Practically Married: Part 3 – Leisure
Leisure time is a precious commodity that seems to be shrinking, so the choice of how to spend it is an important decision we make each day. In the context of marriage, the choice is even more significant because it impacts our partner and the quality of our relationship.
In addition to being with your spouse, most people desire time alone and time to socialize with friends. All of these competing demands require couples to use the same planning and negotiation skills they use in other areas of their marriage to determine how to allocate their most treasured resource…time.
Regardless of your preferences on how to divvy up your time, it’s essential to make being with your spouse a priority for your relationship to thrive. According to the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, couples that spend one-on-one time at least once per week report higher levels of:
- Sexual satisfaction
To get the most bang for your couple time buck, psychology professor Dr. Arthur Aron suggests spouses do more than the usual dinner and a movie. Dr. Aron conducted laboratory studies and used brain scans to determine that when couples engage in new activities it triggers the brain’s reward system. Once activated, dopamine and norepinephrine are released which creates a similar brain response to what is experienced in early romantic love. This means by injecting novelty into your marriage you are in effect creating a relationship time machine!
You may be wondering, “Between work and couple time, what’s left for ME?” Psychologist Dr. Terri Orbuch has been studying 373 married couples for over 25 years, and when she asked participants if they had enough “privacy or time for self” 29% said no. To address this issue, try scheduling private time like you would a date night. Whether you’re going to spend time alone or with friends, spouses can try selecting the same time slot so neither one feels left behind when the other chooses to fly solo.
In recent years, another demand on leisure time is the lure of technology and social media. Spouses find themselves competing with the likes of Netflix and Instagram to get their husband or wife’s attention. Since the use of devices has become a staple of modern life, couples need to discuss their feelings about various forms of electronic entertainment and the boundaries that will make each partner comfortable. It may be helpful to set guidelines around issues such as who you will/won’t communicate with via social media; what conversations and photos should remain private; and tech-free zones (e.g. during meals, in bed, etc.).
It is clear that being married requires a substantial investment of time and energy, but despite what some might suggest, it doesn’t mean the end of fun and free time. With planning, you will be able to try new activities together, find some solitude, and sustain valuable friendships. The key is to become more intentional in your choices, engaging only in the activities that truly enhance your marriage and personal well-being.