Recently a single friend of mine remarked that she simply has “No time to date!” In spite of advice from her mentor to go out more, she couldn’t seem to find an opening in her schedule to fit dating into the fabric of her life. At first, I thought how fortunate I am not to be dating anymore since I’m married – then I stopped short and realized I need time for dates too.
The reality is, married or single, we all need time to cultivate meaningful relationships with others. And we need this time on a regular basis. The saying “quality over quantity” may ring true sometimes, but quantity is important too. A delightful date once a month just isn’t enough to keep the relationship fresh and the connected.
We are in such a hurry to fit dating into our lives without the usual time-consuming process; “speed-dating” has become popular. At a recent women’s event I attended, the organizers planned a spoof on speed-dating as an icebreaker. They called it “speed-friending.” It was a great way to spark short conversations with new people, but deep, meaningful relationships will only grow if the initial spark is fostered over time.
When we’re short on time, it is often our relationships that suffer. They get inadvertently pushed to the bottom of the list to make room for more pressing responsibilities: a job, a sick child, homework, and so much more. Even when we pencil a “date night” into our weekly planner, the time can become rote. Go to dinner, see a movie, go home. We are no longer engaged and intrigued with our partner; instead, we risk becoming mechanical and bored.
Here are some dos and don’ts to help make room for dating and keep it interesting.
Do set aside time for a “date night.” It might not be at night, but blocking out time on your calendar is a first step. The time can be used for a girl’s night or guy time too. The goal is guard space for relationships in the busyness of life.
Don’t multi-task. Splitting your attention between tasks while trying to connect with a friend or partner is a bad idea. Focus on the person in front of you. Your time is valuable, so value your relationship by investing your time in it.
Do piggyback dates with other responsibilities. Piggybacking is simple a way to integrate our lives more effectively by creating connections between roles and tasks. For example, if you know you will be at Starbucks working on a project, arrange to meet a friend or partner for coffee during the time you are there. While you are visiting, put away your project to focus on the relationship.
Don’t give the relationship leftovers. Unfortunately, many couples fall into the trap of leaving the relationship for last. We fall into bed late at night after a busy day of work, kids, homework, meals, and everything else, only to realize we have yet to really talk to each other. By the time we have time to talk, we are too tired to care.
Do seek each other out. Dating doesn’t happen on its own. We have to be intentional about making space in our lives for relationships. The word “pursue” is a good one to describe the kind of purposeful movement toward another person that it takes to build a strong relationship.
Don’t make excuses. Anything worth having is worth working for and relationships, romantic or otherwise, take work. We must be willing to do the work and take responsibility for feeding our relationships so they can thrive.
Do be creative in finding ways to make relationship building part of your everyday life. While we don’t want it to become mundane, spending time with friends, family, or significant others on a regular basis is vital to our well-being. Taking time to talk with your spouse when you arrive home from work, calling a parent to chat, or having coffee with a friend are important ways to incorporate meaningful relationships into our busy lives.
Let us know what you think. How do you create space in your life for relationships?