Finding me and we time can be difficult, but not impossible. When figuring out how to create opportunities to spend time as a couple and time alone with adult friends, be aware of what most couples argue about and then learn how to overcome these arguments by reading my ten tips below:
1. The “it’s not fair” syndrome. Couples most commonly argue about who gets more time out. One may feel jealous or resentful that “he gets to go out with his friends while I’m at home continuing to do laundry and put the kids to bed.” Although you may feel angry or abandoned, try not to take his wanting to go out alone personally. It’s not usually a reflection of how he feels about you but is more about his needing some space to let go of his usual responsibilities. The trick to negotiating time apart is to understand one another’s personal needs and feelings (“confined,” “abandoned” or “overwhelmed” for example), then to try to accommodate each other without feeling that the arrangement is lopsided. Even if you don’t want to leave the house, perhaps even having time alone to take a bubble bath while your partner puts the kids to bed might feel more fair.
2. Neither gets time out. Sometimes, life is so hectic with work and kids and other responsibilities, that neither person gets time out. It’s equally as important (if not more) for couples to find time to devote towards one another as it is for each to find time alone. So, make sure that you talk about how to make this happen. Some couples enjoy taking turns at planning date nights. Sometimes it’s easier to arrange to be together at the same time and day each week – even day time hours are good for dating.
3. Different expectations. Couples also commonly argue about how much social time each should spend apart. Each person’s expectations may be different. Usually these are not discussed before living together or getting married. So, whereas one person may believe that she should have the freedom to plan time away from her spouse or children whenever she chooses, her partner may feel that two nights out in a row is excessive. Understanding and acknowledging each other’s expectations and then compromising is important. Be sensitive to your partner’s concerns and be realistic about the lifestyle changes that need to be made once you take on the responsibility of being part of a couple or having children.
4. Places off limit. Couples argue about where their partners should spend time with their friends. She might be fine with him hanging out at a friend’s home with a group of guys and playing poker but not okay with him hanging out with that same group of friends at a bar. He might be fine with her going out for coffee with a friend but not okay with her going away on vacation with a group of girls. Discuss the reasons for each other’s reservations, listen closely and consider the rationale behind each argument. It’s true that venturing into certain places where singles generally convene can be a recipe for trouble. So, think about the consequences to your relationship if you continue to choose to go to places that your partner feels strongly against.
5. Negative peer influences. Couples sometimes argue about who their partners should have time out with. She may prefer that he hang out with his married friends as opposed to his single mates. He may prefer that she not hang out with a particular friend who puts him down. Consider each other’s points of view and work at reassuring your partner that you will not be unduly influenced by your peers. Help him or her feel that you are on the same team.
6. Accessibility. Couples sometimes argue about how accessible each should be to the other when apart. She may be angry that his cell phone’s answering machine picks up after one ring and he may be angry that she leaves her cell phone at home when she goes out. It’s best if your partner feels that he or she can reach you even when you are apart, especially in case of an emergency. Make sure your cell phone is on vibrate so that even if you can’t hear the ringing, you’ll know that you are needed. Of course, each needs to be respectful of the other’s need for time away and shouldn’t be calling just to check up or in.
7. Weekends are sacred. Some couples decide on specific nights of the week for his and her nights out. There are some couples who include weekends as part of this equation, but my recommendation is that in most cases, weekends should be reserved for time together as a couple or time with family.
8. Be conscious of time and state. You’re likely to create conflict if you stumble in, inebriated, at one in the morning. It is also less likely that your partner will be inclined to encourage you to take time for yourself too soon. Be responsible and respectful of each other and talk about boundaries that you both feel comfortable working within.
9. People transition differently. Some have a more difficult time transitioning from a single, carefree independent lifestyle to that of having to ‘answer’ to another person (“don’t treat me like a child” syndrome). Others may be more accepting of the responsibilities and changes that go along with becoming a couple. If you accept that everyone is different, you may be more understanding of the position that your partner is coming from.
10. Time apart can be healthy. Time apart can better your time together. If you are able to negotiate an amount of time that feels right for each of you and come to an agreement about where, when, how and with whom to spend that time apart, then when you come together, you may feel more connected and appreciate one another more.