“Time is the currency of relationships. There’s no way to invest into a relationship without investing your time.” —Dave Willis
Time is a mystery. When we’re young, we have all the time in the world. When we’re married with kids, we never have enough time. When the nest is empty, we wonder where the time went. As we age, we increasingly comprehend the value of time. When faced with the realization that time will end, we truly appreciate just how precious it is.
I learned that lesson 20 years ago when my younger sister, Harriet, age 30, got a rare and aggressive type of cancer—only 200 cases or so of adrenal cancer are diagnosed per year in the United States, according to cancer.org. They gave her six to nine months. True to her personality, Harriet fought; she had surgery, then chemo, then more chemo and more surgery. She extended her life for 15 months. She taught me the meaning of time. She wanted as much as she could get.
During those 15 months, I had a full-time practice, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, and less time than ever. But I knew I had to make time. Time to spend with her, time to go to the hospital, time to shop together, time to talk, time to laugh, time to grieve, time to say everything we could think of to say to each other before she passed. If you asked me where I got the time, I couldn’t tell you. I just made it. Harriet taught me the value of time. I stopped saying, “I don’t have enough time.” I realized that time is priceless, and that I had more control than I had previously thought.
We choose how to spend our time every day.
In couples and marriage counseling, I often hear frustrated couples complain, “We don’t have time for date nights,” or, “We don’t have time to work on our relationship.” There are too many tasks, long days at work, food shopping, laundry, homework, after-school activities, sports, and lessons. The list never ends.
My response is, “You have to make the time.” If your relationship, your marriage, and the future of your family are important, become the master of your time.
You may think it’s impossible, but even small changes can make a big difference. Here are some examples of what my husband, Bob, and I did to master our time over the years:
- When our kids were young, Bob and I scheduled a long lunch together every Friday to connect. We made it a priority—sacred time. We used to joke that it was the only time there were no kids and we were both awake.
- We limited the amount of time for our kids’ activities so we could have dinner together some nights. By the way, the kids grew up fine; neither of them has complained about not participating in enough activities, but if they do, I’ll tell them to complain to their therapists.
- We took the kids on some memorable family vacations before they got to the stage where they didn’t want to be seen with us.
- Three or four times each year, Bob and I went to a bed-and-breakfast, for just one night and two days, to remember why we married each other. We looked forward to those weekends. It kept the passion alive.
Time is precious. We all have 24 hours a day. What we do with our time will define the quality of our lives and our relationships.
The secret to finding more time for your relationship is to realize that you have the power to create it. Here are six tips that will help:
- Take stock: Have a conversation with your partner about how you spend your time each week. Talk about work, time with kids, activities, laundry, cleaning, shopping. Discuss what is working and what isn’t, and what you would like to change.
- Create your time wish list: Brainstorm the activities you would like to do together if you had more time. Then prioritize them. Don’t forget sex; making love often ends up on the bottom of the list.
- Identify what you can change: Figure out what you can do to create more time together. For instance:
- Take personal or vacation time to spend the day together without kids.
- Adjust work schedules; go in earlier and come home earlier.
- Limit the number of activities the kids participate in.
- Establish cutoff times for electronics in the evenings—computer, cell phone, Facebook.
- Hire a babysitter more often or trade off babysitting with friends.
- Pay someone else to clean or do chores.
- Lower your standards about the neatness of the house.
- Build time rituals: Create activities that you can build in habitually so you don’t have to remember to make time. Some examples are:
- Schedule a regular date night.
- Get up 15 minutes early and have coffee together.
- At the end of each day, spend 15 minutes together talking.
- Have a weekly lunch together.
- Buy a subscription to the symphony or tickets to the ballgame.
- Go to bed together at night and cuddle.
- Plan ahead: Make time together a priority. Each Sunday, look at your calendars for the upcoming week and plan your time together. Make appointments for sex. You may prefer spontaneity, but that’s not always possible.
- Share gratitude: Don’t take time for granted. We may have 24 hours a day, but we never know for how many days. (At his yearly checkup, Bob always asks his doctor for his expiration date, but the doctor won’t tell him.) Show your partner you are grateful for your relationship, for your life together, for your family. It’s the greatest gift on earth.
Here’s to my wonderful sister, who taught me the most important lesson of my life: to spend the gift of time wisely.
I’d love to hear how the issue of time shows up in your relationship. Please comment below.
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