How Much Time Should a Couple Spend Together?
I recently watched the dumbest segment imaginable about this subject on a morning news show. The author hawking her book had little charts and basically said, if a couple spends 70% of their time together, that’s too much, and if they spend 20% of their time together that is not enough.
I was watching this in the waiting room at the OB/GYN doctor’s office, with a bunch of other gals waiting for their appointments. One woman said out loud, “That’s asinine. If I had to spend 70% of my time with my husband, I’d wind up killing him.”
A couple of the other gals chimed in, and I paid close attention.
One woman said she was in business with her boyfriend, if they weren’t supposed to spend more than 70% of their time together they would lose everything.
That’s a problem with the cut and dry percentages the author created. “Together” wasn’t defined. By “together” does that mean any time they are in the same room at all, even if they are working? Or with the kids? Don’t some people consider “together” time to mean quality time as a couple?
Another woman who hadn’t been involved in the initial chit-chat popped her head up and inserted her thoughts. She sounded ticked off as she said, “How dare they say 20% isn’t enough. How would they know what my life is like? My partner and I both have careers. We both love our work. We both travel a lot. Who is she to say we can’t have a good relationship if we each give priority to our careers?”
And she’s right. Some people are very independent. They have a life. They have strong goals, big careers, they have very absorbing work that they choose to submerse themselves in. Some aren’t quite that extreme but still have priority in other aspects of their lives.
And then in stark contrast, there are people that give 110% to their relationships. Just as some people can’t fathom putting their career first, others can’t fathom being that dependant on their relationships for the core of their lives.
By narrowmindedly deciding 70% if your time together is too much and 20% is not enough, each extreme is judged unfairly.
Another woman who admitted her and her boyfriend had only been dating a few months, admitted that she didn’t think 70% was enough. She wanted to be with her bf all the time. She probably texted him 12 times just in the half hour we were all sitting there.
Just before I was called in for my appointment, the very adorable woman next to me spoke. She works a night shift as a waitress and her husband works a day job. They have 4 kids. She said they work very hard on their schedule, making sure someone is always there for the kids, going to games and whatever, enlisting the help of a live-in grandparent, making sure mommy and daddy each get kid-interaction time. And that Sundays is just “theirs.” They leave Grandma and the kids and the house about noon each Sunday and they don’t return until that evening. She said sometimes they go shopping, sometimes they plan for a movie, in nicer weather they go to the park, or for a hike, or an outing, but mostly, they just go someplace to cuddle, make love, talk, veg-out, do crosswords, read in quiet while holding hands, discuss finances and make plans for their homestead. They steal around 6 or 8 hours every week just for them.
She said, honestly, that’s it. That’s all the time they get together. For most of the week they barely see each other. They communicate on white boards in the kitchen and through texts and emails. She looked concerned as she asked if we all really thought that whole 20% is not enough thing was a bunch of junk.
Everyone assured her that the woman in TV was nuts, and that what she was doing sounded awesome. She smiled, relieved. You could see how much she cared about her marriage and her family, and how hard she worked at these relationships while having to wait tables at night to make ends meet.
I got the opportunity to speak with the professional woman later in the parking lot. Turns out she is an executive with a very high profile charity in which she believes very strongly. Her partner is a marine biologist, who goes out to sea on long research expeditions. They both feel very passionate about their work, they both honor the other’s choice and commitment. She said she couldn’t imagine being with someone that wasn’t as independent and as dedicated to their career as she is.
The Bottom Line
The only time you and your partner have a problem regarding how much time you spend together, is when you are unhappy. For example if one of you wants more time together than the other, that’s an issue you have to work on together.
Some people are really committed to their art, their volunteerism, their careers, their passions. This is a beautiful thing, but this type of person would most likely do best in a relationship with someone who is also fairly dependant and strong. It might not be wise for this person to get involved with someone who is up-your-ass-clingy completely dependent on you for their happiness all-the-time.
Two healthy people should be able to gage their needs, mesh their lives and find that “percentage” that works for them, regardless of what works for anybody else.
Every couple is different. Every person has different needs. What works for some would never work for others. The key is communicating with your partner, being honest about what you really want, and working together.
It’s also important to realize that things change over time. Work, family, and other commitments will ebb and wane over the years. For example spending less time together now while careers are on the build may mean more time together later when careers have steadied.