Making Time For Couple Time
By Christine Belaire, Ph.D
Remember when you saw every movie in the theater? What about when you had time for work, friends, dating, and family—remember that? For some of us, those times seem like ancient history. When I told my husband I was writing an article on the importance of couple time, he laughed asking, “When was the last time we had a real date?”
Some parents do not understand the value of couple time. They focus too much time and energy on their children to the detriment of their marriage, but most couples appreciate the need for couple time. They just do not know how to get it.
When you were dating, it was easy to find time to connect with each other. There was lots of unclaimed time before children. Even with busy schedules and daily tasks, finding time for each other wasn’t impossible. The truth is, children really do change everything.
Even though sometimes it is difficult, and the last thing you need is one more event to put on the calendar, making time for yourselves as a couple needs to be at the top of the list. When couple time is done right, it reduces stress, which as we all know is important for health and happiness. If your time together is adding stress, it is time to seek help to turn that around. Your goal is connection and enjoyment.
Rather than focus on what to do for couple time, which I think most couples can figure out, let’s look at some principles for making couple time really work.
Any time is valuable.
Those long weekends’ away and frequent trips are hard to come by these days. Don’t wait for long periods of time to spend together because they may not come frequently. Take advantage of small periods of time, and carve out as much of it as possible. Start your day together, greet each other when you get home, or make time before bed. Fifteen to thirty minutes here and there adds up. Your time at home can be as enjoyable as going out.
Hillary Shaw, mother of two ages seven and four, said, “During the week, it’s tough. When we don’t have the time or resources to go out, we sometimes rent a movie for us and one for the kids to watch separately so we have our own time.”
Remember the little things.
It doesn’t take lots of money or an extravagant outing to have fun. I think back to our “really poor” days when we could make anything fun even without money. Be creative. Plan a date where you don’t spend much money. Do things at home together that you enjoy. Be playful. Surprise each other. Learn something new about each other. The key is to appreciate the everyday things and find enjoyment in your time together. Hilary notes, “We try to call each other during the day or plan lunch together sometimes to connect without the outside distractions.”
Increase your non-sexual touch.
We only touch people who are close to us (other than the social handshake, etc.). When we are not spending much time together, we can get in the habit of not touching each other. Make a point to touch throughout the day. Compare how much you touch your children to how much you touch your spouse. If there is a big difference, you need to work on more physical touch. This change alone increases your level of intimacy significantly.
Rebecca Johnson, mother of two ages seven and four said, “Small gentle touches let each other know we are on the same team and we are in this together.”
Agree on what is quality time.
You may differ about what constitutes quality time. One person may think doing a task together is great while the other may want more talking. You can’t read each other’s mind, so talk about what you need and give specific details. The goal is for both of you to feel connected. If you are drastically different in what you need to feel connected, you may have to create various activities that will give both of you a chance to connect.
Couple time should be positive.
When you section off time for each other, make that time positive and enjoyable. A healthy relationship experiences a ratio of five positive events to every one negative. That means you should be focusing on creating as much positive interaction as possible with each other. One rule: issues are off limits during couple time. It is important to address problems and work to fix them, but you should make those times separate.
Make it happen.
Commit to a plan and follow through. You may not be able to have a date outside the house every week, but everyone can find time at home to carve out. You have to view couple time as a necessity in order for it to happen often. You wouldn’t forget to eat and you probably will not miss a deadline at work because you perceive them as necessary. Your marriage will be a priority when you make it one. Choose to make it a priority.
Susan Foreman, mother of five, said, “We budget for couple time each month. It’s important enough to us that we budget for the babysitting time and we make sure our kids know how important it is to us.”
Strong marriages are gifts to your children.
Once we have children, we often put them in front of our marriage. However, a strong marriage has a plethora of benefits for the children and the family. Spending time away from your children allows them to develop relationships with other people and increases their independence. More importantly, the increase in your intimacy benefits your marriage by providing stability and a good role model for your children. They will gain more from your stable marriage than any toys, trips, sports, activities, etc. will give them.
Funny, as I wrote this my six-year-old daughter asked what I was writing about. When I explained the article, she said, “I love that ya’ll love each other.”
Children usually say it best.