Having time makes for a better life. I wish I had ten dollars for every time I hear someone in my office complain about having no time to put into their marriage. I’ve come to believe that “having time” is the new wealth, replacing “having money” in one’s quest to have a better life. Well, probably both are fairly important, but it seems like most of us are running time starved these days.
Sometimes you just have to soldier through. Most relationships can handle stretches where life is crazy. You might have a new baby or you’ve been descended upon by visitors for a month or one of you has taken on a new job or new requirements at work. Most relationships are strong enough to make it through these times to where life returns to a semblance of normal. It is when months and even years of busyness happens that the relationship wears thin and becomes undernourished and empty feeling.
You can’t find time, you have to make time. You don’t need to have lots of time to nourish your relationship but you need some time and that time has to count. Sitting on the couch together in front of the TV while checking the smart phone every five minutes is not quality time. Meal times are a good time to connect. In your home, make it a priority to sit down to eat the evening meal, with the TV and phone turned off. Use this time to exchange how everyone’s day went or discuss what news anyone has. One couple told me recently how they routinely dismiss the kids at the end of the meal to take ten minutes just to have an adult conversation. Ten minutes might not sound like much but it actually is. This couple was also smart in training their children at an early age to entertain themselves for brief periods of time. Take time to say hello and goodbye. Make it a bit of ritual with a kiss and a hug even. Another time to focus in upon is bedtime.
Sexual Intimacy. Although a hectic life can deplete you of energy for the bedroom, it is adviseable to maintain some rythym of lovemaking even if rather infrequent. At any given time, sex is usually important to one partner. Even if it happens infrequently, keep the topic alive. Talk about it or be playful about it. Even when it is not on the agenda, try to go to bed together and have a little pillow talk time, at least three or four times a week. Share something from the book you are reading or talk about your plans for tomorrow or an interesting conversation you had with someone. If one of you is a night owl and the other a lark, the night owl can still take the time to go be with the lark for a precious 10 or 15 minutes. Above all, even in busy lifestyles, the bedroom should be a place where you connect positively. It is never a good idea to use bedtime as a time to bring up contentious issues.
Look for time in your ordinary activities. Life is full of kids’ activities, errands, chores, work stuff -I’ve lived it and I believe it! Don’t split everything up into what he does and what she does. Do some ordinary things together. Go to your child’s soccer practice together and meet with the other parents as a couple. Grocery shop together once in a while.
Your relationship must come first sometimes. Sometimes it is just a good investment to leave the kids at home. You might have a Saturday afternoon when it is enticing to do a family outing. Just sometimes, hire a sitter and go out with your partner for a walk, lunch or whatever. It doesn’t have to be long and the kids will survive.
Connecting time should be positive. Yes, there are times when difficult topics must be addressed. Issues will come up regularly between you but try to make a distinction between those times and the other just for the fun of it connecting time. If every opportunity turns into a platform for an argument connecting together will begin to become unpopular and your relationship more stressed and stretched. If most of your connecting time ends in an argument or simply a time to complain then you must get some help to deal with the issues better and to bring more positive balance into your relationship.
Reassess your values. Finally, it is a good idea to occasionally look at the life and the speed which you are living and determine if that is how you really want to do things. What is most important to you? How many activities do you want your children in and what are the time costs associated with it all? Is your family happier relaxing around home on a Saturday afternoon or in the car going to and fro? Do you need to be constantly plugged in and available to the outside world? Can you do laundry just once or twice a week or live with less than perfect meal options to give you an extra hour or two in some weeks? Time with your partner does not have to be in great amounts but it should be deliberate and focused when it does happen. If you do not make it a priority you run the risk of getting out of touch, distant and resentful. It simply is too much to risk.