The Relationship Secret Savvy Couples Know
The Bad News
According to leading marriage expert Dr. John Gottman “…divorce statistics remain dire. The chance of a first marriage ending in divorce over a forty-year period is 67 percent. Half of all divorces will occur in the first seven years.”
If there were one simple, tiny, minuscule, but effective thing you could do that would begin to change the course of your marriage relationship and beat the dire statistics, would you do it? Savvy couples know that spending time together grows and improves the quality of their marriage relationship, heals relationship wounds and strengthens bonds. Of course, the opposite can also be true.
While the health of a marriage is not necessarily directly proportional to the amount of time a couple spends together, it can be a significant barometer. As couples begin to experience difficulty in their marriage, the amount of time they spend together decreases. Consciously or subconsciously, couples become skilled at avoiding meaningful interactions with each other. They easily fill their days, weeks, and months with work, childcare and support, household maintenance, physical fitness and exercise, volunteering, zoning out in front of the TV, computers or smartphones, etc. What they don’t realize is time apart, like time together, is cumulative. Time apart erodes relationships and weakens emotional connection while time together has the opposite effect.
The key pillar of marriage stability is friendship. Dr. Gottman has studied thousands of couples for several years. His research concluded that no matter how much you argue and no matter how dysfunctional your relationship may seem, the key to beating the dire odds is developing an enduring friendship with your spouse. When couples make time to be together, they remain better connected and become better friends. Notice I intentionally used the word “make” as opposed to “spend” time together. When it comes to “spending” time together the key is to be intentional, to purposefully carve out time (make time) to spend together. If your health depends on seeing a doctor, you don’t plan to find time to drop by her office sometime, you make an appointment. So when the health of our marriage depends on spending time together, why do we plan to “find” some time to visit with each other? Generally, “finding” time is “leftover time;” time that is leftover after all of the other stuff gets done – you know, the important stuff.
The message here is – after all the important stuff gets done we’ll see if there is time left to spend on our relationship. We would never say (out loud) that our marriage relationship is not important. But, in reality if we relegate it to leftover time, we are treating our marriage relationship as though it is unimportant. The other problem is, leftover time rarely exists or it arrives when we are too tired of doing all the other stuff to spend meaningful time together.
The Good News
The good news in all of this is that it doesn’t have to be hard; it can be simple. It does, however, require a change in approach which really means a change of mind / attitude. Time together has to be moved out of the arena of leftover time to the forefront where it belongs – scheduled time. Scheduled time is time that (short of an emergency) happens. It is time that is protected and even cherished. In the beginning, it may feel a little (or a lot) awkward. And it may feel that way because you haven’t been spending much time together. When you’re not talking about the kids or the most recent household calamity, you may not know what to talk about. However, as you spend more time together and become better friends, your time together will be more relaxed and comfortable.
What does time together look like?
The truth is, you decide. It doesn’t matter if it’s a walk, picnic in the park, dinner at your favourite restaurant, a quiet lunch at home, etc. There are some guidelines, however:
• Put in on the calendar – if it’s not scheduled it’ll become leftover time. Schedule at least a week in advance.
• Pick times that work for both of you. No brainer.
• Don’t cancel or change couple’s time for anything but an emergency. Plan other events around spending time with your spouse.
• Schedule four 30 min couple’s times per week. At first it may seem like a lot but that’s only 2 hours out of the 168 hours you have available for seven days – one week. If you’re awake for half of those, that’s only 2 hours out of 84 awake hours each week.
• Schedule couple’s time where you are able to talk, i.e. not at a rock concert where you couldn’t possibly hear each other, or at a movie. If you do want to go to a rock concert or movie, schedule 30 minutes for coffee afterward.
• No screens during this time – no computers, tablets, phones, etc.
• Don’t schedule couple’s time 30 mins before bed or in bed before you go to sleep. You’ll be too tired and you won’t get the results you want or need.
• Couple’s time is not family time. Schedule time without the kids. I know it’s hard when you have kids, but you’re smart and resourceful enough to make it work.
• Couples time is not fight club. Don’t use this time to argue, criticize or pick on each other. Use this time to get to know each other.
• If you pick a quiet and or romantic place, so much the better!
So no distractions – no kids computers, phones (don’t answer the phone or even read a text).
Increase Your Results!
Boost your benefits by seeking out times of opportunity to spend together. If you have 30 minutes after cleaning up from supper grab your spouse and go for a bonus 30 minute walk. If you have time at lunch, meet your spouse for a 30 minute lunch break at a restaurant or at home if you can make it happen.
The more time you invest into your marriage relationship the better it will be. The better your marriage relationship the happier you’ll be. It’s really self-serving
to spend time with your spouse…
Larry G. Pardy CD RSW BSc. HBSW MDiv.
Copyright © L3C 2016