Marriage: Giving Yours the Time it Deserves

Most of us don’t neglect our children…we neglect our marriages. And in doing so, we actually give our kids a much worse deal (divorce). Indeed, one of the most robust statistics in all social science is that well-known horror that since 1970, one-half of all new marriages end in divorce…and for second marriages and beyond, the chance of survival is even worse. So please, don’t fool yourself with the notion that “putting your kids first” is really what is best for your kids!

Most of what our marriages need is TIME. Given time, on a regular basis, communication is likely to happen, and spouses (that once fell in love) are likely to enjoy a lot of their time together, and raise their families “on the same page,” and get things done, and not get bored and stray. They also are likely to feel good about their marriage, which is a huge plus. Just like individuals with good self-esteem are much more resilient when bad things happen, couples with good marital esteem are exactly the same.
So how much time is enough for a couple to spend together? Here’s a daily-monthly-yearly template that might help. 15-20 minutes of close contact per day, 1-2 dates per month, and 1-2 weekend getaways per year. If a couple is spending at least this much time just with one another, or close to it, most of the time, they are doing the best divorce-proofing available. Yes, time is the ultimate gift, in our hurried, clogged lives where “too much on the plate” is the norm.

Let’s go a little deeper into each level of the daily-monthly-yearly template. The most important element is the daily contact. If we count only 15 minutes a day, over a year’s time, that equals the waking time of almost six days! For many couples, the 15-20 minutes does not happen until they are about to go to (or already in) bed, but that’s OK. Leave a small light on, and ask each other “how are you? …no, really, how are you?” Closely listen to the answer. If problems are shared, just keep listening, don’t launch into “fixing.” We all just want to be heard. Ask questions to make sure you understand what’s being said, or simply reflect back what you heard, and allow correction, if needed. Share how you felt or reacted during the day, not just the day’s activities. How were you feeling while you were doing what you were doing, much more than the WHAT you were doing. Other nights, there may be less talk, and more touch. Back and neck rubs, foot or scalp massages, handholding, spooning, gentle kissing. Oh sure, romping between the sheets counts! …Just don’t forget the even-more-important emotional intimacy that comes from closely tracking one another’s lives.

Then there’s the 1-2 dates per month. This can be simply going out to eat, or to see a movie. You can even have a date at home. The important part is that you are not with other couples, or your kids. Time out with other couples is a lot of fun, but it doesn’t count for your date(s), because it makes intimacy between spouses much more difficult, too easily interrupted, or even avoided (i.e., to be polite). Find couples with the same number and ages of kids, with which you can “swap” nights out, so that it doesn’t get too expensive. Some couples substitute some of what would have been their “date” time with shared “hobbies” or other activities, such as antique- or yard-sale-hunting, tennis, walking, and so on, which is fine. The key is that you have plenty of time per outing to talk, listen, share, and dream together. Make plans. Talk about now, a year from now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now. What do you want to see…where do you want to be?

Then there’s the weekend getaway. A lot of the fun is planning these, which you can do during some of your daily chats and dates! Please plan the weekend TOGETHER. Or DON’T make any plans! Just leave together and plan it as you go.
So, couples, let’s make those families PARENT or MARRIAGE-centered, as opposed to the disastrous idea of a child-centered family! Give your children the gift that they will appreciate until they die (the wonderful modeling you and your spouse gave them about how to claim life’s most precious earthly gift—a soulmate, and life-long companion).