Heather Little-White, PhD, Contributor
As couples face the new year and its challenges, relationships may come under pressure as they try to cope with financial and other issues. Life may become a drag dealing with daily routines. It is important that couples make a special effort to build a bond and cement the union in trying times. A useful strategy is building 'togetherness time'.
Time together is important when:
Couples feel depressed or stressed by the issues they have to deal with.
Each partner has to work extra hard to meet financial obligations in the home.
The relationship puts off family time with children and extended family.
You run out the door and your partner is coming in and you barely have time to see each other.
Building together time and finding quality time for each other is really nurturing the relationship to prevent it from dying. In general, couples are spending less time together and family life is compromised. Couples rarely find time to converse and reduce stress levels by engaging in leisure activities.
In trying to make a living and elevate your condition, there is the need to make togetherness an essential activity in your daily tasks. Very often, it is difficult to say no to others. Preserving your union is more important than some of your other obligations, especially social ones. Making time to be together is just as important as going to work. Naturally, there is a direct correlation between a stable, happy union and job performance. If your relationship is important to you, you will make time to be with your partner.
Here are some basic guidelines to build togetherness:
1. Identify what you need from being together. Each person should write down what they want from time together.
2. Identify what you will be willing to sacrifice for time together. Think of your career and household arrangements and make a suitable schedule.
3. Identify actual activities in which you can engage when you are together. Brainstorm and write answers to the statement. "I would like to _______ with you." Jennifer Louden, in The Couples Comfort Book, suggests getting silly, saying nonsensical and insignificant things. Keep an inventory of wacky activities and use them when you are together.
4. Work out a schedule with specific dates, times and places it in your diary or in a place where you can remember. The partner who is better at organising should take responsibility for reminding and ensuring that the togetherness times work. If you have to plan fun activities, one partner has to take the lead in doing it.
5. Consider your resources and work out activities to match them - money, baby-sitters, family, business and social alliances. For example, getting a complementary weekend at a hotel from a member of your social club or using family members as baby and house sitters while you are away.
6. Make a commitment to not talk about work, financial problems, the children or any other distracting issues. Instead, focus on nurturing each other physically, emotionally and spiritually. You are literally recharging your batteries to overcome the challenges which may exist or which you may face during the year.
As you contemplate more togetherness time, you may be concerned about leaving the children behind. Children are happy when their parents are happy. So once you explain your reason for being away, they will understand and will be happy to see you go. Children live what they learn, and when they grow up seeing their parents sharing quality time they take that experience into their own relationships later in life.
Everyone cherishes a healthy, stable relationship fostered by quality time together, good times and happiness. While you may find several reasons why you cannot spend quality time together, as Louden advises, "life is not a dress rehearsal."