It’s no secret that relationships are a balancing act. Whether you are newlyweds in the honeymoon phase of your marriage or recently retired empty nesters, finding ways to enjoy both quality me-time or time together with your partner can be a struggle no matter where you are on your relational journey.
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. This is a tough task for so many couples to satisfy both individual and relational growth. Moreover, it would be remiss not to note how disruptive the coronavirus has been in our daily lives and relationships. This pandemic flipped the script and completely changed (and continues to change) how we spend time with ourselves and together. We have had to constantly adjust during this ever-evolving time and our relationships have not been immune.
So how do we strike this balance of “me and we” time? In order to understand how to spend fulfilling quality time with our partners, we have to also explore why the me-time is so important.
We all need time to ourselves. It’s important for recharging and refreshing our minds, bodies, and spirit. 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. Varying studies suggest that many common self-care practices can be linked to longevity and other positive health outcomes. Regular self-care routines aid in creating the best versions of ourselves that we know to be possible, which in turn, allows us to be better partners, colleagues, parents, friends, etc.
On a deeper level, and perhaps more specific to romantic relationships, it’s important that we feel like individuals within our relationships and know that we are nourishing our own basic needs. The goal in any relationship is to be close and still maintain an identity as a separate person. When someone is able to celebrate their individuality within a relationship they are happier and more open to connection and intimacy with their partner.
How can we foster self-care in our relationships? Here are a few tips:
- Know what 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 and support your partner in doing the same.
- Keep your me-time sacred. Try setting aside a regularly scheduled time (or as regularly as possible) so that you have that routine to look forward to.
- Be realistic. It’s important to be aware of how much self-care time is needed to feel satisfied and to engage in activities that suit your schedule.
- Be respectful. Try not impose what you think self-care is onto your partner. For example, if your idea of self care is more relaxing in nature like getting a massage and your partner values more physical activity like running, be mindful that neither is wrong and both are serving the same purpose.
- Help your partner understand how self-care positively impacts the health of the relationship as well.
What does quality time (QT) look like in your relationship?
Is QT with your partner adventurous, relaxing, or maybe a mix of both? Similar to fostering self- care time, it’s important ask yourself and your partner, “what fills your cup?” This question aids in feeling refreshed and connected in your relationship. Keep in mind, this may change over the course of a relationship. For instance, what you enjoyed doing in your 20s with your partner may not hold the same interest level or value as it does in your 40s. 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.
Here are some pointers for creating more meaningful quality time opportunities with your partner.
- Talk about it! Don’t hesitate to talk with your partner about what activities you do together that allows you to feel close to them.
- If it’s outside of your comfort zone, do it anyway! Doing something with your partner that may not be your first pick but really interests them, gives you a glimpse into their 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 just like self-care, make sure it’s meaningful and realistic.
- Try using Love map card decks. This is a great two-fold activity that not only helps you feel known by your partner, but can serve as a positive QT activity. Give it a try during your next date night!
One more note. Dr. Gary Chapman discusses in his book “The Five Love Languages” that quality time with your partner is regarded as undivided and uninterrupted one-on-one time together. Quality time is more than just being together in the same room – it’s leaning in and allowing your partner to be front and center. Therefore, engaging in activities that allow 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?”
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! Perhaps couples therapy could be a good next step to help in guiding you and your partner through discussions on how you can better strike this balance in your relationship. If you are ready to schedule a therapy appointment and live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas, we can help. Contact us to get started.