Over the course of my work with couples, I have come to realise that the concept of ‘quality time’ differs from person to person. While there is certainly no one ‘right’ way to view quality time, I have come to believe that there definitely is a wrong way to view it. In general, the definition I tend to quote when describing quality time to couples is Gary Chapman’s definition from his book The Five Love Languages:
“Quality time is giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television together. I mean sitting on the couch with the TV off, looking at each other and talking…”
For some people, this concept seems tedious, or even uncomfortable. One client responded with “talk about what though?” For me as a therapist, this is a clue that the couple has had difficulty developing intimacy through communication, or perhaps they have been able to at some stage, but lost it somewhere along the way. Quality time is a necessary and important way that couples can communicate the message I am interested in you and I want to spend time with you which makes us feel loved and stable in our relationship, providing a strong foundation.
But one size does not fit all. Different couples are able to communicate the same message in multiple ways, for example, a couple who enjoys walking, driving, playing tennis, or eating out together. You don’t need to be sitting down on a couch talking, but you do need to focused on your other half and therefore not fully focused on the task at hand (e.g., a couple taking a drive who are talking and sharing, rather than a couple taking a drive listening to the radio).
Many couples who come to me for help to improve their relationship report spending very little quality time together. They may be living together, but watching TV in different rooms, one person reading while one person talks on the phone, or one person catching up with friends while the other spending the night at home. Certainly I am not recommending that every waking hour be spent focused completely on each other, but if you are to be an intimate couple rather than two roommates, then it may be important to consider the role quality time plays in your life.
This may mean that you need to become a little more involved in each other’s interests, hobbies and lives. Some couples respond to this suggestion with:
“But I hate playing tennis”
“I couldn’t care less about trying the new restaurant in town”
“It’s not fair that I should have to give up the things I enjoy…”
This is fair enough, we all have different interests and ways of winding down, and again I am not suggesting you need to have a weekly booking at the tennis courts, but getting involved in your partners world is likely to make it much easier to spend quality time together. You might (hopefully) also find that by engaging in your partner’s interests, they become more open to engaging in yours.
Of course we still need to make room for our family, our friends, work and other commitments, and there are likely to be some aspects of each other’s lives that are separate – and this is also important!
The primary benefits of sufficient quality time together:
- Greater sense of intimacy
- Better understanding of each other
- Improved relationship satisfaction
- Reduced relationship stress
- Better resilience to minor relationship issues (such as arguments)
My top tips for spending quality time with your partner:
- Put a reasonable amount of time aside (more than just the ad break!)
- Listen to your partner when they are talking
- Don’t interrupt or change the topic until it is clear they have finished talking
- If it’s too difficult to join each other’s world (and I would really question this being the case) then create some new activities to participate in together or schedule time in for quality conversations
- Try to focus fully on your partner (or at least direct most of your attention to them)
- There are no rules for what you should talk about, however it is wise not to focus on negative topics as arguments don’t count for quality time
- Try to have some quality time every day
About the Author: Rachel Collins is a Registered Psychologist working with children, adolescents, adults and families with a range of psychological disorders and difficulties at Life Resolutions Miranda. To get in touch with Rachel or to make an appointment please call 1300 668 256 or visit http://www.liferesolutionsmiranda.com.au