My husband and I are knee-deep in the season of parenting young children, which is rewarding yet exhausting. Of course, our alone time is limited and quickly interrupted. So we have to get creative and focus on quality, not quantity, time together.
How is your marriage?
Even if your answer is great, you know it takes a concerted effort, time, and prayer to keep your marriage strong, engaged, and healthy. Staying in love requires communication and sacrifice by both partners. Spending quality time together is one of the most important ways to keep your relationship flourishing. According to Gary Chapman's book, The 5 Love Languages, the love language of quality time is about communicating your love and affection by spending exclusive time together.
Making eye contact, actively listening, and being present are keys to making the most out of your time together. This undivided attention requires removing distractions such as phones and tablets. You might need to look the opposite way of the dirty dishes and file the mental to-do list for the time spent together.
Quality time together as a couple will look different depending on the season of your life. Right now, our living room floors have scattered tiny toys ready to impale your bare feet when you least expect it. Colorful drawings cover the refrigerator, and sippy cups and cereal bowls litter the counters. My husband and I are knee-deep in the season of parenting young children, which is rewarding yet exhausting. Of course, our alone time is limited and quickly interrupted. So we have to get creative and focus on quality, not quantity, time together.
Whatever season, or the number of years you've been married, spending quality time can take some planning, compromise, and a lot of grace, but it is vital to a lasting and loving relationship. Let's discover some ways to create quality time with your spouse.
Spend Time Together with the Kids
Have you heard the phrase, "the couple who plays together stays together"? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of quality time is time spent giving all of one's attention to someone close. Typically, this equates to spending one-on-one time together, but this is not always an option when you have children. Incorporating the kids in the mix might not be the ideal form of spending quality time together, but it can be a great family-bonding experience for your whole gang. Here are four ideas to get started:
Plan a family game night. Pick out an age-appropriate game or teach your children a new card game. Video game challenges and nerf battles are fun too. Sometimes we have to wait until the toddler is asleep, or we let him help us roll the dice in Yahtzee, but we make it work.
Teach the kids to bake or cook something. Making homemade personal pizzas is a favorite at our house. Bonus, you don't have to fuss at the kids to eat their dinner!
Explore a park or nature walk together. Discuss plans to visit state and national parks if that's something you would like to do in the future. You could even plan a camping trip.
Play hide-and-seek with a twist. We love playing hide-and-seek in the dark. We laugh so hard, trying to find clever hiding spots and scaring each other. The toddler usually hides with one of us. It's also a great way to take a quick nap while the younger kids seek.
Spend Time Together in the Mundane
It doesn't take much to rearrange schedules and enjoy a cup of coffee with each other in the morning. There are many tasks and chores throughout the day where you can slip in a devoted 15 to 30 minutes in conversation. Let's look at four ways to sneak in quality time during everyday duties:
Join your spouse on their errand run. The car ride provides ample time to catch up.
Exercise together. Find a workout you both enjoy, whether a video or a class.
Garden or do a DIY project together. Plant a new flowerbed or container garden and get dirty together (pun intended). If you don't have a green thumb, rehab a thrift-store find together.
Make basic household chores "together" time. Having a conversation while folding clothes or emptying the dishwasher is a productive way to spend time with each other.
Spend Time Together with a Date Night In
A date night at the house is a terrific option when you have young kids or budget constraints. Plan a date night in just like you would a date night out on the town. Get dressed up if you want and drink plenty of caffeine to stay up past the kids' bedtime. Daytime dates are a great option as well.
Create a book club. Pick a book, Bible study, or devotional you are both interested in and read it together.
Pick out a new recipe and cook dinner. We love trying new food and, of course, eating.
Order takeout and make a picnic on the lawn or inside your living room. Sharing a blanket and food together creates an intimate setting conducive to deep conversations and other stuff.
Plan a future getaway or discuss goals and dreams together. You might learn something new about each other.
Spend Time Together on a Date Night Out
One of my mentors, Dr. Bob, told me that a weekly date night is one of the keys to his fifty years of marriage. When he was a doctoral student, he was married and had a toddler. A professor brought him into his office and told him that he was the only married student and the only one with a child. The professor wanted him to graduate and stay married, so he assigned Dr. Bob an extra course.
He would have to take his wife on a weekly date night, and they both couldn't talk about work, school, or their child. They also had to do things and have conversations that reminded them why they fell in love. They had to get creative with their dates because Dr. Bob was a poor college student at the time, and he paid his students to babysit with extra credit. They never missed a week during his program, and they kept the weekly night out tradition going through another child and two businesses. Dr. Bob will tell you it saved his marriage.
Most of us with young kids can't get away for date night every week, but setting aside time and money for an occasional escape should be a priority. Here are a few options to spice things up:
Recreate your first date. This date may take some planning, and if logistics make it impossible, recreate something as close to that magical date as possible.
Get tickets to a show or concert. Depending on where you live, there are various entertainment options like comedy shows and musicals to check out instead of seeing a movie again. We love to attend concerts of bands we used to listen to when we were teenagers to make us feel young again.
Volunteer together. See if a local charity or food bank could use volunteers and make it a date.
Go stargazing. I know this sounds a bit cheesy, but a blanket to lay on and a million stars to stare at can become a magical night to remember.
Spend Time Together by Learning Something New
Learning something new doesn't have to be done outside the home with all the online tutorials and videos available. If you attend a church with younger families, chances are they host a Parent's Night Out on occasion. Our church even provided swing dance lessons and babysitting for couples to prepare for our Valentine's Ball. If your church doesn't offer activities for young families, it might be a good time to help organize some events for couples to spend time together.
Learn to dance. My husband has two left feet, and I grew up dancing, but we had the best time learning swing in the church gym and practicing at home while our son videoed us. We laughed so hard and eventually got the swing of it.
Take a cooking class. You can tell I'm all about food. It's my love language.
Try a new sport together. There are parks with tennis courts, pickleball, disc golf, and bocce ball all around my community. You can play a sport like volleyball, frisbee, or kickball in your backyard. It can also be just new to one of you. If your spouse likes to golf or plays tennis, get him to give you a lesson. It's all about compromise and doing things each other enjoys.
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Darcie Fuqua is a Business Analyst, Auburn Grad (War Eagle!), Christian blogger & podcast host, and mental health advocate. She is from the deep south of Alabama, where she currently resides with her husband, two energetic fun-loving boys, and a dog named Charlie. She loves sinking her toes in the sand, cuddling with her boys, and having great conversations over a table of good food. You can read more of her writing on her website www.leightonlane.com and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram. Check out Darcie’s latest project as cohost of Therapy in 10.