I was recently reminded of how easy it can be to feel disconnected from your spouse in times of stress or busyness. Illness, travel, crisis, and even ordinary chaos can lead to feeling disconnected. For example, we recently had a night where all three of our kids had an activity at the same time in different places. Even worse, work, low energy, and limited finances can create barriers to making quality time possible.
My friends and I have chatted about this periodically for many years. I would love to share some of the tips that have worked for us.
Skip Ill-Fitting Advice
The most important tip I can give you is to let go of advice that doesn’t fit your situation. Even the most well-intentioned advice can be a bad fit. An example for me is the idea of prioritizing a weekly date night out. There are times when we need to conserve money to reach financial goals, and we also have times when our child needs extra nightly homework help. An evening in a restaurant would be a problem in these situations.
Also, don’t guilt yourself! Trust me, it just makes things worse. Acknowledge that the good advice just isn’t for you at this time. You can always save a tip away for later. (Lots of empty-nesters love weekly date nights out!) Keep trying other tips until you find what works for you right now.
Fill Physical Needs
My second tip is to recognize that meeting each other’s physical needs can make you feel connected and appreciated. Exhaustion easily blocks your ability to feel connected. I was introduced to this concept in college through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The basic idea is that, until your physical needs are met, it is hard to reach higher levels of fulfillment, like love. That means it can be hard to feel connected when you and your spouse are super sleep deprived! (If you have a new baby or sick kids, you can identify.) The best affection might be saying to your spouse, “Go take a nap. I’ll handle things for a while.”
One great budget-friendly idea is to trade babysitting with another couple. One night, you watch their kids while they go out. The next night, they watch your kids while you go out. Also, you can share dinner or dessert at home after the kids go to bed. Try playing board games or doing puzzles while the kids play nearby or watch their favorite show. Go on a walking date while pushing the kids in the stroller. You can even make a library date!
Planning ahead can make quality time more affordable. Take advantage of free and low-cost events by finding them ahead of time. (You can find several options on our website or in our newsletter if you need help with this.) Your local chamber of commerce probably has event listings. In Leeds, for example, Everyone Leeds has a newsletter of events. Leeds Chamber of Commerce, Everyone Leeds, and Leeds Main Street announce local activities on their Facebook pages. Your town or neighborhood probably has something similar! Remember, if you plan ahead, you might be able to work some small expenditures into your budget.
Dates for Busy Stages of Life
Some ideas for busy couples are to use an activity you already have and turn it into quality time.
- Go to the store together; we have spent hours walking around Lowe’s.
- Cook together.
- Share a coffee together while the kids are at practice or run around the park.
- Go on a lunch date while the kids are in school.
Lunch dates are our most common date at the moment. I only work on Wednesdays, and my husband has the option to occasionally work from home. So, we frequently squeeze in a lunch date. We love China Wok, Rusty’s BBQ, The Three-Eared Rabbit, and La Juanitas because the food is great, they are minutes away from us in Leeds, and the service is fast enough to be back in time for work.
Shared experiences can be a great way to feel connected. You can read aloud or listen to the same book and discuss it in the car. Find a way to share a hobby. My husband and I both like to craft. So, we sit at the kitchen table together; he paints miniatures while I practice calligraphy.
Finally, don’t despair if you find you need to invest in quality time together. I think almost every couple ends up here at some point. It may even not be just with your spouse! It could be with your sister, best-friend, or a child.