Spending Quality Time Together
Jon and Lucinda started couples counseling with me because they felt like they were growing apart and wanted to find ways to reconnect. Both had demanding jobs and limited time to spend together. Jon shared that he had been helping Lucinda extra with the household chores and taking her out more often on the weekends, but she wasn’t happy with his additional efforts to do things with her. He had come to the conclusion that no matter how much he did, it would never be good enough for Lucinda.
Lucinda agreed that she wasn’t happy but for a different reason.
Lucinda: “Jon likes to do things together like watching TV. He did take me out one night but it was to an office holiday party and the music was so loud I could barely hear myself think!
Jon: “Well, you said you wanted to spend more time together so we could feel more connected.”
Lucinda: “But that wasn’t quality time. We were just physically sharing a space together.”
This conversation sounded very familiar to me. Partners often disagree on how they want to spend time together. They have different definitions of what quality time looks like. As a result, one or both partners end up feeling frustrated, uncared for and disconnected.
To help Jon and Lucinda become more aware of their different perspectives, I asked them to identify ways they like to spend time together.
Jon: “I like when we rent a movie and sit on the couch watching it together.”
Lucinda: ”I like talking about our day.”
Jon: “When we go to a Yankee game.”
Lucinda: ”When we have undistracted time like going out to dinner, just the two of us.”
At this point, I asked Lucinda and Jon to imagine what else might be on each other’s list and validate why.
Jon: “You would probably want to go for a long walk. It would give you time to find out what’s going on with me and also give you a chance to talk about what you’re struggling with.”
Lucinda: “I know you like a good card game. Something that’s competitive and entertaining.”
Both agreed their partner was spot on.
I explained to Jon and Lucinda that what I was hearing is that they have different definitions of quality time.
For Jon, just being together was quality time. However, Lucinda wanted more. She wanted to have meaningful conversations and feel an emotional connection. Just being physically next to each other or doing an activity together didn’t do it for her.
To help Jon and Lucinda each feel they were spending quality time together during the week, I gave them an assignment to take turns initiating quality time.
When we all met again, Jon and Lucinda reported feeling closer because they had a balance of their different kinds of quality time. Jon had taken Lucinda to different kitchen stores to start planning their kitchen renovation. Lucinda had prepared a romantic dinner for just the two of them and talked about when to start trying to get pregnant.
Rather than trying to find a common ground, Jon and Lucinda embraced their differences and accepted and supported each other’s version of quality time. As a result, Jon and Lucinda felt that they were able to be more present and feel closer.
You and your partner can create the same kind of win/win situation. In order to do this, both of you have to be willing to value your partner’s way of spending time with you. By creating more balance in your relationship, you’ll feel more fulfilled, cared for and connected with each other.