19 Mar

Healthy Marriage: Finding time for your spouse

We have more time-saving conveniences than any time in history.  So why does it seem we are all busier than ever? “I don’t have the time” is the most common reason (excuse) we offer for not doing something.  I should exercise, but I don’t have the time. I would like to get together with you more, but I don’t have the time. I need to fix the damaged fence in the yard, but I don’t have time.

Even couples that have a healthy relationship often struggle with finding time and making time for one another.  To further complicate things, they are almost never wasting time on frivolous things. The kids are important. The jobs are important.  Extended family and friends are important. Hobbies and exercise (if they even fit in the mix) are important. Where does date night and finding quality time together fit in?  And the little bit of time that might exist at the end of the day is usually when we’re exhausted and have little left in the emotional tank.

The problem is that anything neglected over time starts to show signs of damage and decay.  In couples therapy I sometimes use the metaphor of a garden. Beautiful gardens take time and maintenance, tilling, planting, fertilizing, watering, weeding, weeding, and then some more weeding.  For gardens that are healthy, you can clearly see the time investment of the gardener. Now take that same beautiful, healthy garden and neglect it for 2-3 weeks and see what happens. Let it go a couple more weeks and you have a real mess on your hands.

I probably don’t need to connect the dots for you on how this is similar to loving relationships.  When we feel our partner doesn’t have/make time for us, it doesn’t take long before we start to feel it.  Let’s be honest, we are all a little high maintenance when it comes to getting our emotional needs met. Initially, we may be able to brush it off and tell ourselves that it’s understandable and our spouse is justifiably busy with that deadline at work or the kids’ activities. We may even pride ourselves on being strong and independent and fully functional without that special attention and time from our partner.  But deep inside we are all just a couple steps away from being a toddler throwing a tantrum for attention. We might try to make it look a little more sophisticated, but we need time, attention and affection, and there’s no need to apologize for this.

So what can we do when we are justifiably wanting more attention from our partner?  Let’s start with a revolutionary idea…how about just telling them you miss them and you want more of them!  It’s remarkable to me how creative we are with our emotional need tantrums, when we can save ourselves so much time and energy by simply telling our partner, “Hey, you’re pretty great, I love you and want more of you.” Trust me, this gets a better response than blame and accusation.

The next step is to be purposeful and intentional about creating time for one another.  If couples wait for the planets of time to align before having time for one another, it’s not going to happen. Schedule the time for each other. Create the time for each other. Get creative with schedules and make it happen.  I’m not trying to say this is easy, but I am saying it’s far from impossible. From a purely pragmatic point of view, couples that don’t pro-actively create time for one another eventually spend more time fighting than they would have spent enjoying one another’s company.

The relationship is important.  Your partner is important. Put your creative heads together and intentionally create time for one another. You won’t regret it!

Dr. Mike Kragt, PhD is the executive director of Grace Counseling and is passionate about helping couples work through their issues together and find the way to make things work. To schedule an appointment with him, contact us or call (720) 489-8555.

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