Most of us have very busy lives. Work and family commitments, household chores and social events can fill all our time. Unless you make time for each other, it simply won’t happen. An evening out with friends is great, but its not couple time, family outings on the weekend are a pleasure, but that’s not couple time. Watching TV at the end of a long day can be relaxing, but as a regular diet, this isn’t couple time either.
Couple time is just the two of you, engaged with each other. Willard F Harley Jr, the author of several books on relationship, calls this The policy of Undivided Attention. He recommends couples ensure they schedule a minimum of 15 hours a week alone together. This is time to tune into each other, to engage in activities you both enjoy, to share your day, to explore ideas, to make plans or resolve issues. Its having time to be fully present with each other. Without devoted couple time, its unlikely you will be able to fulfil each other’s most important emotional needs.
If the relationship comes after all the other commitments and activities, often when we’re too tired to really be available or engaged. Some people have weekly ‘date nights’. Others may just stay home, but with intention to spend the evening together alone, without TV, Facebook or phone calls. It may work one afternoon a week to finish early and go for a walk and stop at a pub before dinner. Some couples are able to meet up at lunchtime, other’s farm out their kids for a weekend and have time for themselves. Be creative, make couple time a priority and see your relationship flourish.
In The Psychology of Romantic Love, David Richo suggests that couples who are estranged from each other, who’s relationship has become lifeless and mechanical, spend 12 hours together alone. No books, TV or phones, no distractions of any kind, just an entire day in each other’s company with an agreement to talk about personal things (not business or children’ schoolwork or domestic stuff). It’s an interesting experiment, as after a while they will begin to talk about meaningful things. They may make love, they may quarrel… but over time they will drop into a deeper level of intimacy, sharing things perhaps not expressed before, speaking of dreams and longings and opening up to each other in a profound way. They are sharing about themselves, each other and their relationship in a deeply intimate way, in a way that expands their sense of aliveness and connection.
For most couples, the day end happily. But occasionally it ends with the realisation that the relationship may no longer serve the needs of either and that they may not wish to remain together. This understanding will be valuable, as it could help to free two people from an empty marriage.
For people who love each other but do not seem to know how to communicate effectively, a 12-hour session like this a few times a year can produce the most radical changes in the quality of their relationship. Relationships need time, they need leisure.