Let's be honest: "busy" has become the new black. It's not unusual for a client to tell me she doesn't feel connected to her partner, and in the next breath tell me that she's "crazy busy". Sometimes it seems as if folks believe there's a special badge of honor given to whoever is the busiest, but don't always see the connection between their stressful schedule and less-than-stellar love lives.
Don't get me wrong. I understand that everyone has obligations vying for their attention. There's work, children, aging parents to care for, and things our bodies need for existence (like sleep). I know, however, that being busy can be addicting. It can also function as a way of numbing ourselves, so that we don't have to feel.
One of the most valuable commodities your monogamous relationship has is your precious time and attention. In order to feel connected to your partner, you have to make spending time together important — as important as your work and extracurricular activites. Here are some ways to make quality time with your partner a priority:
- Create a vision: A couple's vision is a great way to help you identify priorities for your relationship, allowing you to say yes to what matters and no to the activities that detract from who you are as a couple and as individuals. It gives you a clear picture of the way you want to manage your shared life.
- Share schedules: Regularly compare your calendars and priority lists from work and family obligations to see where you can carve time out for each other. This also helps you both to know when one of you is likely to need some extra support for an upcoming project.
- Commit to a regular date night: Though it may sound hokey, a regular date night makes quality time together a priority. It doesn't even have to be expensive. Maybe it's dinner together on Sundays or a monthly night out at a favorite restaurant. Maybe it's a bike ride together on the first Saturday of the month, or even just a candle-lit picnic on the living room carpet.
- Create a minimum weekly requirement: As a couple, agree to a non-negotiable minimum amount of time together. Maybe you'll agree that at least one night a week, neither partner will work late or attend an evening event. Maybe you'll agree to get up early two mornings a week and have breakfast together. Make it doable and choose to make it important.
- Make time for intimacy: Sex is an important part of connecting with your partner. If you make it important, it will become important. Though scheduling sex may not sound romantic, agreeing to a minimum number of times a month you'll make love can actually help strengthen your bond. Plus, the more you do it, the more you want to do it!
- Limit extracurricular activities: If you have children, limit their extracurricular activities to one activity per child. While team sports or piano lessons are great for children, having something on the calendar as an obligation doesn't allow for much family time. It also doesn't allow kids to learn to manage down time.
- Create "no electronics" zones: Don't eat in front of the TV every night. Don't bury your head in separate iPads. Dinnertime should be about focusing on the company and the meal. Talk about the events of the day and share upcoming events. This goes for your sleeping space, too. Don't charge your phone in the bedroom! It's too easy to end the day with last minute emails instead of some quality snuggle time or sex.
Don't sacrifice connection in your monogamous relationship. If you aren't careful, "busy" can become your identity. But being busy isn't the same as feeling worthy, satisfied, or fulfilled. And it does nothing to strengthen the special bond with your sweetie. Ask yourself: how important is your relationship? How important do you want it to be?
More advice on showing affection from YourTango:
- Affection Is Key To Keeping Love Alive
- The Best Love Advice On YourTango
- Show Affection (Without Getting Sappy)