Follow the suggestions for the magical 6 hours: partings, reunions, affection, appreciation, state of the union, and date night. Specifically with date night, I suggest that you spend an hour or two doing an intentional activity within the home. It could be reading a book together and discussing it, watching a movie and talking about it, playing a board game or video game, doing a puzzle, doing a craft or art project, baking, or some other interest. Rather than go about the normal humdrum evening of doom-scrolling or binge watching shows that often brings more disconnect, take the opportunity to plan something relaxing, connecting and fun. I encourage an evening or time on the weekend to do some sort of date activity. It does not have to be a night or evening, but intentional time spent out of the home going for a hike, going for a snack or meal, drinks, an activity, etc.
I often find that people sacrifice their personal free time for the sake of the relationship and/or their family only to find themselves burned out, flat, irritable, or lost. We are still individuals, and we need to honor our individual needs. Some people need alone time, some people need time with friends, some people need a mix. Honor what your needs are for an hour or two every week. Take turns with one person “holding down the fort” while the other takes time away, and notice how much more refreshed you feel to jump back into the duties.
Social time with extended family or friends is important for a couple. It is a great opportunity to build social support and relationships and just have fun. Research has shown that couples tend to fare better when they have a strong social support network. Also, it is an opportunity for novelty and desire, believe it or not. Research by Esther Perel has shown that people tend to feel desire for their partner by watching them in social situations, “in their element” so to speak.
Finally, family time. Many couples actually tend to do this fairly well, but a struggle I do see is that the planning of activities tends to disproportionately fall on one person more than the other. This can sometimes lead to resentment or decision fatigue. Take turns planning fun activities, even get the kids involved if you can. But taking the time to intentionally spend time together builds your bonds and connections as a family and creates lasting memories for your children.
A common theme here is intentionality. Let your partner, your family, your friends, and yourself feel like a priority and take the time. It doesn’t have to look exactly as laid out above as long as you find what works for you and what builds the most connection to those that are the most important to you.