We live in a world where being busy is celebrated. An appropriate answer to “How are you?” is “Busy”. “Multi-tasking” is considered “efficiency”. Finding time for yourself sometimes feels like an impossible task.
It gets even more difficult when two people’s schedules fall into the mix. Often couples come in to my office, and it’s the first quality time they’ve spent together in a while. They struggle with juggling career expectations and raising children, maintaining friendships and engaging in the community, and there is somehow always laundry to do and dishes to wash. They can’t seem to find time to just be together. Date nights and quality time get put on the backburner.
Will a weekly date night mend all of the issues facing a couple? Most likely not. However, the question truly is this: what is important to me? In a TED Talk on time management, Laura Vanderkam argues that we can always find extra hours in the day. “’I don’t have time’ often means ‘It’s not a priority’,” she says in this 2016 talk. She then works through the math, calculating hours per week–168. Subtracting a 40-hour work week and 8 hours of sleep every night, that leaves 72 hours in a week to fill. Even working 60 hours will leave 52 open, beautiful hours in a week.
For many of my clients, children take priority in those “free” hours. This is valid! As a parent, it is your responsibility to dedicate time and effort to supporting your child and their needs. That can make it feel like all those hours slip away into soccer practices and doctor appointments and supervising play dates. It can feel so difficult to find the time. But just as your child needs your attention and care to feel safe and nurtured, so does your relationship.
Of course, there are genuine obstacles and constraints for that time—financial circumstances where picking up extra hours at work are necessary or a child that needs extra attention. This becomes a push to be creative in finding time to spend together and giving your relationship the value that it deserves. If things really are just too hectic, discuss with your partner when things will slow down. Is there an expiration date to the chaos? If not, maybe it’s time for some lifestyle changes.
Here are some things to try to find that quality relationship time:
- Turn off those phones! According to a report by eMarketer from June 2018, the average US adult spends 3 hours and 35 minutes on their phone each day. Some smart phones now will show you how much screen time you’ve had and can be set to kick you off certain apps once you’ve reached a preset limit or at a certain time of day. If you and your partner are only finding time together while in bed in the mornings or right before you fall asleep each night, make the bedroom a no-phone zone.
- If there are activities that need to be worked into your day, can you do them together? For example, maybe running errands can include a quick stop for coffee and a couple check-in. If working out is an important part of your routine, find a way to turn it into date. Some gyms even offer childcare.
- Many of my clients struggle to find the balance between family quality time and couple quality time. Try going through last month’s calendar and labeling what activities were one or the other. Does the split feel balanced? Does one type of quality time get more attention than the other? Use this to guide how you divide your time next month.
- If you find yourselves planning quality time that constantly gets rescheduled for less important matters, try booking something non-refundable to break the habit of cancelling!
- Is lack of childcare getting in the way of time together? Try asking other parents you know what babysitters they know and trust. Phone apps like Bambino also are great tools for finding recommended babysitters in the area with a wide range of fees.
- Put something in your calendar monthly and treat it with the same importance as a work commitment. Use this time, whether it’s a lunchbreak during the work week or a Saturday night dinner date, to have a “State of the Union” talk with your partner. How are both of you feeling? What’s working in your relationship? What isn’t? How can things be better?
If you want to improve in communication with your partner, you have to find time to communicate. If you want to rekindle flames in your relationship, you have to find time to feed the fire. As Vanderkam says, “Time is a choice. We have the power to fill our lives with the things that deserve to be there.” Remember to prioritize your relationship—it deserves it.
Link to eMarketer report: https://www.emarketer.com/content/mobile-time-spent-2018
Link to TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/laura_vanderkam_how_to_gain_control_of_your_free_time/discussion?nolanguage=en.Billy+Mitchel+Guess+I