My friend and colleague Dr. Tina Tessina wrote a very practical book on what couples commonly fight about entitled Money, Sex & Kids (Adams Press, 2008). I can verify from my own practice of more than 30 years that these topics are certainly frequent major issues for the couples I see in counseling. There is another very important problem area for many couples, married or not, with or without children, and that is time.
Time can be a source of friction whether we are talking about time alone for each person in the couple, time as a couple, family time, social/civic time, or time with relatives .
Time Alone: Notice that I put time alone first on the list. A marriage or any other coupling is made up of two individuals. If one of those individuals is stressed, tired, or unhappy in any important way there cannot be a happy couple. That’s like asking a chair to be stable with one wobbly leg.
You’ve heard the expression “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? Its application means that whatever frame of mind Mama is in (or whoever the chief child minder is in a family with children) will affect everyone else in the family. Time with one’s hobbies, or to exercise, or take a long bath and daydream, is essential for anyone’s psychological good health, particularly in these busy and stressful days. No, it is not selfish to put oneself first. A rested, refreshed individual can give of her or himself and be a better partner, parent, employee and friend. A cranky, stressed out person is not much good to anyone, self included.
Time as a Couple: I have written many times about what I call Sweetheart Time, time spent doing those things that brought you together as a couple originally. So often a couple comes together at the end of a busy day and their conversation revolves around taking care of business – who will call the vet, the roof needs repair, the Smiths have invited us to a party, etc. During courtship they shared feelings and dreams and compliments. Time has to be made to remind the individuals why they chose each other over anyone else , time to enjoy one another as a woman or a man and not as Mommy or Daddy or any of the other roles they play in life, time for fun as sweethearts.
Time as a Family: When there are children involved, often all time not spent at each person’s respective job is family time. Afterwork hours are spent with the children and once they’re asleep ,in front of the tv or other electronics. Weekends are spent doing household chores, in other words, more work. Certainly time bonding as a family and enjoying all that has to offer is important to a satisfying life. It’s the reason many choose to become parents in the first place. However, a family can only be as happy as the individuals within it and children benefit immeasurably by having parents who are happy and enjoy each other as a couple.
Time for Extended Family: If a couple is lucky enough to have good relationships with their families of origin, with siblings and cousins, with whom to build traditions like holiday celebrations and Friday night dinners at Grandma’s, their lives will be enriched by making these memories. Those who do not have this in their life are generally the poorer for it
Time as a Community Member: Volunteer work, neighborhood associations, church or temple, and good causes can all hold important roles in an individual’s life. If they add to your enjoyment or sense of life’s purpose then they need to be found time for.
Yes, there are only so many hours in a day and claims are being made on every one of them, often conflicting claims. Earning a living often needs to be a priority but where are all these other things on your list to be fit in? Only you can tell what the components are for a good and satisfying life and how you will allot your time to create the best one you can. Invest your time wisely. It is finite. No one ever came to the end of life regretting not spending more time playing video games. Your life is yours to create. Spend your time consciously and wisely.