In this ultimate guide to more quality time for couples you will learn everything you need to know about quality couple time. You'll learn what quality time for couples is and what the barriers to not prioritizing quality time with your partner are. You will also learn more about the consequences of not prioritizing time together. Then you will get some ideas about how to organize time together: First, by making it into a ritual, or by using some of the suggested ideas. Then you can be creative: I encourage you to brainstorm your own ideas for quality time as a couple. Finally, you will learn how to put the ideas into practice.
So let's get started right now!
List of contents
Why is quality time important for couples?
Quality time as a couple is time that you spend mindfully, planned and with your partner. So, for example, a date at the cinema together, going out for dinner together, or other shared activities. Taking couple time, that is, conscious time for you and your partner, is important for every relationship.
It is important to spend time together as a couple to stay connected with your partner and to experience positive moments together. Because when you have fun together, you strengthen your relationship through that. Experiencing things together is also important because it can help you keep the relationship exciting and interesting. This is because our brain releases the hormone dopamine when we experience new things. This can help to break the routine and everyday life.
Research results about quality time for couples
Some researchers have not only confirmed with their studies that couple time is good for the relationship. They also show what kind of time together is especially good for the relationship.
For example, researchers have found out the following: The more time couples spend together on activities such as eating, playing and talking, the happier the marriage. Results suggest that time spent talking together in particular contributes to good relationships (1). Other studies also analyzed the everyday experiences of married couples and confirm that marital happiness is related to the frequency and positivity of interactions (2). In addition, couples feel happier during this time spent together compared to time spent apart, it gives them a sense of purpose, and it reduces stress (3).
Time spent together is not only an investment in the present, but also for the future of the relationship. One study showed that more time together one and a half years after marriage leads to more satisfaction with the relationship three years after marriage in married couples (4). Not only satisfaction, but also more feelings of love and less conflict were reported by new mothers one year after they had previously spent more time together as a couple (5).
What are reasons why couple time is not prioritized?
Reasons why couples do not prioritize quality time together are for example,
Flattening of the initial excitement
In a long-term relationship, your partner becomes more familiar to you over time. The hormone cocktail of the initial infatuation phase, when you want to spend every minute with your partner, starts to flatten out. When something is less new and more familiar, less dopamine is released, for example. But don't worry, this doesn't mean that the relationship will go down the river! Below you will find many tips on how you can still prioritize quality time as a couple.
Everyday life takes over
For many long-term couples, everyday life and routines also come on top. Some partners have an active circle of friends and many hobbies. For some, it also happens unconsciously that the week is planned with activities and time with the partner is not consciously scheduled. Especially couples who live together can fall into this trap: after all, they often see each other when they eat together, go to bed together, and cook together anyway.
When everyday stress comes up, one partner may be irritable or may withdraw as a coping strategy. For some, there is also a lack of time to communicate each other's wishes and needs. This can lead to a tensed atmosphere as well as misunderstandings. As a result, you become less satisfied as a couple. This can lead to less desire for couple time. So, on the one hand, stress reduces the time partners spend together in a harmonious context. On the other hand, it leads to less shared experiences, less shared leisure activities, less opportunities for exchange and less possibilities to overcome adversities and everyday problems together. Thus, a negative cycle is created (6,7).
Children, circles of friends, hobbies
Some partners work a lot and do overtime, others have an active circle of friends and many hobbies. Children can also be a reason why couple time takes a back seat. Many commitments and circles of friends make the "time pie" that the couple has smaller. Nevertheless, an active circle of friends, hobbies and children does not have to mean that there is no time for couple time. That is always a choice too!
Dissatisfaction with the relationship
Another reason for not prioritizing couple time can also be dissatisfaction with the relationship (Johnson & Anderson, 2013). When there is conflict in the relationship as well as criticism, contempt, or a lot of anger and emotionality, partners may perceive this as negative and avoid it. Avoiding time together is then motivated by not wanting to confront the difficulties in the relationship.
