I ask many of the couples I work with what they do for fun. While some can answer, others cannot come up with one single “for fun” activity.
Other couples answer the question with individual activities that each partner enjoys without the other partner present. And yet other couples report that since they have had children, they don’t do anything for fun together except activities that directly involve the children.
The last blog post introduced a concept originally coined by Stan Tatkin called “thirds”. The term thirds is defined as anything outside of the primary attachment relationship. The primary attachment relationship is the intimate relationship.
Some of the more toxic and destructive kinds of “thirds” include excessive drug or alcohol abuse and affairs. While these are obvious, many benign things also have the power to become thirds. Yes, even good things in life have the power to completely infiltrate and undermine the couple relationship.
Last month’s subject was a precious one-children. This month, the subject is one necessary to our survival- work.
Earning some form of income is essential for most everyone on the planet. Usually people want to do well in their chosen profession. However, some people become so involved with their work that it can take a devastating toll on their relationships.
Career and tasks can become so all consuming that sometimes we do not even realize how much work can permeate everything we do. Moreover, with the advent and constant evolution of technology, we mindlessly and often unconsciously peak at our phones and other devices without even realizing the impact it potentially has on our partners.
Some people base their identity and self worth on their jobs and have difficulty checking their work identity at the door when returning home to their partner at the end of the day.
There are also those who become over involved in tasks around the house which often makes their partners feel insignificant, secondary or neglected. While sacrificing a periodic weekend here and there in the name of essential household chores sometimes happens, unless both partners agree, this should be the exception and not the rule.
What can you do if career and tasks take too much of a priority in your relationship?
- Ask for what you need and want. If you find that you are not spending enough quality time with your significant other, let him or her know- preferably before resentment mounts. Tell your partner that time together away from work and tasks is important to you. Pitch a couple of specific ideas of how you would like to spend some quality time together.
- Offer to help your busy partner. Life is always going to provide us things to do. And sometimes rolling up our sleeves now to earn reward time together later is necessary. Who knows?! Maybe helping out will even provide some unexpected and rewarding quality time getting things done before moving on to the fun stuff!
- Make time to play nonnegotiable. Just like the time we put in working, quality time is essential in a relationship. When we make a commitment to one another, this is what we sign up for, and we owe this to our partners. The investment of time does not end when we decide to move in together or get married. Relationships are dynamic and require continued effort. Even when you are tired. Even when you are busy. Even when you don’t feel like it.
If the parameter for time together is narrow, get as creative as necessary. When you and your partner feel more connected and joyful, you will be glad you did!