As the counseling session wrapped up, Sandy asked if we
could schedule our next appointment for two weeks out instead of one. That way
they would have more time to do their âhomeworkâ and practice the
communication skills they were learning.
âYeah,â said Sandyâs husband, Mark, âWeâre so busy we have to come to
counseling to just to have a date!â
For many couples today, their biggest relationship problem is finding time to
have a relationship. If this sounds like you, you might be telling yourself it
will all be different after the wedding. But will it? Wedding planning eats up
a lot of time, thatâs for sure. But many couples find that the problem of âno
time for loveâ lingers long after the guests have gone home.
Too many couples today end up feeling more like project managers than lovers.
âOur conversations go like this,â said Caroline. "âDid you remember to call
the insurance agent? No, Iâll try to do it this morning. Should I write the
check for the mortgage? That would be great. Can you pick up Derek from day
care by 6:00? No, my meeting will probably run late. If you get him, Iâll pick
up dinner on my way home.â We sound like weâre partners running a
Not only does it take time to have fun, it takes time to have sex. (Hey,
someoneâs got to say it!) Couples are often puzzled about why sex ends up at
the bottom of their list. One reason is that the list is too long! To put it
in a nutshell, down time is sexy. Relaxing is sexy. Multi-tasking is not.
People forget how much time they used to set aside for each other when they
were dating. Whole evenings just to get to know each other. Whole weekends
just to enjoy each other. And there were no bills to pay and no chores to do,
because you didnât have joint responsibilities. Dates automatically felt like
mini-vacations. When you share a household, you donât get that feeling quite
so automatically. You have to make a point to create it.
At this point in your life, the âchoresâ may be more related to the wedding.
But you can still get caught up in the same dynamic of all work and no play.
And for many engaged couples, their âdark secretâ is that theyâre so stressed,
their sex life has dwindled. (Sometimes I wonder, does this have anything to
do with the skeptical attitude a lot of men have about weddings? After all,
how many men would raise their hands in favor of more shopping and less sex?)
Whether youâve been married for years, like Sandy and Mark, or whether youâre
still looking forward to your wedding, the time for finding more time for love
is now. Here are some pointers to get you going in the right direction.
About setting priorities, I mean. Finding time to nurture your relationship
requires a laser-like focus on whatâs really important to you. Just because
that board is for a cause you believe in doesnât mean you need to be on it.
Just because you love yoga AND aerobics AND weight training AND Pilates
doesnât mean you should do all of them. And just because you get invited to
great parties doesnât mean you should always say yes.
For a lot of under 35âs, the social whirl is intense. Theyâre living a
college-style social life, while trying to launch careers, go to school, maybe
even start a family. This manic socializing is partly a way to explore the
worldâand themselves. As they venture into new situations, they ask
themselves, âIs this my tribe? Are these my values? Is this how I want to
If youâve decided to marry, youâve found some of the answers to those
questions. So you might want to ask yourself, âDo I really want to keep up
this pace?â Iâm not saying you should forget about trying new things. Just
that you may have clearer priorities that you did a few years ago and you
might want to trim your commitments to reflect them.
Go Ahead and Say It: âNO!â
To maintain your laser-like focus, youâre going to need the skill of saying,
âNO.â For a year, my friend Karen chaired a committee for an organization of
small business owners. At the end of that year, she realized that while
rewarding in many ways, the job took a lot of time away from more important
activities. When the board president asked her to sign up for the next year,
she said, âNo, Iâm not planning on being the chair again next year.â There was
a pause and the president said, âOh, really? But you did such a good job. Why
donât you want to do it again?â Karen answered, âIt just doesnât fit with my
goals for this year.â
No reasons, no rationalizations, just: This isnât my priority. Sounds gutsy,
doesnât it? And it does take guts, if youâve never tried it. But believe me,
the sky wonât fall and people wonât think youâre a terrible, selfish person.
You might be surprised to find that they actually respect you more. And the
feeling you get when you stand up for your own priorities can be very
Find the âGood Enoughâ Point
Bob had an âAha!â moment when he realized that he puts stress on his
relationship by his desire to optimize every situation.
âI realized that instead of going to three grocery stores to find the lowest
price on every item, it would be better for my relationship if I got home a
half hour earlier. I can save that kind of energy for bigger things, like
shopping for a new car.â
If youâre a high achiever, the drive to optimize can be a tempting trap.
Whatever youâre doing, you want to do the best possible job. The problem is
you can end up shooting yourself in the foot. Saving those pennies (or
searching 10 different stores for the perfect wedding invitations) eats up
your precious time.
If this sounds like you, try asking yourself, âWhatâs the âgood enough pointâ
for this project?â In wedding planning, you may want to optimize when it comes
to your gown. A lot of brides have very strong feelings about THE DRESS. (I
knowâI was one of them!) But itâs worth asking yourself, âDo I really care
that much about every single part of my wedding?â Your âgood enough pointâ for
favors or flowers may be different. Every time you identify the âgood enough
pointâ of a task, you buy yourself time for that part of your life that really
does deserve optimizationâyour relationship.
Create New Traditions Now
Right now youâre creating patterns that will carry on into your married life.
If youâre not spending enough time with each other now, I would bet big money
that I could drop in on you a year from now and youâd have the same problem.
So why not deliberately create traditions that will keep you connected as you
move into the future?
One tradition that works for a lot of busy couples is âdate night.â Thatâs one
way to get that mini-vacation feeling again. And I know a number of couples
that save Sundays for their partners. No matter how crowded their schedule
gets or how many demands they have, they always know that they will have that
one day together.
Another good way to stay connected to your partner is to develop hobbies
together. Take up golf or salsa dancing together, and youâve just cut way back
on the planning. Youâve made having fun together an automatic part of your
These ideas have helped my clients balance their lives and carve out more time
for each other. Why donât you give them a try and see what happens? Begin now
to make time for love, so later on you wonât have to come to a counseling
appointment just to get a date.
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