In the day-to-day stress of our lives, we often forget that love takes time.
The alarm goes off and you hit the snooze one last time, until finally you begin the day five minutes behind schedule. At 5:45 am. In the dark.
Your spouse dashes out the door as you wrangle with lunches and backpacks, assignment notebooks and breakfast.
At work you send a quick email to your spouse that discusses the vehicle maintenance and your need to work late one night this week.
After a full day at work, you spend the evening shuffling Johnny to basketball practice, and Sandy to soccer. Dinner is a McMystery Meal and a Coke, half of which ends up under the seat of the van when you stop suddenly at a yellow light.
At 9:00 pm, your 7th grader informs you of a homework project that is due tomorrow, and you need craft supplies from the only store that is open 24 hours in order to complete it. The store is 15 miles from home. One way.
By 11:00 pm you are too exhausted to brush your teeth, and sex is definitely not on the menu of options for the remaining seconds you are allegedly awake.
And now that you mention it, who is that person in bed next to you, anyway? Someone you vaguely recognize as the person you promised to love, honor, and cherish….. If only there were time.
Aging parents, community organizations, volunteer activities, friends, and solo recreations are just a few of the myriad demands on your time.
Love Takes Time
Does this sound like your life? If it does, you’re not alone. Our days are hectic and chaotic and the demands on our time never seem to end. It becomes second nature to put off or ignore the important in favor of the urgent. We believe, erroneously, that “someday” we’ll have the time to spend long hours with our spouses, conversing, laughing, having a great sex life.
Prioritize And Schedule The Time
Just like vehicle maintenance, dentist appointments, and soccer tournaments, without a commitment to scheduling time with our spouse, it will never “just happen.”
Spouses need time together, free of distractions, to reconnect emotionally. Without that time the relationship inevitably becomes simply a convenient partnership for parenting and financial security. Without time together every week, giving each other your full attention the feelings of love and attraction will eventually wane. And make no mistake about it, if you are in the process of rebuilding your marriage after having lost those feelings, your efforts will not succeed unless you include time together in your plan.
How much Time?
How much time are we talking about? Dinner out once a month? With maybe an extra hour tossed in for anniversaries, holidays, and birthdays?
Before I answer that, let me pose this question: Think back to your dating days. Would you have been likely to fall in love with and marry someone with only a dinner date once a month as your time together? Or would you have been more likely to fall for the one you spent time with every day, sharing your feelings and dreams, laughing, going out, connecting to?
It’s safe to say that the person who won your love would be the one with the opportunity to share good times with you. That dynamic doesn’t change simply because there’s a ring on your left hand. In fact, as the stresses of adding family and career to the mix multiply, it becomes more and more important that couples nourish their love by spending time together.
For marriages that are flourishing, and wish to remain so, a minimum of fifteen hours per week is needed. For those that are struggling with recovering from infidelity, or the loss of feelings of love and connectedness, you should be scheduling 20 hours or more per week.
THAT Much Time!?!
I can imagine that many of you have panic and disbelief in your eyes as I write this. “Fifteen hours a week??? Where am I supposed to get that? Give up sleeping?” Well, you’re right about needing to give up something . If your schedule is as full as most adults in our time, something will need to go in order to make room for partner time.
I want to challenge you to put aside those feelings of impossibility for a moment, and think in purely selfish terms. Which of the activities that is consuming your time, is as important to the overall health and well-being of you, your family, your finances, and your future security, as is the state of your marriage? A little research will soon turn up the answer: an unequivocal, none. In the long run, it is far and away in your best interest to spend your valuable time with your mate, building and preserving love and intimacy in your marriage.
As I said earlier, that isn’t going to happen without planning and scheduling. I can almost guarantee that it will be frustrating and difficult at the front end, as you rearrange your life. I’ve learned that being able to say, “No,” to the many requests for my time is an invaluable skill. Removing yourself graciously from current commitments will take dedicated effort. If you hold the thought that all choices require us to give up one thing in favor of another, you will find that it becomes increasingly easier to make the choice in favor of your marriage.
Now that you’ve set aside time to be together, you find that you haven’t a clue what to do. It’s been so long since you had more than five minutes to spend together, uninterrupted, that you’re at a loss. Don’t worry, that’s a normal reaction to change. At first it will seem awkward, uncomfortable and you might be experiencing feelings of guilt thinking about the things you aren’t doing that you did in the past. As you and your spouse relearn what it takes to have fun together, you’ll soon be looking forward to this time as the best part of your day.
Scheduling The Time
How do we get there from where we are? Let’s assume that you’ve convinced your partner of the need to spend time together, and it’s now time to plan your first outing. No, kids, no friends, no relatives, just the two of you. And you’re having visions of two hours at a restaurant staring at the table cloth with nothing to say.
Well, I can’t promise there won’t be some of that, but I can suggest some ways to circumvent it. First, put aside any residual misgivings and resentment, and put on an attitude of good sportsmanship. Plan to have a good time. Next, think of five things you know your mate would enjoy discussing, and be ready to chat about those with energy and interest. Next, be ready with five topics that you love, and intersperse those throughout the conversation.
Come to the date with the goal of making sure your partner has a great time, and be a good sport about achieving that goal. Try to choose topics that both of you are knowledgeable about and interested in, but don’t be afraid to bring up the subjects that energize you as well.
On this first outing, one of your primary goals should be (besides having a great time) planning ahead. If I could convince all the couples I work with to go out for dinner or coffee one night a week and plan their fifteen to twenty hours together for the next week, my job of helping them restore their marriages would be much easier.
Bring your calendars and your day planners, or your smart phones. Make your marriage and the time you spend together your number one priority as you schedule the events in your life. Your future happiness and well-being depend on it.
© Penny R. Tupy 2002