the study of marriage

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Maintaining romantic love, part 2: Fun is fundamental

Picking up from where I left off yesterday, it's time to answer the question, "Now that I'm convinced I should be spending large chunks of quality time giving my full attention to my spouse, what the heck is supposed to fill up that time?"

Do you remember when you and your spouse were dating? Most likely, the majority of the time you spent alone together could be put in the category of "quality together time." You had a lot of fun together doing things you both enjoyed.

Expanding on Willard Harley Jr.'s "Policy of Undivided Attention," from page 53 of "His Needs, Her Needs for Parents:"
Give your spouse your undivided attention a minimum of fifteen hours each week, using the time to meet his or her needs for intimate affection, sexual fulfillment, intimate conversation, and recreational companionship.

While it might be tempting to read the passage above and say, "Oh yeah, sexual fulfillment for 15 hours a week, let's go baby!" ...might I just suggest that perhaps that may not be the most effective approach to take with your spouse. Sex isn't something that happens in a vacuum, although pornography does make it seem like everyone should just be jumping into it with no preliminaries. For that matter, good conversation doesn't happen just because someone decides, "OK, this is the time for conversation, let's do it." (And I know this through extensive empirical testing.) Nor does satisfying physical affection happen without some prep work. (Try giving your spouse a warm hug or deep kiss right after you've irritated their socks off, and I bet you'll see what I mean.)

Today let's start at the beginning and focus on the very first thing you should be doing in your 15 hours per week together: having fun. AKA "recreational companionship." Doing things that you both find fun, and doing them together. Satisfying recreational experiences will naturally lead to good conversation, which naturally will create physical affection, which often then will lead to good sex.

If you have kids, one of the most important elements of having fun together is that you absolutely MUST GET RID OF THE KIDS for your 15 hours per week. Kids are great, I love my kids, but you cannot have quality time and put your undivided attention on just having a good time together when your kids are around. So, solutions? Here are some ideas:
  • Make sure the kids go to bed on time. In our household that means 8 pm for the preschoolers, and 8:30 pm for the older one. That gives us a good two hours of time together each night.
  • Go out on a date. Dates aren't that expensive, especially if you have a family member or friend who can visit. Trust me, you need to be dating your spouse.
  • If you have older kids (age 5 to 10 or so), you may be able to get away with closing the door to your bedroom and having some private time with your spouse on a weekend morning. It may be only half an hour or so, but hey...every moment counts.
  • Go to church together and leave your kids in the kids' classes, if you both enjoy church. My husband and I treat church like a bit of a mini-date; it's a great chance to sit together, hold hands, whisper comments, and so on. Ditto for going to a Bible study...sometimes relatives who won't babysit just so you can "date" are willing to do it if you're going to a church event :D
  • If you have kids who are preteen and up, then you can leave them at home for a couple of hours while you and your spouse go out.

In the future I'll post a big list of date and activity ideas for you (ranging from free to expensive), but for now think of the kinds of things you and your spouse used to enjoy together, and just make a solid commitment to getting back to having fun time for the two of you. It really will make a huge difference in your romance.

Tomorrow I'll go over how to do "good conversation" during your 15 hours per week.


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