How much time do you spend with your partner during the week? How much time is enough to keep you connected? In this busy, chaotic world of daily activities, tasks and schedules, it is easy to forget that the person you chose to spend your life with is the person who can make your days brighter and the road ahead easier to travel. For most couples, the key to improving your relationship is to make it a priority to spend more time together.
Men and women see time differently in relationships. For many men, just spending time together is “enough.” Not so for women. Women are typically looking for the magical moments during the time spent together to feel heard, loved and sexy. This basic difference means that relationships can struggle when it comes to how time is spent together and its value to the overall relationship. Men are looking for the fun, the laughter, the humor, the sex. Women are looking for all these things, plus connection.
When asked on surveys “How much time do you spend with your partner each day?” many couples answer, “Little to none.” Couples commiserate about their lack of time for one another, saying they look forward to a time when things slow down. That time never comes, but there is an inherent understanding that intentions are good. Being busy is so much a part of our culture that it is no longer considered impolite to hang up on your spouse to take another call. Many couples say that finding even one hour alone with their partner is impossible.
So, what does this mean for the success of your relationship? Research suggests that it means trouble. According to a study by the Creighton Center for Marriage and Family, time is one of three problematic issues for couples in the first five years of marriage (the others are sex and money). Who has time to be in a relationship anymore?
Here’s an example of the typical relationship that many couples share:
Melissa wakes up to find that Drew has already left for work. She takes the kids to school, then leaves Drew a message on his cell phone reminding him of a task he had agreed to do. They exchange kid-focused text messages during the day. Drew calls after a stressful meeting, but Melissa is with the kids. The family reunites at the end of the day, but evenings involve shuttling kids to activities. Dinner is on the run. After getting the kids to bed, Melissa and Drew sit together in the same room, but focus on different activities. The most time they spend talking together is in the bathroom getting ready for bed! By the time their heads hit the pillow, the only thing they want is sleep, so intimacy has to wait for another day.
You may think to yourself, “That’s not us!” But it probably is, to some degree. This is the race we are all running.
So, what can be done? How can couples live a busy life, but find time to stay connected? Scientific research says that it is the small, positive moments that matter in keeping relationships satisfied. The day doesn’t have to be full of fireworks, but it must have moments of connection - something that can seem difficult when time is scarce. For relationships to last, couples need to find the time (and space) to put their relationship first.
You’ve heard of suggested date nights. Many couples consider time away without the kids, but are too busy to ever schedule it. The relationship gets whatever time is left after tasks, work schedules and kids. This leads to conflict, and research suggests that a great deal of relationship conflict is a result of one person not feeling important to the other. Time together can change that.
There is a saying: “It’s not the quantity of time that you spend with someone that matters, it’s the quality of the time.” While I agree with the general concept, I do have one question: How can you have any quality time with your partner if there is no quantity of time? Building “couple’s time” into your schedule can result in huge changes in how happy you are in your relationship. Consider conflict: How can you regulate conflict with your partner if there is no time to discuss it? If there is no opportunity to share the experiences of the day with each other and to reconnect on a deeper level, then relationship conflict increases and satisfaction decreases.
Live in the moment and make time for each other. It will change your relationship.
Carolyn Pirak is the director of the national Bringing Baby Home program. She is married and the mother of two children.
40 minutes a day that will improve your relationship
When you leave each other in the morning, spend at least two minutes together. Make goodbyes important.
When you reunite at the end of the day, share 20 minutes talking about the day.
Take at least five minutes a day to express appreciation for each other. Say “please” and “thank you.”
Devote at least eight minutes a day to showing your affection.
Give at least five minutes a day to sharing dreams and planning ahead.