TIME TOGETHER IS NOT AUTOMATICALLY TOGETHER TIME
As a pastor I have the pleasure of working with couples in a variety of situations. Sometimes these encounters are very difficult and painful, but most are rewarding, and even inspiring. One of the most exciting things I get to be a part of is helping a couple getting ready for marriage and life together. Recently I met with a couple to talk about their upcoming wedding, and more importantly the marriage that follows. From that time together I have developed the following thoughts
“We’re together so much, but I don’t feel like we’re really together.”
Recently retired couple
Part of our discussion with the engaged duo centered on what the couple does in their leisure time. I was impressed that this young soon-to-be-wed couple had already recognized that some of what we do together actually isn’t done together.
For example – watching television together is not really a “together” activity. As each of you sits glued to the tube there is very little interaction together. The couple described a moment of realization when they were in the family room with the television on and laptop open. They were together in the room, but they weren’t sharing anything more than geography.
I have to admit I felt a slight twinge of guilt as I realized how many hours my wife and I spend in the same room, but not really together. It hit me that our marriage was facing “Relational A.D.D.” We weren’t doing anything awful, both of us have heavy work-loads and it requires hours of time working even “after hours.” However, all this time that we might credit as time spent together isn’t really time spent “together.”
Relational A.D.D. is a condition that arises when you unknowingly stop giving attention to your spouse. It is subtle and deceptive because you can count hours spent together, but not realize that the together time isn’t necessarily time together which translates into attention. As with a person struggling with A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. struggles with a multitude of stimuli that distract them and keep them from being able to fully focus there are a multitude of things that lead to this distraction in relationships. A couple dealing with Relational A.D.D. has to recognize where they are and make some steps that will help them cope. Things that are frequent distractors are:
- work demands
- relational challenges
- financial pressures
Dealing with Relational A.D.D. can be difficult. Because we need a level of attention in our relationships when there is a deficit in our “attention banks” we could possibly attempt to get the attention we crave, even if it is negative attention. Sometimes one person in the relationship will instigate an argument just to get the attention of the other.
So, here are some simple steps to help in coping with Relationship A.D.D.
- Turn off and tune in – get away from the television and computer and with each other.
- Step out or stay in – get a date night (even if you don’t go out) and spend time together
- Get your game on – play cards or board games together
- Learn the Signs – irritability, frustration, insecurity can be signs of Relationship A.D.D.
Couples who have been married long enough to reach some of the milestone anniversaries have learned, among other lessons, how to spend time together…really together. That a couple as young as the one I was talking to has come to this realization together before they are married offers hope for the longevity of their marriage. We never get to the place where we stop learning and growing.
Perhaps tonight I will remember this before Andie and I spend any of our normal time together and make sure that we are really together.
I would love to read your experiences or comments. Please let me know what you think after reading this.
Additional Resources –
- The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman is the book that stimulated the discussion and is one I recommend and require for couples planning to get married.