by Adam Maurer, LPC, LMFT, Couples Therapist
One of the simplest things you can do for your relationship is be proactive in managing the time you spend on yourself, being a couple, and being a family. Many times life gets busy and a committed partner slips into becoming a roommate who is also exhausted. Work, kids, social obligations; all these things will take every bit of time you have and more if you do not manage them. Folks who make love last learn how to set boundaries in their different roles, and give time to what is important to them. Think about it like this, if you are a parent then you must make time for: yourself as an individual, yourself as part of a couple, yourself as your role in your larger family. Dedicate too much time to one of those identities and the others become neglected, also problems can pop up in the role where you are over functioning. So, let’s look at how a little bit of time management in each role can lead to lasting love.
Often times people think that the solution to every problem in a relationship is to spend more time together, more closeness. That can actually do harm to a loving relationship. Can you truly desire what you never miss? Spend too much time together and contempt can block out any appreciation for your partner. I think of it as self-induced cabin fever. Making some time for your individual self allows you to practice self care as well as miss the people in your life that you love. A moment to pursue your own passions while having a little vacation away from your responsibilities as partner and/or parent does a world of good. You rejoin your relationship roles with energy and possibly new insights into your appreciation for your loved ones. A little bit of space in a relationship allows longing to reignite passion’s flame. All sorts of wonderful things can happen if you take a little time to nurture your individual self. Just be sure that you don’t fall into the trap of spending too much time in this role. Resentments can easily develop when one partner feels they are too alone within a relationship, so after some individual time make sure to set up time to devote to your other roles.
Many folks look back at the beginning of their relationship with fondness. They remember all the dates, trips, and happy times discovering each other. Then work, PTA meetings, the lawn; all these things seem to conspire to take over your life. Your relationship is left longing. There are three main ways to make time for your partnership. You have to make time to talk, time to date, and time to connect physically. Time to talk includes conversations about what is working well and challenges within your relationship. If you’re parents, use this time to discuss your dynamics as a couple. Focus on your role within the larger family will be discussed at a different time. Making time to communicate about your relationship will help you avoid conflicts in the future and help you feel like a teammate with your partner. Working together against the chaos of the world. Taking time to have a date night is important too. Life cannot be all work, so a night to focus on connecting and enjoyment helps strengthen a relationship. This could be anything from a fancy dinner out to a walk around town lake. Just taking a little time to reestablish your romantic connection will strengthen your relationship. It makes a deposit into your relationship’s emotional bank account, so that when you need to make a withdrawal in the future your relationship can withstand it. If you’re connecting as a couple then it’s easier to ask for some individual time later on. The last piece of time management for your is making time for your erotic selves. This piece is too often sacrificed to the gods of exhaustion. Many couples find it difficult to maintain an erotic life over time once the daily business of living gets done with them. You have to make time to connect with your partner physically. Now, I’m not saying that you jot down in your planner to penetrate your partner at 8pm on Monday. Set up a time to physically connect with your partner and honor it, do what feels right in that moment. It could be a massage, might be a shower together, could be penetrative sex. It isn’t about the activity that you do, it’s about maintaining your physical connection to help maintain your relationship. Too much togetherness as a couple and desire can dwindle as resentment grows. It becomes too easy to lose appreciation if you’re never apart. Too much time together as a couple can also make it difficult to manage your own moods. The emotional atmosphere can be hijacked by one person’s sour mood, leaving the other partner to ride out the storm.
The last place that requires time management is your family, be it your own children, extended family, or family of choice. Obligations tend to reign in this area of our lives, so many people find it challenging to set time boundaries with family. Too much time in this role can lead to resentments. If you’ve ever been the primary caregiver for your kids on a particularly rough day you know too well what can easily happen. You can get snappy, frustrated, and eventually in desperate need of some time outside of your role as caregiver. Too much time as a caretaker with no time to practice self care can lead to issues in coupling. The only adult interaction makes for a place to pour out difficult feelings. On the positive side of managing time in the role of family, seeing your partner interact within larger family units allows you a chance to see your partner in a new light. The time they take explaining something to their nephew reminds you of the tenderness you first saw in your partner. You can come together with your partner to bring joy to others, such as planning a surprise party for a friend or helping an elderly relative with yard work.
It is tricky to manage time for your individual self, your relationship, and your family. There will always be a request for more. Setting boundaries with time and maintaining them will help your love last. If you need some help with your relationship or time management give us a call to make a counseling appointment and let’s work together so that you can get more of what you want out of life. If you are not quite ready to make an appointment, you can read about what marriage counseling entails. Want more? See our previous article on How Do You Know If Your Relationship Will Last and or Factors That Predict The Investment in a Relationship.