I was reading a book recently where the author, a leading Australian couple’s therapist, John Aiken, claims to have ended couples therapy sessions with couples who refuse to rearrange their schedule to spend 30 minutes per day one on one together. As he says it is a waste of everyone’s time – if you don’t spend time together you are not going to have a relationship. I understand his frustration and while I have never stopped seeing a couple because of it, the issue of time together has been a major challenge for many of my couples.
When a relationship has deteriorated to the point where the main discussion revolves around logistics – kids, work, housework, weekend activities etc – the thought of 30 minutes a day talking together about something else is quite terrifying. Even in a good relationship habit and time pressures can sidetrack discussion to logistics leaving little time to really know your partner. 15 hours per week is the goal - I remember reading that somewhere and it seems reasonable (the average Australian watches 26-28 hours per week of television) but remember the journey of a thousand steps starts with the first step so start small and build on your success.
And just so you know that it is possible I thought I would share with you how my husband, Brett and I implemented the 15 hours per week in our relationship. Firstly it was a really conscious effort. We both needed to make changes to our routines to make it happen. And of course there are the weeks when it all goes pear shaped!! But when that happens we regroup, reassess and begin again the following week.
So here is approximately how we do it. Each weekday we spend about an hour together depending on when we wake between 5.30 and 6.30 over coffee in bed. This was really hard for me at first as I am not a morning person. Brett is a morning person – always has been - and often jokes that he needs to get the coffee into me before he gets any sense out of me. But when we looked at our schedules this was really the only time we could add into our day. Brett, on his part, rescheduled his exercise to after our time and adjusted the time he started work to compensate. (5 hours per week)
In the evenings after work we often spend about 30 min together while one of us (usually Brett) cooks dinner talking about our day. (2.5 hours per week)
Every Thursday is date night. From 7 to about 9.30 we either go to a local restaurant or get take away and stay home without any distractions such as television. (2.5 hours per week) The staying home “date night” is something we started when the kids were small so we could save on babysitters but we have always made it like a real date – no distractions.
The final 5 hours are over the weekend through extended coffee in bed, evening drinks on the deck or taking opportunities to do other activities together - we have become really good at opportunistic time – taking opportunities as they arise eg when we both work from home we will have lunch together. Or an example from last weekend we went together to pick up one of Brett’s e-bay purchases (a topic for another whole blog!!) about an hour drive away and had breakfast on the way home. We have also a few fun activities that we do together such as play golf together at least monthly and try to have a weekend away at least every year (6 months if we are lucky).
And most importantly to do all of that we have not compromised on family, exercise, friends, hobbies, work or anything else important to us. We have prioritised us and look forward to the time together.
So you have made the time now what? Stay tuned for my next blog what does 1 on 1 time really mean?