By: James W. Walkup, D. Min.
You already know that finding time
for each other is your biggest challenge. Feeling guilty about
spending so little time together will not help. Promising to be home
early tomorrow will probably be met with skepticism by a spouse
who's heard it all before. You may be too busy to sense how much
each of you yearns for quality time.
Invigorating a time-starved relationship requires work but the
rewards are unbelievable. Maintaining a sense of mutuality and
strong affirmation will require the very best of your adult skills.
Guarding your love for each other is not for sissies. Setting
boundaries and safeguarding your time together requires aggressive
measures but the effort is worth it.
Dual career couples treat their moments together as precious Couples
who give their relationship top priority make sure they have prime
time committed on the calendar for just each other. Make conscious
decisions about time. Spending time alone increases your sense of
closeness. Insure that the pressures of work or children do not pull
you away from experiences that will help you remember why you fell
in love in the first place.
Consider what the impact of any "time" decision will be on your
spouse. If you coach soccer for your child, where will be the time
for you and your partner? When you take on that special project at
work, when will the two of you have your dinner out together alone?
Such times can be a movable feast on your calendar but be sure to
move the date to another place on the calendar in the same week.
Remember: when you regularly disappointment each other, hurt and
disappointment eat away your morale and isolates you from your most
natural companion and cheerleader. Even though you see each other at
some of your worst moments in the day give it your best shot to stay
warm and affirming. If your partner is your best friend, then
treating he or she like one will go a long way.
Working many hours often leads to a felling of entitlement. After
getting on the train at six and getting home at eight, you may feel
entitled to be taken care of. Your partner however may feel the same
nee. Some couples actually declare a no fight zone during such
evenings. When you recognize that you will probably bee reactive to
almost anything, agree to discuss things over the weekend. Hopefully
by then you will have caught up enough with sleep to listen.
Stress siphons off your ability to see things in shades of gray. If
you find yourself grumpy and impatient, ask your partner for some
time to re-center yourself so that you can be a better listener. Of
course, when kids are involved, this means someone must stay in
charge. A cartoon in the New Yorker shows a couple playing doubles
tennis with a baby crawling down the center court line. Each yells,
"Yours." Clear assignments of "who's responsible when" can save a
bushel of disappointment.
So what else will work? You need to be rigid and intentional about
securing your emotional and physical health. Get enough sleep. Eat
healthily. Exercise at least 3 times a week. You know the drill. But
are you clear that doing so will automatically enhance your
relationship and save time?
Stressed, tired people feel hurt and disappointed with their
relationships. Unfortunately, they blame their partner for the small
things as if those are the things causing unhappiness. "If only you
had picked up my suits at the cleaner, I would not be yelling at you
like this." Don't believe it.
Most fights center around little things that have become big things.
Seen through the prism of exhaustion, leaving towels on the floor
may be experienced as the only thing that matters. It will be viewed
as total proof that your partner does not care about you.
The freedom to honor the reality of the mistake and appreciate the
disappointment can go a long way. When you're feeling defensive, you
may have to bite your tongue, and take ten deep breaths before you
are able to acknowledge that you have failed to hold up your end of
Each time you nurse a wound when your partner has forgotten to call,
you develop plenty of justification for distancing and giving up.
Couples, who care about each other, recognize that they need time to
Of course, you each must have enough resilience to show up for these
conversations. Couples in time-starved relationships need to make
catching up a priority. You may find that who's right and who's
wrong is not as important as wanting to be together.
Sharing your feelings does not mean that you resort to blame and
rage. Rather treat the moment as if your best friend had asked you
to share some of your joys and concerns. Letting go of the righteous
indignation goes a long way.
You will find that feeling heard and understood counts. You don't
want to heat your partner coming back at you with "why you are
really the problem." You will relax and feel more connected when
your partner indicates that he or she understands how this might
have upset you. A sense that your partner cares about you restores
your faith in the relationship.
Follow a simple rule of thumb: the partner who feels the strongest
yields the floor to the person who feels most vulnerable. Agreeing
to listen all the way through until your partner feels understood
will take the sting out of her or his upset. If you summarize what
you have heard, you and your partner will stay in a mode of problem
solving rather than playing the "who's to blame game."
Then and only then, will you have gained the right to have the floor
to be heard as well. This saves an enormous amount of time even
though at first you may find it tedious. Making sure that your
partner knows that you want to hear what is bugging him or her and
that you are willing to do something about it, restores a sense of
hope and equilibrium back into this relationship.
Probably the least appropriate time to resolve conflicts is at
bedtime or thereafter. Learning to declare cease-fires and making
appointments to deal with things when you both feel sane can save
much sleep and marital disarray.
Remember: you need this partner as a cheerleader, confidant and
friend. Your long life depends upon it. Agreeing to make the most of
your time together can help both of you feel great. Your
concentration at work will heighten. Your pleasure with your
children will increase. And most fundamentally, your pleasure with
each other will increase.
If these strategies do not work and you find things still not
improving, seek some counseling. Research shows that most couples
wait seven years after first identifying a problem before they reach
out for help. Often by then, one or both partners feels so wounded
that reconciliation is much more challenging. A few sessions of help
early on can make all of the difference between a life of quiet
desperation and a life of knowing the joy of true companionship.
This article was provided by James W.
Walkup, D. Min. for