One of the most frequent complaints we hear from couples about their relationship revolves around the lack of time alone together. “Life is too busy!” they say. Matt and Arielle found themselves in that very predicament. Newly married, he was in graduate school and worked full time as a youth pastor. She worked fulltime as a nurse and tended to put off her weekly chores until the last minute, which encroached on their time together. Not surprisingly, they soon found themselves feeling overwhelmed and disconnected.
This can be particularly true for couples that have kids. Especially during the first five years of starting a family, they tend to put their relationship on the back burner. According to marital researcher David Fein, “Couples with young children… spend more time together, but less time alone together.” Their conversations tend toward the functional (“We have a parent/teacher meeting after school today”), as opposed to relational (“How are you doing today? I’m so glad you’re home!”) As a result, bitterness and disconnect infiltrate their marriages, feelings of loneliness develop, and couples oftentimes perceive that they have suffered a great loss – their best friend.
Feeling disconnected from your spouse is a warning sign that your schedule is out of control, and your relationship is in danger of growing apart. In fact, James Dobson (Dobson’s Family Talk) wrote, “The most dangerous threat to marriage is the simple matter of over-commitment.”
In other words, if you’re too busy to spend time alone together, you’re too busy!
The good news for couples like Matt and Arielle is they don’t need major changes to positively impact their relationship. Research shows that couples that spend at least 30 minutes a day alone together have better marriages. Other research shows that spending just five hours more together a week moves couples from striving to thriving. In fact, it is small, positive actions, done frequently, that make the biggest difference. They just need to find a little more time together in order for their relationship to get back on track, reconnect and flourish.
Their goal? Carve out four to five hours more together per week. Sound impossible? It’s really not as hard as you might think. Here are four simple steps to creating more time for you and your spouse to reconnect and stay connected.
"If it's important to you, you're going to find time. You're going to make time," says Tony Faber, associate professor of family studies at Southeast Missouri State University. "It's all about priority in your life, and if you think spending time together is important, make it a priority."
There is no substitute for shared quality and quantity time.
When you make a point of being together without the kids, work or other interruptions, you form a bond that will get you through life’s rough spots and keep you connected. And you may even recover something important that you lost – your best friend.
For some creative ideas on how to find more time together, check out the list below.
Alisa Grace ('92) serves as a consultant to the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships where she also co-teaches a class on Christian perspectives on marriage and relationships. While she speaks regularly on topics such as dating relationships, marriage and love, she also loves mentoring younger women and newly married couples, speaking at retreats and providing premarital counseling.