Is your relationship solid, or are you two people living semi-independent lives?
My husband and I went on a “date day” yesterday. We arranged for a friend to walk the children to school and for someone else to pick them up so that we could spend a few hours together. I can’t remember the last time we spent that many hours alone.
I think we are unusual as a family because we have resisted having clubs and activities for our children each weekend. I sometimes feel guilty that my daughter hasn’t been going to dancing and that my son doesn’t play football, but as parents we value having that time together with our children.
It has started to creep in, though. There are things like lovely Brownies trips and sleep-overs that our daughter goes to, and sometimes one of us goes as well as a parent helper. I also had conference that I wanted to attend on a Saturday last weekend, and my husband has been to a couple of football matches.
Too much time apart?
We looked at the calendar for this week and realised that, even though we are going to be together next weekend, one of us will be out for most or all of the evening for five successive nights. Some are work, some are play, but this does mean less time for the two of us to connect once the children are in bed.
It has made me think about our relationship. We do spend lots of time together as a family of four, but much, much less as the two who will hopefully spend many years together after the younger members have flown the nest. We don’t have family who live nearby who are able to help look after the children so that we can reconnect. Could this be a problem? How can we make a change?
Of course, when they were tiny we didn’t feel able to leave them for long. This was our choice, and other families do things differently, but we were just so tired that the thought of going out was too much to bear.
Finding time to connect
Now that they are older, we have made a change in the past year – we regularly babysit for another family, as they do for us, so that we can enjoy an evening out every month or so. This can be spent clearing up a few issues and discussing how we are going to make the next few weeks work for our family.
We don’t always talk about the big things, though. Perhaps it is because we don’t have enough time, but also because it can be harder. What makes us happy? Where are we going as a family? As a couple? What changes could we make to our lives to make sure we have time for the two of us?
And that brings us back to our date day. We really did spend time looking at the bigger picture, and how we would like our relationships to grow. We didn’t talk about the children all day. (It was a bit more of an expensive trip than we anticipated – we actually had time to go to the jewellers to replace a lost wedding ring, but perhaps this was a good thing…).
We hear stories of how couples have separated after their children leave home, but there are also those who find it difficult to stay together because the pressures of having young children, maintaining one or more jobs and finding time for each other when it is in short supply a real challenge.
Navigating to find calmer waters
I think it is healthy for couples to spend time apart, doing different things, so that they have their own interests and can bring enthusiasm and enrichment to the relationship. I also feel it is of value to try and create space where the bigger issues are considered, such as how we are really feeling about life, and how we can improve things for each other. I wonder if this can help us to navigate our way up the mountains and through the valleys of family life.
Have you found a way to finding time to discuss the things that are important to you with your partner?
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