Life is super busy.
We get that.
Rather than focusing on the hopelessness of the ‘busy’ problem, why not take the time you do have and make the most of it?
Here are 10 sure-fire ways to make time for each other in a crazy busy marriage. These are not things that will ADD to your busyness, but allow you to connect WITHIN the context you’re already in.
It would be wrong for us not to challenge you at this point though, to look at your busyness objectively and ask yourself if there aren’t some things you can eliminate. You need to be really careful that you’re not using busyness to take you away from what you need to be attending to, which is your relationship with each other.
Not every busy couple is guilty of this, but it’s worthwhile asking yourself if you find meaning in busyness. If so, why? Is your busyness a coping mechanism for something else that’s going on?
Is your busyness functional or is your busyness dysfunctional? Don’t use your busyness as an excuse to not connect with your spouse.
Some Surprising Statistics About Modern Day Couple Leisure Time
How has couple leisure time changed over the decades? The answer may surprise you!
A study from 2010 analyzed time budget diaries from 1965, 1975 and 2003. In these diaries, married couples recorded how they spent each hour of their time each day, enabling the researchers to see how leisure time has varied over the years.
They expected to see that the percentage of leisure time with a spouse decreased but actually found the opposite.
In 1965, the percentage of leisure time spent in the presence of a spouse was 59%. This increased to 62% in 1975 and 66% in 2003. The researchers stated that “the increase in the percentage of time spent in the presence of a spouse over the past four decades was particularly evident for social activities, such as going out to a restaurant, café, bar, party or reception. In addition, joint leisure time spent on in-home social activities increased, such as visiting and receiving friends and playing games.”[i]
They concluded that the evidence contradicts the popular idea that people are increasingly busy nowadays and have less time for their families, and suggest that over the years, couples have managed to find more time to spend with one another.[ii]
We have a couple of issues with this conclusion. One thing is that they’re talking about the percentage of leisure time – not the quantity of time the couple spends together. So we have no way of knowing if they have more or less leisure time, just that they spend a higher portion of that time together.
Another issue is that they don’t actually describe whether that lovely couple spending leisure time at a sidewalk café are engaged at an emotional level or if they’re both on their phones or watching the traffic go by.
But, it is still good news that more of the available leisure time is going to spousal time!
Making the Most of Your Limited Time Together
We’re still really busy people. One point to consider in all your busyness is that you can dwell on how little time you have together instead of the quality of that time. Rather than obsessing over the quantity of time you’re not getting, how about focussing on making the most of the time you do have?
Studies suggest that when it comes to couple time together, the quantity of time together is not the most important factor. The most important factor is how satisfied couples report feeling with the leisure time they spend together.[iii]
Many studies have shown a correlation between couple leisure time and marital satisfaction, but a particular study in 2014 looked at this correlation more specifically. It looked at 1200 couples and how satisfied they were with their marriages and their leisure time together. It turns out what really matters is how satisfied you feel with leisure time. That matters more than the amount of leisure time when looking at marital satisfaction.[iv]
That is good news for busy couples! If you’re very intentional on making the little time you do have together to be very satisfying, that is actually going to produce greater benefits for your marriage than really trying to squeeze more time out of your weeks.
This points directly at our attitude. We can get so hung up on how little time we have and really have a negative perspective on that when we’d be better off directing that energy towards making the most of what is available. It’s coming at something from the perspective of gratitude rather than poverty (poor me).
One of the ways you can really emphasize the quality aspect is to make sure you focus on activities that allow you to converse and interact.
In 1988, researchers studied relationships between couple leisure patterns and marital satisfaction in 318 married individuals.
The results indicated “that the direction and strength between leisure and marital satisfaction are contingent upon the perceived communication during the leisure activity. Joint spousal leisure is negatively related, or unrelated, to marital satisfaction when communication is low or moderate and positively related when communication is high.”[v]
So, time together – when you’re not talking or only talking moderately, doesn’t necessarily help your marriage and may even detract from its satisfaction. On the other hand, when you’re engaged in leisure activities where there are high perceived levels of communication, you are creating a more satisfying marriage.
Think about your activities, your leisure time, and what you do together, and ask, “Are we using the time to really communicate and interact?”
Are You Interactive Enough?
To help you identify how interactive you are through your existing leisure activities, download this super helpful worksheet. Use it as a tool to discuss your circumstances and focus in on how you can increase the quality of your time together!
10 Ways To Spend Time Together
- Board games: choose games where you can interact more. Competition can be quite flirtatious…
- Shower together: you have to shower anyways!
- Eat together: turn off the distractions (TV, Radio and phone) and interact over a meal. It also works to put the kids to bed early and have a later supper/dessert on your own!
- Go for a drive: next time you feel like watching a movie, watch some natural scenery instead. There something about sitting beside each other, facing the same way, that makes chatting easier.
- Do chores together: these things need to be done anyways. Doing them together gives you a great chance to interact. Do dishes, wash the car, change the oil on the vehicle, do yard work.
- Go to bed at the same time: (I think this might be my favorite!!) You both have to go sleep, make it a habit to go to bed at the same time each night. This can save your marriage from disaster and can boost your marriage at the same time.
- Prayer or devotions together: This doesn’t have to replace your personal time, but doing this together too, helps you connect at a spiritual level.
- Leverage kids’ activities: You don’t want to always be the parents that dump their kids and run, but at least once in a while if you drop the kids off at soccer, go for a walk instead of watching or just chatting with other parents. Or, take the kids to the park, cut them loose, and chat while you keep an eye on them (teach them independent play!).
- Have a hot drink together in the evening: This is just a few moments to relax and connect. Make it a ritual. Then do #6!
- Do a hobby or activity together: You may find it difficult to find something you both LOVE. You don’t both have to love the same thing; this is more about enjoying the time together, rather than enjoying the hobby. For example, Caleb loves woodworking. In our old house, we had a workshop with a big comfy chair in it. I would sit and chat while he tinkered around. We both loved the connection and time together even though it was more his hobby than mine.
Talk about your situation and see where you can spend time together in your existing schedule. Remember, it’s the quality and connection that’s more important than the quantity of time you spend together!
[i] Marieke Voorpostel, Tanja van der Lippe, and Jonathan Gershuny, “Spending Time Together–Changes Over Four Decades in Leisure Time Spent with a Spouse,” Journal of Leisure Research 42, no. 2 (April 1, 2010), http://js.sagamorepub.com/jlr/article/view/376.
[iii] Peter J. Ward et al., “A Critical Examination of Couple Leisure and the Application of the Core and Balance Model,” Journal of Leisure Research 46, no. 5 (2014): 593–611.
[v] Thomas B. Holman and Mary Jacquart, “Leisure-Activity Patterns and Marital Staisfaction: A Further Test,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 50, no. 1 (February 1988): 69.