One of the most impactful changes in our society in the last ten years has been the shift into the acceptance of self care. When I was young, I watched many grown ups around me prioritize work and responsibilities above all else, especially themselves. This behavior lead to burn out, health issues and a lot of divorce.
While we’re still fighting against the “hustle culture” in many ways, at least it’s now acceptable to take a break when you need to!
Understanding the impact that taking time for ourselves has on our own mental and physical health, it’s not too much of a stretch to compare the impact time has on our relationships.
The short answer is no, but let’s talk it through.
The more I talk to married couples, the more I hear that people are in seasons of just being roommates. They often wonder how they got to this point. The beginning of their relationship was great but now, there just isn’t anything there anymore. They say they must have “fallen out of love.”
I ask them what their days look like and it’s almost immediately clear. They have stopped investing time in their relationship. Not for any specific reason other than life got busy. Their schedules are jam packed and when there is time at home to relax? They have a more intimate relationship with their Netflix queue.
This isn’t an uncommon scenario.
It reminds me of all the people who told Jake and I to “enjoy it while it lasts” when we first got married. Wow. They must have been in a similar situation. Are you?
How we invest our time has a direct impact on the quality of our lives and relationships over time. If you want a marriage that feels connected and meaningful, a great way to get started is by giving it some attention.
You’ll find a lot of marriage counselors and relationship experts suggest somewhere between 10-30 minutes of connection time every day. So let’s split the difference and say 20 minutes might be a good number to shoot for! Good news if you’re just starting out or are a busy couple- this is total time, it doesn’t have to be done consecutively.
This 20 minutes can help boost confidence and feeling supported in the relationship. It also helps prevent feelings of neglect and resentment. This is definitely worth adding to your day!
Need a few ideas to get you started?
- Have coffee together in the morning.
- Go to bed together at night - cuddle and chat before falling asleep.
- Long distance for work? Have a call between meetings or on your way back to your hotel room.
- Tidy-up together after the kids go to bed.
- Workout or run your errands together.
- Eat your dinner at the table and not in front of the tv.
Now, 20 minutes of connection is a great routine to maintain a sense of closeness, but it’s not going to nurture everything a relationship needs to survive. You’ll have to invest a little more.
Your marriage is a unique blend of two different people. These suggestions are great ways to get started, but honor who you two are by adding your own flavor.
Have a “weekly business meeting”
Make it a priority to connect every week on key housekeeping topics. What important decisions do we have to make this week? Is there an issue with the budget, kids, household duties that aren’t getting completed, etc. Or if you’ve divided up certain duties and need help because something came up, this is a great time to ask for support. Avoid the temptation to do this during date night. Reserve that time together for quality and intimate connection with your spouse.
This weekly business meeting we call our Connection Point.
Date nights do not have to be fancy or cost a dime! Some of my favorite date nights have been hanging out at home cuddling while watching a movie. (FREE minus the Netflix subscription!) Between the two of you, establish frequency, budget, and who will be in charge of planning the night. Take turns! You could go big once a month and do dates at home the rest of the month…you can really get creative and tailor it to your personalities and preferences here!
Resist regularly including other people. Occasionally you could use your time for a double date, but going to a concert with a group of people misses the mark…the point is focusing on time together.
Sexual intimacy serves as a reminder of the commitment you made to each other - you chose your spouse to love and support them. There is a joy in seeing your spouse fulfilled and a closeness that is only shared between the two of you. There isn’t a replacement for the bond of sexual intimacy with your spouse. We have some great tips to help get on the same page about sex.
Hey, what about weekend getaways?
If you want to, do it! But don’t feel like you have to add it in right away. You can add in all the frills and thrills - like vacations without kids and weekends away - once you get the basics down! The getaway nights will be much more meaningful if you don’t have to spend your time catching up or resolving conflicts that you haven’t made time for.
Actually, let’s shift away from saying “find time.” That reminds me that life is busy and anything I assign my time has to fit into my finite resource. While that may be true in some sense, let’s shift the vocabulary to something more powerful: making time.
“Making time” implies that your marriage is entitled to some of your time. And if you want it to be healthy, then what you put in will give you an unimaginable return on investment.
Does it feel like your days are totally full though? Some people’s days are, but some are just full of time wasters. You know…binge watching an entire season of White Lotus in one weekend, mindless phone scrolling during every quiet minute or responding to every notification immediately. (Please tell me I’m not alone!) Getting a handle on these will open up SO much time in your day!
For a lot of us though, it’s going to take a little work to figure out how to make time.
Let’s get practical!
Grab your spouse, your calendar and open your notes to do some reflection:
Write down your 3-5 most important time investments.
(The people or things that should get some of your time every day. For example mine are God, my marriage, my son, myself and my work - because I love what I do!)
Look at your calendar and how you’re currently spending your time.
- Is there free time that you thought was actually filled?
- Do you see extracurricular stuff that isn’t going to mean much in a few years?
- What trends do you notice?
What does your ideal day look like that includes your top time investments? (Including responsibilities like going to work- I said ideal, not dream day! haha)
What is keeping you from having that day?
- Is it not planning ahead?
- Are you saying yes to every sport or extra curricular your kids want to do?
- Too much time at the office?
What small thing can you start doing today to shift your time priorities?
- Putting it ALL on the calendar can keep you accountable!
- Consider one sport per season for your kids?
- Focus hard at work so that you can leave on time?
- If something doesn’t have long term benefits for your top priorities, maybe scale back your involvement?
Whatever you decide, stay consistent. You will be surprised how impactful 20 minutes per day and a date night can be!
So now that you’ve made some time and have a few ideas on how to spend your 20 minutes of connection time, join our weekly email The Connection Point. You’ll get weekly connection topics to discuss and date night activities you can use! We’ll let you see a little more behind the scenes of our marriage and you’ll be the first to hear about new blog posts and the services we provide! It’s our way of helping you find ways to go from “enjoy it while it lasts” to everlasting.