would find that they have not only grown apart but forgotten who their partners really were.

We live in a busy society with endless daily grind. One parent will be focusing solely on running the household and one parent busy with work and career. During the weekend, it is the same rushing routine. Parents, you may be at the same soccer field, cricket ground, basketball court or tennis court etc., your conversations will hover around the conversation about the kids, work, budget, friends, , holidays… but never making the time to talk about your needs and your wants, i.e. how you are feeling, your  inner thoughts, your frustrations, your fear, your anxiousness, your agitation, what you love, your aspirations etc.

And this is the biggest reason why people grow apart; not because they don’t care, but they don’t take time to really know who they are and what they want in life. It is always about what other people want and fulfilling other people’s needs.

It is actually not hard to maintain the emotional connection with your partner but you need to be committed and willing.

1. Make the time

Like any relationships, you need to make the time to nurture the relationship. You may be wondering how could you possibly squeeze in another ‘to do’ list, when you are so tired from your daily grind. How can you even possibly think of making the time for a date?

Yes, you can – I believe that anything that is a priority in your life, you will definitely find a way to make the time for it. Making time for weekly or daily dates does not have to be expensive or time consuming, you can start with having 15 minutes breakfast together every morning before the children wake up, or communicate via the telephone during lunch time even for 5 minutes… if there is a will, there is a way.

2. Willing and committed

When you are having breakfast together, pay full attention to your partner and the conversation. Stay away from the newspaper or your electronic gadget while your partner is trying to have a conversation with you. Be committed to communicate, pay attention and listen, debate and exchange views and ideas.

It may be parenting ideas; you may or may not agree, but are willing to listen and discuss about it. Or talk how much help you need in the household, you may want to hire a domestic helper and need to discuss the budget… Talk calmly and think outside the square.

When you are exchanging ideas and perceptions of life, it builds trust, better understanding and a deeper relationship.

3. Doing something nice

Display some nice gestures – i.e. pack his favourite food for lunch once in a while, cook his or her favourite meal, or give your partner a complete half day off while you spend some quality time with your children… just something nice to show him or her that you care.

The above may look easy, but it is the willingness, commitment and consistency that seals a loving and mutually respectful relationship.

Have a connected day with your family.