This year, more than at any other point in the almost 15 years we’ve been together, we’ve been like ships passing in the night. Days, sometimes weeks, can go by without us having a real conversation outside of our weekly date nights. A conversation that goes beyond the logistics of daily life, troubleshooting kid issues, 10 second check-ins, or scheduling negotiations. Our time to connect, really connect, with each other was overrun by the one-two-twelve punch of our annual plague (which lasted well into spring), ridiculously hectic work schedules requiring far-more-than anticipated before/after hours and weekend events (especially for B), work and family travel, our kids inexplicably shifting their sleep schedule into Mountain Time even though we live in Eastern Time, and the increasingly intensive amount of school-related activity as our kids careened toward the end of Pre-K and 1st grade into summer camp.
Even though we’ve managed to (mostly) keep up our practice of weekly date nights through the chaos, we both want – need – more time to connect with each other than those few hours a week. Especially when we come home from a couple of calm hours out together to several more hours of hyper, wide-awake kids demanding attention. But how to carve out that time without it a) feeling unduly burdensome (You HAVE to spend time together NOW. You have 20 minutes. GO!) or b) causing problems in other important areas of our lives or family?
A few months ago, we decided to try both going to bed at the same time every night – 10:45p.m. Not staying up and talking for a set period of time. Not having important conversations at that time. But just the simple act of doing something together regularly, something that wasn’t focused on the kids, work, logistics, or the next day. Something that involved only the two of us. Something that might give us the space to reconnect after the day’s chaos, to focus on each other if only for a few moments. Something that sounded GREAT in theory.
But in practice?
On the nights we’ve managed to do it (2-3 times in a good! week), it’s been really lovely. We do get that moment of connection, and it does feel really great. But even so, we’ve had a hard time sticking to the plan. Travel, work events, kids staying up way late, and trying to sustain some semblance of a social life with friends regularly intrude. (In fact initially it was 10:30, but we pushed it back to 10:45 because we were missing the 10:30 mark so often.) We both also need alone time to recharge without having to accommodate anyone else’s needs, emotions, or demands – even each other’s. Late at night seems to be the only time we can get that alone time. So even on nights we’re both at home, it’s been hard to break the habit of retreating to our own corners (usually D to video games or to practice his bluegrass fiddling; B to work, writing, or Netflix) to decompress once the kids are finally asleep.
Success story? Not so much. But not a failure either. It may simply be that meeting in bed promptly at 10:45pm every night isn’t realistic, given the many competing demands on our time and interests in our lives. But perhaps meeting in bed 2-3x/week may be. Or maybe we simply need more time to get into the habit. Either way, we both agree that we like those few minutes to just be together – when we make time for them. And it’s not just us – research shows that syncing sleep schedules ups relationship satisfaction.
So for the next several months, we’re going to keep trying to meet in bed at night as often as we can. We’re going to prioritize that meeting, and we’re also going to go easy on ourselves when we miss our mark. Because after all, what matters is not “hitting the mark”, but feeling good about the time we spend together.
How do you and your partner find time to connect in the midst of the chaos of daily life with kids? Got any tips for us?