In my practice I often hear emotionally exhausted couples express how little time they have for date nights or even to practice healthy communication skills (aka talk). There is always a soccer practice, a dirty house or work commitments in the way of couples spending quality time together. What most people don’t realize is that you literally have to designate time for being a couple or it will not happen.
If you have been married for a long time and/or are at a “child rearing age” you have experienced at one point or another the distance between you and your partner threatening to get bigger. You can’t remember how that gap even started, but you know how things used to be good. It is not uncommon for people to allow for life demands to take over their time and attention to the expense of their relationships.
There is no denying that life gets hectic and 24 hours is not enough time for all the roles in our lives. No one can expect to be “all present” without driving yourself insane from exhaustion. However, if you’re not careful, the wedge can turn into a empty space that is hard to close back up. So how can we be closer again you ask. Let’s see:
How to Reclaim Time Together as a Couple
1. Bring it up: People have different needs for closeness and alone time. What seems an eternity for you could be a glimpse to your partner. Share your personal need for more time together and listen to your partner’s needs. Find a common ground.
2. Carve out time and protect it: Something has got to give. Maybe you two will have to cut a few work hours short to allow more time together. Maybe the kids will spend more time with the grandparents. Changing a routine, especially a busy one, is not easy. After you carve out time for you and your spouse, protect it. You have a lot of demands on your time so there’ll be a lot of opportunities to cancel your date “Just this once”, but don’t do it. Protect the time you’ve carved out and don’t let others get in the way.
3. Don’t make it a chore: Spending time together is a necessity, but not a chore. Cherish the privilege and don’t force it by doing something you don’t want to do. Make it something fun that you will both look forward to. That takes the ‘chore’ out of it.
4. Have options: Couples often fall into the trap of setting time aside, but not engaging with each other. It’s understandable to want to have some peace and quiet when not having to engage with life demands. To avoid this situation, have options planned out ahead with your spouse. You can make a game out of it: write 10 fun dates/activities to do with your partner and put it on a box. Every time you need a fresh idea go for the box. To make a fun, more balanced date you have to grant a wish of the other person, such as a back rub. You can also try a date delivered to your doorstep like unboxlove.com
5. Make the best of short times: Your time together doesn’t always have to be planned out and an event. Take advantage of those 30 minutes here and there that you can put away the chore list and catch up. You can plan a lunch together or let the kids watch one more show so you two can talk. Being a good parent is also being happy without the kids.
Finally, make sure the distance was created by life demands rather than hurt and resentment. Trying to “patch things up” with some fun dates won’t solve deeper issues in your relationship. Use some good conflict resolution to get back in the same page then start enjoying time together again.
About the Author
Patricia Cochran is a marriage counselor with The Marriage and Family Clinic. She is passionate about helping couples and families to feel connected again. In her spare time, she is busy with her toddler and enjoying friends and family time.