Internet influence & constant availability
Smartphones may have many benefits. However, it is now known that increased use of mobile phones in the presence of the partner is accompanied by increased conflicts. This in turn has a negative impact on relationship satisfaction (8). And since we already know that relationship satisfaction also influences the motivation to spend time together, we should consciously put aside the distracting source of the mobile phone more often or ideally switch it off completely. Because a person can be physically present, but at the same time be mentally in a different place. (9)
Stress due to work
Especially during the week, work has a big impact on the time budget couples have available to spend together. Especially if partners have different working hours due to shift work, montage or business trips, the possibility of spending time together is made even more difficult. And even after work, the boundary between work and free time is becoming increasingly vague due to constant availability via smartphone, or the feeling of having to briefly answer an important email. This balancing act between private life and work often makes it difficult to switch off properly and can be responsible for the fact that couple time is not prioritized. (10)
Due to the reasons mentioned above, it can quickly happen that the days and weeks are planned without you having spent any conscious couple time together.
Stop for a moment and ask yourself: What are the reasons for you personally that you do not prioritize couple time?
What happens when you don't take quality time as a couple?
If you don't prioritize the relationship, don't create time together that you enjoy, then the following things can happen:
Everyday life and routine in the relationship
Of course, it is also nice and quite normal to share a daily routine as a couple. But if you only share exciting, new experiences with friends or family, and the relationship becomes a place for routine, everyday life, and tasks like cooking and housework, then this is a missed opportunity for your relationship. It is up to you to decide if the time you spend together is just everyday time, or if you also share moments together that enrich you and are outside of the usual.
Boredom in the relationship
You may find that you can't share as many exciting topics with each other in conversation as you did in the beginning. It is normal that after a while, when you know each other well, there will be moments of silence. However, you can bring new energy into the relationship by doing things together and finding a balance between time for yourself and your own interests and time for the relationship.
Disconnection / Separation
If, as a couple, you take less and less time for time together in the course of a relationship, it can happen that instead of living a life together, you live a life next to each other. If this situation persists over a longer period of time, it leads to less and less communication, and less and less time spent together. We continue to develop as human beings throughout our lives, but if we no longer do this together with our partner and do not actively and consciously shape our quality couple time, the result can be that at some point we no longer have anything to say to each other and become estranged from each other.
Dissatisfaction in the relationship
Often, too less couple time leads to dissatisfaction for one or both of the partners. Especially when one wants more couple time, but the other does not prioritize it. This can then lead to
feeling unappreciated, unloved or left alone. Perhaps the partner even doubts the relationship if they don't understand why the other wants to spend so very few hours together.
Not much couple time can also lead to insecurity on one or both sides. Your partner or you may ask yourself: "What do I actually mean to the other person? What does our time together mean to you? Am I as important to you as you are to me? Why do I have to convince you to enjoy and value time with me?"
Ask yourselves: what happened to you as a couple when you didn't prioritize quality couple time?
How to get back to more quality time spent as a couple
Step 1: Have an open conversation
Do you notice that you would like to spend more time with your partner? Then the first step is to discuss this with your partner. Arrange a time when you both have peace and time for a detailed discussion. In order to formulate your feelings, needs and wishes, the method of non-violent communication can be very helpful. This can look like this:
- Name the situation objectively, without judgement. "I noticed that we haven't spent an evening together in the last few weeks."
- Talk about your feelings and needs: "This makes me sad because spending time together is really important for me."
- Talk about your concrete, realistic wishes in the "I" position: "I wish we could spend one evening a week together".
In addition, you and your partner can think about the reasons why you have not prioritized couple time so far. In the conversation, it is important to keep in mind the general rules of communication, such as not being judgmental or defensive and listening to your partner. If you want to learn more about couple communication, you can also find more information here.
Step 2: How habits can help you really prioritize your time together.
Habits can help make couple time more intentional and a regular part of your calendar. How, you may be wondering. Habits help prioritize couple time on a regular basis. That's because the benefit of habits, is that you commit to a specific day or time of day. That way, it's then easier to actually take the time together. Because when, for example, the evening comes when you always spend time together, it will be easier for you to remember it. This will then happen after some time without you having to consciously think about it. So you can save yourself energy and planning effort or frustration if you approach couple time as a habit.
