I always found it amusing that I see my spouse every day, yet I find myself missing him often. This seems strange, right? To miss someone you see everyday. When I tell other people this, I often receive a bewildered look and then hear, “but you live together…”. And they are right. We do. But I still find myself missing him.
One day, when I actually stopped to think about this, it dawned on me that I miss my husband so much because we are not spending actual quality time together. Sure, we see each other in passing as the days go by, but that is just it, in passing. We touch base during the day via email or text for a quick check-in and by the time we both get home, we are exhausted and going through the motions. Sure, we have our weekends where we spend “time together”, but again, weekends tend to be filled with social obligations or household chores, all of which leave us feeling depleted. This is why I decided we needed to make a change before the feeling of missing him became too great and potentially problematic. If you are reading this and feeling as though this sounds similar to your own circumstances, keep reading for some helpful tips which will not only help strengthen your relationship, but also help you slow down and be more mindful of the time you are spending in your own life.
1. Put the cell phones down and talk to each other
A simple concept, yet harder than it seems. As a society, we rely heavily on instant gratification. We want to know the news right away, where our packages out for delivery are, what our friends and family are up to, how many steps we took in a day, etc. yet, we do not pay enough attention to what, or who, is right in front of us. Put the phones down. Social media is not going anywhere and your newsfeed will still be there later. The beauty of having small computers at our fingertips is that we are still able to access the information at any time, it is our own anxiety which pressures us to feel like we need to know everything “right now”.
When you stop and put the phone down, something amazing happens: you are now in the moment. Being mindful of the present and enjoying the “now”. This is especially important in relationships because phones, computers, tablets, etc. distract us from one another. We tend to make excuses such as “Oh, I will tell them later”, but more often than not, later comes and goes and things are often left unsaid. Communication is one of the most important parts of a healthy relationship and our desire to have our phones on us 24/7 is hindering this.
A few simple ways to start implementing this idea is to start by picking a time you and your spouse are most available. Perhaps it is in the morning, before work or in the evening, after work. Set aside protected time to just talk with one another each day and find a safe place to store your phones during this time. I recommend putting them in a drawer or in another room. Out of sight, out of mind. Sounds simple, right? It is! It is that simple. Just talk to each other. Ask about their day, catch up on information from the week, talk about the weather. Talk about anything. In doing so, you are giving each other uninterrupted time, attention, and focus. You are making eye contact. You are verbally communicating and sharing dialogue that is specific to the other person. This all seems easy and simple, yet it is highly effective. I know some of you may be reading this and thinking to yourselves “who has time for this?”. This does not have to be an hour long event. Start small with 10-15mins. From there, try and increase your time as the days progress. Some days you may be able to dedicate more time to this than others. The timeframe does not matter as much as the concept. The more you are able to prioritize communication with one another, the more habitual and routine this will become in your daily lives.
2. Date night
Making time for you and your spouse outside of the home is very important. It is easy to get caught up in the day to day activities and with that can come frustration, loneliness, and burn out. Date night is another simple, yet effective way to spend quality time with your spouse and it applies to those with and without children. If you and your spouse have children, it is especially important to take time for yourselves. Hire a sitter or ask a family member or friend for a favor and hit the town! Think of activities which you and your spouse can enjoy together, that will bring happiness, laughter, and fun. If date night is not an economical option right now, this is still an applicable idea. Date night is just a phrase, what you do with the phrase is most important. Going for a walk, a hike, a picnic, or even a scenic drive are all options which can be done economically. Date night does not mean having to spend money at a fancy restaurant. If you do not have kids, the concept of date night may seem silly.
Some of you reading this may even think that living with someone, kid free, is essentially a 24/7 date night. This is a dangerous misconception. Just because a couple does not have children does not mean the time they are spending together is quality time. Touching base in between making dinner, doing laundry, and getting ready for bed is not quality time. Zoning out in front of the TV is not quality time. Sure, you are sitting next to one another, but are you really valuing the time you are spending with the other person? More often than not, the answer is no. Getting out of the house and doing something to break up the routine is going to not only allow for a much needed break, but also allow for an opportunity to talk, laugh, explore, and enjoy time with one another. Couples should try and aim for one date night a week. If this seems too daunting, once or twice a month is a good start. Lastly, date night should be just you and your spouse. When you get into the habit of inviting other friends or couples along, you risk losing the value in the time you are meant to spend with your spouse alone. Being social is fun and important in it’s own right, but in regards to making time for your spouse, keep it simple and keep it intimate.
3. Try something new
One of the most exciting ways to spend time with your spouse is by trying something new together. Most people I talk to, professionally and personally, often say they feel they are going through the motions. Every day is the same routine, over and over again, and there seems to be little break in that routine. This ties back into the idea of how the time we spend with our spouse becomes obligatory instead of fun and meaningful. When something begins to feel like an obligation, it becomes easier to brush off or dismiss vs. something we are excited about. Everyone has hobbies and interests and more often than not we become too caught up in the routine to ever practice these interests.
Talk with your spouse about something they wish to try but feel they never have time for and similarly something you have always wanted to try as well. Perhaps it is taking a class of some sort or learning a new sport or activity. Whatever it may be, think about it together and decide on something you can begin to try together. This will again allow for quality time together but additionally this will keep things interesting. Learning something new may bring out fears and insecurities and when you have your spouse there for support, it helps to strengthen the relationship between the two of you. Additionally, you may find you are looking forward to spending time with your spouse to begin this new adventure and that excitement is a feeling you may realize has been lacking. When something excites us, we are more likely to make time for it. So, if making time for your spouse doubles as a fun new activity, it is a win-win.
Relationships are difficult and although there are many books, blogs, articles, and ideas on how to work on relationships, the most important piece is the desire to want to work on the relationship. A solid hour of quality time with your spouse will heavily outweigh an entire day of minimal contact and communication, even if you are in the same room the entire time. So, if you are like me and find yourself missing your spouse, you are not alone and by trying some of these simple ideas, you will start working towards a happier, healthier relationship.