Remember your early dating days, when you spent hours upon hours talking on the phone or texting each other? You couldn’t bear to leave each other’s side because you might leave something unsaid!

Then you marry. And the amount of time you spend talking to each other changes.

A recent study published in Psychological Science says that people are happier when they spend more time discussing meaningful topics than engaging in small talk. Time devoted to consistent, quality sharing has the potential to nurture an atmosphere of emotional bonding. So many things compete for our time and attention our spouse goes unattended. Unfortunately, this lack of quality talk time directly correlates to loss of love in marriage.

But your talk-time together can change! Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr., author of His Needs, Her Needs, recommends couples spend no less than 15 hours a week giving each other undivided attention. If your marriage is struggling, Harley suggests upping it to 25-30 hours a week. That’s quite the investment. But when you intentionally grab moments of emotional bonding throughout your day, the minutes add up – and before you know it, you’ll find yourselves feeling a greater sense of connection.

Here are a few tips to find those moments of connection:

Leaving time. Before departing for work in the morning, spend a few minutes discussing your perceptions, worries, doubts, and feelings about the day ahead with your spouse. Be sure to give each other a kiss and a hug with an added, “I love you.”

Mid-morning check-in. Send a text or email, or leave a short voicemail that says, “You’re on my mind. Hope your day is off to a great start.”

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Lunch time. If you work from home and your spouse is available, you have the perfect opportunity to connect over lunch. If you work outside the home, then twice a month come home to enjoy a quiet lunch together (pick it up along the way). Or, if you both work outside the home, consider meeting for lunch at your favorite spot. Lunch time also can be a great time to sneak in a mid-day rendezvous if the kids are at school.

Mid-afternoon check-in. Simply send each other a text or leave a quick voice message to say, “Miss you! Can’t wait to see you.”

Home-from-work time. This time of connection sets the tone for the rest of the evening. Enjoy the “10-second Rule”: Kiss and hug your spouse for 10 seconds upon greeting each other at the door. Show genuine excitement that your mate is home.

After-dinner or the-kids-are-in-bed time. Pick no less than two evenings a week during which you turn off the TV, computer, tablet, and cell phone. Set aside this uninterrupted time for each other. Reflect on your day and share with your spouse:

– one thing you appreciate about him/her
– one thing you regret (saying you’re sorry)
– one request (sharing a need)
– one hard part in your day and one blessing in your day
– one shared prayer or hope for your future.

Before bedtime. Leave a surprise Post-it love note on the bathroom mirror or on the dashboard of your spouse’s car. A few of my favorites from my husband of 38 years say, “You’re beautiful” and “I’m proud of you!”

Changes to your “talk time” won’t happen overnight. But with a little planning and extra effort, you can renew and reinforce the emotional connection you enjoyed during dating — and help your marriage thrive!