One of the most important gifts I can give another human person is my time. In spending my quality time in the presence of another person, I give myself.
In the context of marriage, this couldn’t be more true. How often do we see two people together at a cafe table or on a park bench, both glued to their phone or electronic device? Perhaps this is fine (and even a tad bit romantic), if it’s a work date and both are choosing to do work in the presence of one another. But it becomes very awkward when the two people have not properly developed, or have since lost the ability or desire to converse freely with one another.
This becomes downright dangerous for a marriage when couples fall into a pattern of separation at home – both gravitating in different directions at night. Perhaps this looks like watching television in two separate rooms. Perhaps it means over booking activities to avoid time alone with one another. Either way, it quickly wears on the marriage, and as the distance grows, so does the estrangement.
There are many wedges that come between husband and wife in marriage – finances, children, tragedy, illness. These are, of course, some of the many crosses we must all carry throughout life. The blessing of marriage is meant to strengthen an individual person, with a helpmate in Christ, and with the many graces that come with the sacrament of marriage. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
There are incidents when either husband or wife does not feel strengthened by the other. Sometimes they feel alltogether weighed down by the other spouse. This is often when one or both spouse is not spending the quality time with God and the other that is needed to understand and embrace the crosses, allow ourselves to be humble and docile to the Holy Spirit, and put our spouse before ourself (our to-do list, desires, and personal commitments.)
Let’s get back to quality time – the gift of self. For parents of young (many) children, it can seem downright impossible to connect with one another, somewhere in the marathon between dinner and bed time. We are busy. As well, if we have begun to allow distance to creep into our marriage, it can be uncomfortable to sit alone with one another – with our hurts so clearly exposed.
But quality time is necessary, and without it nothing can grow. It is unquestionably necessary for spouses to have a regular check-in time several times a week (if not every day), to update each other on the trivial things of the day, as well as the more complex hopes and worries.
If you’ve ever gone several days without talking – and I mean really talking (beyond kids, and sports, and activities) – then you should have felt very distant from your spouse. When you finally do sit down with one another, you feel like you have so much to tell them, and at the same time, you can’t think of anything at all to say.
A woman I know, who is a clinical counselor and mother of three children, told me that as soon as her husband got home from work each night, they would sit down for 20 minutes and talk. Often dinner was on the stove, and the children had to be told many times to play in a different room. Yet, they held firm to this tradition.
As the years went by and the children grew, the children began to understand and respect this sacred time their parents shared each evening with one another. This translated into a strong and solid marriage for the woman and her husband, as well as children who have grown to respect marriage, and the consistent intimacy it requires to cultivate and maintain.
Making time takes time. Some things might have to be set aside – plans and participation cancelled. Whatever the cost, the investment of my time in marriage is never idle. This is the vocation God has called me, and each moment I give my spouse, is a moment to say “yes” to him again.
The Intimacy Factor
Often when I think of quality time, I am conditioned to imagine a movie playing, or some other form of distraction. The idea of sitting with my spouse and giving him my undivided attention can be daunting. This is even more so the case for those spouses whose love languages are intimidated by quality time.
I found it funny the first time I heard that men find praying with their wife more intimate than physical intimacy. Yet, it’s something that I have since heard over and over again. Why is this?
In a way, I am naked and stripped down before my spouse when we are solely present and without distraction. Beyond recounting trivial moments of the day, public news events, and plans for the rest of the week – there is deep and uncharted territory.
This territory is relevant. It is spiritual. In it lies the true beauty of our love and commitment in marriage. This intimacy is a nakedness of the soul before one another and God.
Meeting One Another’s Needs
It’s true that each of us is fulfilled in different ways, and we gift our love to others in the way that we best understand our own needs. The five love languages are separated into these categories: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gift-giving, and physical touch.
It’s common for couples to wonder if their needs will be met in marriage, especially when their spouse has a different way of giving and receiving love. It’s also a concern for the spouse to be able to properly fulfill the needs of their spouse’s unfamiliar love language.
This is why communication is key. Neither of us is a mind reader, and chances are we are not very much alike in personality, temperament, or love language. Opposites often do attract. Yet, we were called together by God, to grow in virtue and not in similarity. The world doesn’t need two of either of us!
“The most important factor in a happy marriage is not being of like personality. Rather, what seems to make marriages happy is when husband and wife share core values and a commitment to the relationship – to honoring and respecting each other and meeting each other’s needs.” – Art and Laraine Bennett (The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse)
Don’t discount core values and commitment to the marriage. These virtues go far beyond biology, chemistry, and family history. The best way I can meet the needs of my spouse…is to tell him what I need. Quality time is as much about respectfully listening as it is about honorably sharing.