Most of us live out incredibly hectic busy schedules as we seek to successfully balance work, family, friends, faith, community, and leisure. We tend to address the most demanding and urgent items in our schedule, and it is so easy to take for granted the most important human relationship we have right by our side, our spouse or partner. Since we feel they will love us no matter where we put our priorities, it is easy for them to slowly drift out of our schedule.
After 20 years of marriage, I have at times neglected my relationship with my wife while I have instead, put my best effort forward to lead work teams under my care with little energy remaining to give at home. Through the years, I discovered I have had to be intentional to purposefully schedule times of respite with my wife and to invest in the most important human relationship in my life. If we did not intentionally schedule time together, it might not happen.
We often discover what is most important in a person’s life by what they prioritize in their schedule. This is so important because it is so easy for us to drift away from our spouse or partner. It is worth the effort because these times provide greater emotional and psychological connection to help facilitate the rapid and deep growth of your relationship. These times will empower you to connect mind, body, and soul with your partner without the distractions of normal routine life.
According to a recent study conducted by the National Marriage Project conducted by the University of Virginia, date nights improve marriage relationships. The study showed improvements for married couples who go on frequent dates across categories such as happiness, commitment, communication, parenthood stability, and community integration. The evidence also showed that couples who devote consistent time together not only have lower divorce rates, but also increase the perceived quality of their marriage. Time with the one whom we love most on earth provides a pleasant taste of paradise along the desert of our busy lives.
As a married man and professional counselor, these are prime recommendations I can give for scheduling quality time with your partner:
- Daily (30-60 Minutes): Schedule this opportunity at the same time each day to provide consistency and to enable this to become a habit. During your time, share with each other what happened during your day, accomplish family business, and engage in connection activities. Christian couples can have a devotional time to read the Bible and pray together.
- Weekly (2-3 Hours): Schedule this time together at the same time each week to enjoy a day to day or night together. You can enjoy a meal, hike, shop, or any other activity together.
- Monthly (4-8 Hours): Schedule this adventure together at the same time each month as you can explore beyond your normal contexts to connect together. You can travel to a city an hour away to enjoy a special attraction or event.
- Quarterly (2 Days/1 Overnight): Schedule this retreat together 3 months in advance to make it work in your schedule. You can enjoy a time at home alone or enjoy a night in a local or regional hotel or bed and breakfast. It is a chance to relax for an extended time together.
- Yearly (3-7 Day Trip): Schedule this vacation 6-12 months in advance to ensure it fits in your schedule. You can enjoy a staycation or travel farther away to have time away from your busy routine. It is a wonderful time to get refreshed, renewed, and revived with your spouse or partner. This is a great time to talk about what is working and what could be improved in your relationship, in order to have an even better year ahead.
As you look through this list, this may feel impossible for your current situation. For those of you with young children, this may feel undoable because it can be so difficult to get a babysitter. If you can get a babysitter, this investment is well worth your effort because it boosts the health of your relationship with your partner. If you are not able to get a babysitter, there are many ways for you to be creative to enjoy this time together.
When our girls were young and when we lived far away from family, we would often take them to dinner with us on date night, and we would spend time together alone after they were asleep in bed. As they got older, if we brought them with us to a restaurant, we would have them sit a couple booths away within eyesight to enable us to enjoy a meal alone as a couple. You could also consider trading babysitting with another couple. During financially tight times, you may feel you do not have the money to spend on this investment with your partner, but any of these adventures with your partner can be done for free.
The time and effort to intentionally invest in the most important human being in your life is one which will provide fantastic returns. It will deepen your friendship and boost your intimacy to produce a healthy lifelong love.