Most people don’t think about what they want to accomplish when they are with their spouse
It’s Just a Matter of Time – Most people don’t think about what they want to accomplish when they are with their spouse. They think just “hanging out” together is enough. Well, it isn’t. There are different ways to be with your spouse, and they serve different purposes. This chapter will teach you new ways to think about and organize the time you spend with your spouse. Then you’ll make the most out of every moment together!
- Identify the different ways you spend time with your spouse
- Learn how to make time with your spouse really count
- Strategies for time management
- Make the most of your time together
Rush, Rush, Rush
We all live very busy lives. We can never seem to get caught up with our errands, proj- ects, and future planning. We finish an entire “to do” list just to turn around and start another. In between getting all of our “stuff” done, we realize that we need to talk something over with our spouse. But somehow, there never seems to be enough time.
Do you feel like weeks go by before you have a chance to discuss something with your spouse? So you grab him on his way to work to ask him an important question, and he mumbles something with his mouth full of toast as he’s fumbling for his car keys. You know from reading Chapter 5, “Two-Way Communication,” that that’s not the way to have a discussion. But there never seems to be any time!
Where Does the Time Go?
Lately it seems that the two of you have been like ships passing in the night. You are either at work, out grocery-shopping, or with the kids. You just collapse at the end of each day. Six months ago you went away for a long weekend with your spouse, but that reconnection only lasted for a week or two. Now you are back to the same grind and are forgetting each other and your relationship. The effort of doing nice things for each other, or even showing appreciation, just seems like too much work.
If things are really hectic and you have no time for each other, it is important to take a deep breath and examine your current life choices together. We are all so busy that sometimes it is difficult to remember that life is passing us by while we are getting our errands done. The following chart will help you think about the time you spend with your spouse. For each day of the week, list the number of hours you spend with your spouse on a typical day. Then write down what the two of you typically do during the time you spend together.
Look at your answers. What do you notice? How many of your hours together are spent having fun? How many are spent making necessary decisions? Are there hours that go by in which you feel you haven’t had fun and haven’t accomplished any- thing? You are not alone; most couples feel they don’t have the time they need together.
A lot of couples spend their “time together” staring at a screen or shopping for things they don’t really need. These are activities that aren’t necessarily bad in themselves, but they will not nurture you in the way that spending quality time with your spouse will. Consider how much time you spend watching television or surfing the Internet. Could you cut that amount in half? Do you spend hours shopping for “extras” like a new outfit or a new piece of electronic equipment you don’t really need? Are you real- ly enjoying these activities? Are they worth sacrificing special times with your family?
Time Is Like Money
Time, like money, needs to be managed. It’s very easy to spend a surprising amount of money on small things like coffee, soda, or a quick lunch with your colleagues at work. At the end of the month, you feel like you don’t have money left over for things that are fun. And yet, you didn’t enjoy the extra money you spent either. If you knew you were saving for something that you would enjoy in the future, you might get more pleasure from not buying the coffee than from buying it. Having goals and looking forward to them can be enjoyable.
The same thing is true of your time together. If the two of you set aside time every week to have fun, you would always have something to look forward to. And if you also set aside time every week to dis- cuss important issues, you would feel confident that you would always have time to work things out.
It’s as Easy as One, Two, Three
When you share your life with somebody, there are countless decisions to make. Some are small, such as what time to make dinner reservations on Saturday night, and other decisions are compli- cated, like making the annual budget or planning a vacation. By setting aside planning time, you ensure that you will have time to make joint decisions and will free up other time you spend together to just enjoy yourselves.
Every good, healthy marriage needs time set aside for three general activities. These need to be sched- uled on a regular basis and be treated with respect:
1. Time for planning.
2. Time for resolving differences. 3. Time for fun.
Most couples do not plan for these activities and end up being frustrated. All of these different times serve different purposes, and each is equally im- portant. If you don’t make time for each of these important activities, it will interfere with your relationship.
For instance, if your spouse is doing something that is bothering you, it’s important to discuss it. It might be a small thing, but if you don’t have a chance to talk about it, your feelings of annoyance will build up. You will probably find that you are arguing more and are not enjoying your time together as much. Ensuring that you will be there to listen to each other is half of the battle.
Your New Weekly Time Planner
Look at your “Where Does the Time Go?” chart again. How much time do you think you need to discuss issues each week? Most couples need about 30 minutes a week for planning activities and 30 minutes for conflict reso- lution. Now reorganize the hours you spend with your spouse every week. Set aside a 30-minute session for planning, a 30-minute session for conflict resolution, and a full evening or afternoon for fun time. If you re- organize the time you spend with your spouse, you will be amazed at how much it adds to your marriage.
When scheduling time together, keep in mind the fol- lowing:
- Make sure the times are convenient for both of you.
- Be sure to reschedule your time together if one of you needs to work late or is going out of town.
- If you have an especially complicated issue to discuss, set aside extra time to resolve it.
- It can be useful to mark these appointments on the household calendar or in your personal or- ganizer.
- Each appointment requires each of you to give your undivided attention.
A Question of Balance
Fred and Paula came to see us because they were arguing constantly. Each of them felt like the other one never listened. Whenever Paula wanted to discuss where they should go on vacation, Fred would tell her that he was busy. When Fred asked Paula if they should get season tickets for the symphony, Paula told him to bring it up later. But “later” came and went, and they never made these decisions. They were fighting more than usual, and that interfered with their fun time together, too.
It quickly became clear to us that Fred and Paula needed to manage their time better. We had them work on their own “Where Does the Time Go?” chart. They soon real- ized that an entire week would pass and they wouldn’t have discussed things that were important to them. Fred and Paula spent a lot of time together, but they never set aside time to make plans.
We had them schedule two 30-minute appoint- ments, one for planning and one for conflict reso- lution. They chose Wednesday evening and Saturday morning. They also set aside Saturday evenings for going out and a half-day on the week- ends to be together without specific plans. Their re- lationship improved dramatically. They knew they could count on having time together to accomplish everything they needed to every single week.
Make the Most of Your Time Together
It’s ideal to be able to spend many hours every week with your spouse. However, there are always weeks when that seems impossible. You might be working late or going to sleep early after being up all night with a sick child. We all have obligations outside our relationship.
When you don’t have as much time to spend with one another as you would like, there are ways to maximize your time together:
- Keep the TV set off in the evenings. You are much more likely to talk with each other when there are no distractions.
- Take a walk together in the evenings. Even if you are too tired to talk, it will help you feel closer to each other.
- Spend 10 minutes every evening talking about each other’s day. Even if you don’t have a chance to see each other that much, you will at least know what the other person has been doing.
- Eat breakfast together in the morning. Even if you are rushed and only have 10 minutes, sitting together at the table will make you feel like you are starting your day as a team.
- Talk with each other once each day on the telephone. A five-minute conversation helps couples connect and will be time well spent.
Doing these small things won’t take much time, but each one of them will help you feel closer to each other. When you don’t have a lot of extra time, you need to make the most of the time that you do have.
Time Is Precious
It’s very easy to let weeks go by without having quality time with your spouse. You can keep this from happening to you by making sure you put aside time for plan- ning, for conflict resolution, and for fun activities every single week. You will always know, even if you are very busy, that you and your spouse will have quality time together.