Do you ever ask yourself questions like “How can I take time for myself without neglecting my partner?” or “Can I really have a successful relationship if I feel like I’m always putting myself last?” If you are, you are not alone. Whether you are newlyweds in the honeymoon phase of your marriage or recently retired empty nesters, finding ways to navigate “me time” or “we time” can be a struggle for any couple.
So, how can you find the right mix of alone time and quality time together? If you strive for relationship balance, you should first explore why me time is so important.
What is “me time?”
We all need time to ourselves. Alone time is critical to recharge and refresh our minds, bodies, and spirit. Me time is self-care. But what is self-care exactly? Simply put, self-care is the deliberate things you do for your physical, mental, and emotional health.
The term self-care has become quite popular over the years, and for good reason. Many self-care practices are linked to longevity and other positive health outcomes. Regular self-care routines aid in supporting the best versions of ourselves, allowing us to be better partners, colleagues, parents, friends, etc. A recent study by Torres-Soto, Corral-Verdugo, and Corral-Frías (2022) found that people who practice self-care behaviors also engage in prosocial actions such as supporting and helping others, thus, contributing to a healthier social wellbeing and maintaining positivity within their environment – so finding the balance between spending time on yourself is just as important so you can devote good energy towards your relationship and contributing to your environment.
On a deeper level, and perhaps more specific to romantic relationships, it’s crucial that we feel like individuals within our relationships and know that we are nourishing our own basic needs. The goal in a healthy relationship is to find the balance between connection as a couple, while still maintaining an identity as a separate person. Celebrated individuality can foster happiness, cultivate interest and exploration, and increase connection and intimacy with your partner. How do you balance individuality and togetherness? Read on for tips to find a balance that works for your relationship.
How can you foster “me time” and self-care in your relationship?
Being selfish might be necessary – it is okay to focus on your needs. If you are able to take care of yourself, you are more likely to be able to bring your best self to your relationship. We know it’s not easy to focus on yourself if you aren’t in the habit of it – Here are a few tips:
- Know which activities fill your cup. Be sure to maintain a regular cadence of activities that help you experience joy.
- Try new things that promote positive growth. For instance, take up golf lessons and then report back to your partner what you like about it and what you find challenging. It is okay to have a hobby different from your partner.
- Keep your “me” time sacred. Try setting aside a regularly scheduled time to have that routine to look forward to.
- Be realistic. It’s essential to consider how much self-care time you need to feel balanced.
- Be respectful. Try not to impose what you think self-care is onto your partner. For example, if your idea of self-care is more relaxing, like getting a massage, and your partner values more physical activity, like running, be mindful that neither is wrong and both serve the same purpose.
- Share how focusing on yourself allows you to bring your best self to your relationship. For instance, when you declined going to meet your partner and friends for dinner to stay home and rest, share how a part of you wanted to be together, yet because you rested you are much more pleasant to be around today and have more energy for the “we” time.
Now that you know how important it is for “me” time, let’s take a look at “we” time.
What is “we time?”
Is quality time with your partner adventurous, relaxing, or a mix of both? Like fostering self-care time, it’s helpful to ask yourself and your partner, “What fills your cup?” This question helps you understand what keeps you and your partner feeling refreshed and connected in your relationship. Keep in mind this may change over time — what you enjoyed doing in your 20s with your partner may be different in your 50s.
According to relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, one of the key components to a successful relationship is to know and feel known by your partner. In other words, having access to your partner’s inner world is vital to the health of your relationship as you both change and grow over time. This is what Dr. Gottman calls updating your love map, which can happen organically through spending quality time with one another. “We” time is necessary to foster greater connection and enhance the quality of your relationship.
How can you encourage thoughtful “we time” and quality time in our relationship?
For some couples, “we time” is being in the same room together, but doing independent things and for others it is direct engagement with one another. Each person might have a different need or preference – that is okay! Talking about what your needs are and how they might differ is necessary.
Here are some pointers for creating more meaningful quality time with your partner.
- Talk about it! Feel free to talk with your partner about which activities you do together that help you feel close to them.
- Try something new. Even if the activity is outside your comfort zone, do it anyway! You’ll get a glimpse into your partner’s inner world, and you may learn something new about them.
- Make time to make time. Nothing communicates “you are important to me” more than prioritizing time with your partner to let them know they are special to you.
- Set expectations. Talk with your partner about how often you need to spend quality time with them, and like self-care, make sure it’s meaningful and realistic.
- Try using Love Map card decks. This excellent two-fold activity helps you feel known by your partner and serves as a positive quality time activity. Give it a try during your next date night!
Remember, quality time is possible – customize what works for you, even if that is just being in the same room together or doing the same activity over and over again with your partner. Quality time with your partner is “undivided and uninterrupted one-on-one time together” (Dr. Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages). Quality time is leaning in and allowing your partner to be front and center. Engaging in activities that enable you to experience your partner in a positive way will inevitably leave the door open for curiosity, closeness, and connection.
Need some help balancing “me time” and “we time?”
We know not every couple is the same – but did you know that? It is difficult not to compare your relationship to those perfectly curated social media posts of couples and think that they need to be together a certain way. However, at Connect Couples Therapy, we work with a variety of couples to help them figure out what balance looks like for them. We know some couples prefer more engagement and stimulation than others – we also know some couples are very content and happy sharing the same space together, but doing independent tasks. A mix of both can be normal and healthy! Dr. John Gottman says, “There are times when you feel drawn to your loved one and times when you feel the need to pull back and replenish your sense of autonomy.” If you are feeling this relational tug-of-war, don’t fret! Couples therapy could be just what you and your partner need to find balance in your relationship.
Our practice offers in-person appointments in Charlotte, NC, and Carefree, AZ. We also have virtual sessions available for those who live in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas. Contact us to get started.
Footnote: Torres-Soto, N. Y., Corral-Verdugo, V., Corral-Frías, N. S. (2022) The relationship between self-care, positive family environment, and human wellbeing. Wellbeing, Space and Society, 3.