A few tips from habit expert James Clear (11) are to make habits attractive, simple, obvious, and rewarding.
Make the habit obvious & simple
So for couple time you can use this for example as follows: Hang up a calendar with couple time marked to make it visible in your environment. Later, when you find ideas for couple time for you in the article, you can also write them down on pieces of paper and put them in a jar on the table. This way you make the new habit visible, and easy because the options have already been chosen by you.
Make the habit attractive & rewarding
Couple time may be rewarding just by spending time with your partner. In addition, make sure that you do things that you both enjoy. Furthermore, to make the habit even more rewarding, a calendar can help you. You can put up a calendar with all the weeks of the year, and make a cross for each week that you prioritized quality time as a couple and implemented your good habit.
How to make couple time a regular habit
Here are a few things that can help you make couple time a habit.
- Pick a fixed couple's day: If you know that every Thursday evening is couple's time, then it is easier to stick to this than if you arrange to have a couple's evening once a week.
- Plan 30 minutes: Think about what time you are both relaxed and would like to spend time together. Maybe you can make a habit of spending half an hour after dinner talking about how you are, how the day has been for you, and how you feel? Maybe after breakfast is more convenient for you. Try out what works for you.
- Shared hobby: If you have a shared hobby, this will also help you to associate time together with a fixed day. For example, if you always have dance classes on Wednesdays, then this time is already "marked in the calendar".
- Make week-end time into a habit: You can also make it a habit to spend time together regularly at the weekend. It's best to commit to a day or time.
- Make sure that spending time together is really an important value for you. If the relationship is an important area of life for both of you, you can also consider: How do we want the relationship to be? What is important to you?
- It can help if you see the development and conscious prioritization of the relationship as an important part of your identity. Then consider: How would a person behave for whom the relationship is very important? What would it mean for you to behave in this way? After all, true change takes place when your identity is changed through repetition. This identity then involves prioritizing couple time.
Feel free to try out what works best for you. Experimentation is important because every couple has different timetables, routines and times of day they want to check in with their partner.
Step 3: How to make your time together exciting with 17 ideas for quality couple time
But maybe you've already made space for time together, but are wondering how to spend it together? Then here are a few ideas to inspire you.
17 Ideas for quality time as a couple
Movie or cinema night: Choose a film together and then talk about what the film was like for you. You can do this at home or at the cinema. Maybe it could be a film about a topic that interests you both?
Cooking evening: Maybe one of you wants to choose a dish that you can cook together. You can also cook a longer menu, or have themed country evenings, decorate the table to match, etc.
Plan for the future: Take a notebook and talk about your wishes and dreams for the next year. What would you like to achieve? For yourselves and as a couple? What are your wishes and goals? Where would you like to travel? What would you like to achieve?
Games night: There are couples who like to play games together. Maybe you are one of them? There are many different games, so it might be worth asking your friends what games they like to play together.
Try out a new activity together: You can also sign up to a new hobby together, for example trying rock climbing, swimming or playing basketball. Whatever you both feel like doing!
Travel: Maybe you would like to go on a day trip together, or a weekend or week, a (short) holiday just for the two of you?
Learn something together: You can also read a book or learn a new language together, for example. This way you can exchange ideas about the new subject area, encourage and support each other while you learn something.
Massage time: Perhaps you enjoy massages? Are you able to relax? With little money you can give each other pleasure.
Picnic in your own town: A picnic is another way to spend time together. You can prepare the things you want to take with you to the picnic.
Intimacy & tenderness: Tenderness and sex are also part of couple time. What is your favorite way to receive and give each other pleasure? Do you know what your partner's sexual desires are? A open conversation can bring new insights.
Rediscover memories: You can also re-live memories of things you have shared by looking at photos of past holidays or times.
