The BEST Quality Time

How to Help a Couple with Quality Time

I took a selfie of my wife and I recently. At the top of the page, you can see Michelle and I taking a pause as we walked across a local lake. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s winter in Minnesota and the lakes are all frozen.

One of my friends said that we were crazy to walk when the wind chill is -10(F).

I guess not everyone agrees on the best way to spend time together.

I was recently sitting in a meeting with a number of marriage mentors talking about date nights and the importance of spending time with your partner. We talked about ways that we could encourage couples to connect with each other.

I’ve had this conversation before and I think it’s an important conversation. I started to ask myself, “What’s the best way to connect with each other?”

Here’s some of the conflicting ideas that I’ve heard:

  • Have a regular date night or forget the date night because daily touch points are more important.
  • Spend time together talking or skip the talking and do an activity together.
  • Put down your phone when you’re out on a date or use your phone to look up discussion topics.
  • Text each other regularly or talk face-to-face.

It seems like there are some different ideas about how to connect with others.

Remember, the goal is to build connection and to strengthen your bond.

As mentors, it’s easy for us to proscribe what works for us. I’ve learned over time that each couple is different in how they connect. The important thing is that they are reaching the goal, connection.

Quality Time: To Talk or Not to Talk

I’ve talked to people that need conversation to feel connected. They want to understand their partner’s thoughts and feelings. They love to have deep conversations about doubts, fears, hopes and dreams. This is what makes them feel connected.

I’ve also talked to people that don’t need conversation to connect. They would rather do an activity together. This might mean sitting in a fishing boat and not saying a word.

I am one of those people that loves to have deep conversations. I love to have philosophical debates. I love to hear someone’s deepest feelings.

My wife is different. She finds connection in talking about day-to-day activities. She’s more than happy to talk about what I would call “surface things”. To her, that’s where we live and where connection happens.

I’ve been guilty of sitting in a restaurant and judging other couples. Have you ever seen that couple that doesn’t say anything? They just sit across from each other and eat? I’ve thought to myself that they must not be very connected.

With age, comes a bit more experience. I’ve now had the experience where my wife and I don’t talk much during dinner. Rather, we sit and quietly enjoy each other’s company. We still feel connected.

Don’t misinterpret me. I value connection through communication for all couples. If you and your spouse never talk to each other, you risk a growing disconnection. If you never talk about anything but your kids, you risk not building a relationship that will survive when the kids leave home.

However, I’ve learned that some couples communicate differently than other couples. As a mentor, I want the couple to find what works best for them.

Quality Time: Save It All For the Date Night?

At my church, we are in the middle of planning a date night for couples. We want couples to build into their relationships a regular pattern of spending time together.

Fantastic goal! Something I wholeheartedly endorse.

So, do you save it up for the big date night or is there a way to build connection throughout the week? What’s the best plan to constantly be building connection?

For some, daily touch points are far more important than a date night. For them, it’s saying goodbye when they leave. Maybe they talk about what their day will entail. Then, they find their partner when they return and give them a hug. Maybe they spend a few minutes each day talking about what happened during the day. Maybe they spend a few minutes every day talking and connecting.

Some people love to receive text messages from their partner during the day. Every time they receive one it communicates, “I’m thinking about you.” For others, they prefer not to text and would rather talk face-to-face.

Our Job As Marriage Mentors

Our job as mentors is to help the couple to establish connection. What are practical things that they can do that will build the bond? Date nights? Text messages? Daily touch points?

All of those are great ideas. What’s going to help them to build the connection and the bond?

John Gottman, one of the top marriage researchers, talks about the importance of bids in healthy relationships. Healthy couples turn towards their spouse 86% of the time. Unhappy couples that divorced averaged 33%. In other words, happy couples engage and respond to their spouse with positive interactions.

Here’s what’s tricky – what’s considered a positive action? That differs from person to person. Spending time together is part of this. What do you enjoy doing? Some people love to fish. Some people hate to fish.

We often ask couples what will help. I’ve heard lots of ideas about what’s meaningful to people. When couples start to focus on building connection, their marriage satisfaction will rise.

Tips for Mentors:

  • Don’t assume – Remember, what works for you may not work for them.
  • Help the couple to find ideas – Ask them to identify things like date nights, daily touch points, enjoyable activities and when to find time to talk.
  • Put together a plan – Ask them to commit to actions. Is it as simple as a quick text? Maybe they need to set aside an evening each week to talk.

Maybe the couple won’t go out for a walk when it’s freezing outside, but maybe they will find other connection points.