Be funny together: It can also be good for your relationship if you laugh together, fool around or tease each other. This means tickling, for example, but also any other way of being together that feels fun and light to you.
Dancing together: For many people, dancing is something that is fun and feels liberating. Dancing in pairs can bring you even closer. So why not sign up for a new dance class, or turn your living room into a dance floor, or go to a bar together?
Experience an adrenaline kick: What's outside your comfort zone for each of you? For example, skydiving together? Or sign up for a theatre course?
Go to a concert: Maybe you have similar tastes in music or know a band whose music you both like. Check when the band is playing next and buy tickets. Together you can look forward to the upcoming event and then enjoy the music together and dance to it. Music and dancing connect and you can remember for a long time.
Throw a party together or organize a special dinner for friends: Think about when you both have a free weekend and invite your friends. You can plan what to eat and drink together in advance and do the preparations together. Organising things together to then share with others can be a lot of fun. And you will have a fun evening with your loved ones that you can talk about for a long time.
Plan an evening at the opera or theatre: Even if you are not an opera or theatre lover or have had little contact with such things, you can consider planning a visit together. You can read up on the story together and get dressed up in the best possible way. On the big night, you can dress up for each other and spend a few hours away from the daily routine. It can be a nice and exciting feeling to have a different perception of yourselves for an evening and bring energy into your relationship.
Step 4: How to brainstorm your own ideas for couple time
However, it is also important to find out for yourselves what you like and can do together. So take a notebook and think of answers for each of the following questions:
- What activities do you enjoy? Where do you find time really flies by?
- How does the perfect day look to you? The perfect weekend?
- What did you like to do in the past, but haven't done for a long time? What activities in your youth and past made time fly by?
- What would you like to try but haven't yet found the time or courage to do?
- Which hobby/activity attracts you very much? What hobby/activity do you admire in others?
- Which area would you like to integrate more into your everyday life? Sport, something creative, dance, voluntary activities, eating/cooking, etc.? What specific things in this area would you like to do more?
Share your answers with each other and think about if you have found new activities that you can try out together.
Look at this phase as an experiment: You may quickly find out what you enjoy doing together and what you don't enjoy doing together. Until then, be curious and experiment!
Step 5: How to actually make your quality time as a couple become a reality
To make your plans become reality, it's important not just to dream, but also to make a realistic plan. Grab your diaries and plan your activities!
The scientifically effective technique of the WOOP method (12) can help you to implement your couple time. The WOOP method by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen is well researched. It is proven that it helps to actually put goals into action, such as prioritizing couple time. For this technique, you can take as a goal couple time in general, or an activity you would like to do together.
WOOP method for realizing quality time as a couple
W for Wish/Want:
First you can work with the wish. What do you want to do and why is it important to you?
O for Outcome:
What happens to you as a couple when you do the activities you want to do on a regular basis? How does this improve your relationship? Close your eyes and imagine what will happen for you. How does this change your relationship? How are you as a couple when you do this regularly?
O for Obstacle
What can get in your way? For example, maybe you are tired after work, don't want to do anything, would rather watch Netflix? Write down all the obstacles you can imagine.
P for Plan:
How can you deal with these obstacles? So for example: If I don't feel like going to dance class with my partner on the day, this is what I can do… Think of things you can do preventively, before the obstacles occur, and what you can do when they have occurred. For each obstacle, write down ways you can face it.
Then also decide a day, and an activity. It is important to be as specific as possible. Instead of "we would like to go dancing together", say "on Thursday we will go to the dance class in the district … at …". o'clock. Specify the date, place and activity. It is also important to find a first date that is close in time. Otherwise you run the risk of forgetting the couple time again!
Conclusion about quality couple time
In this blog article you have learned why time together is important and what happens if you don't include it. You also got ideas on how you can spend time together or how you can find your own ideas. Finally, you got scientifically proven techniques for making your couple time a reality.
That was the ultimate guide for more couple time! Now it's your turn to put the tips into practice.
Want to work with your partner on prioritizing more time together in the relationship?
This article was written in collaboration with Fatima Herden.
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