Creating Quality Time For Couples

Katie Young
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Wednesday - September 10, 2008

You won’t hear most women asking for “quantity time.” Instead, we’re looking for “quality time.”

In romantic relationships, quality time isn’t just about the amount of time you and your significant other spend in the same vicinity of each other - it’s about time spent that is, in some way, important or special. It’s time set aside for paying extra attention to the other person or uninterrupted, concentrated time in a shared activity. (And, no, sitting in the same room not speaking for hours while the TV is on does not count as “quality” for most women I know.)

There are a lot of expectations we have for our relationships, and I have to say that “lack of quality time spent together” is one of the major complaints among women I know. Some of these women continue to bombard their significant others with pleas, ultimatums and angry fits about “quality time,” while others seem to have given up on the concept altogether and remain quiet but bitter about the time they spend with their husband or boyfriend.

According to Mitzi Gold, Ph.D., director of the Mars & Venus Counseling Center of Hawaii, the issue of quality time is rooted in the differences between men and women, including intimacy, communication, stress management and relaxation.

“Overall, men and women have different cycles of intimacy,” says Gold. “When women love a man, they want to spend a lot of time with him doing shared activities and the closer they can become the better. Women think, ‘If we’re this close, let’s see if we can get closer.’”

Gold, a member of the Hawaii Psychological Association, says that for the typical woman, this sense of closeness creates oxytocin, which relaxes her and gives her a great sense of well-being and happiness.

“But men typically like to get close for a while and then pull away into autonomy to get that sense of being on their own and feeling independent,” adds Gold. “This getting closer and pulling away action, which Dr. John Gray calls the ‘rubberband effect,’ works well for men and they get to be close, then go out and do the things they need to do for themselves.”

At some point, says Gold, women should realize they need to take care of themselves as both women and men are ultimately responsible for their own happiness and well-being.

However, the goal is for both genders to learn to understand each other’s cycles. “Then when it’s time to be together, men can learn to show their love by making her feel special, and showing he understands her and respects her,” explains Gold. “For men, women need to be able to show that they trust, accept and appreciate the man in their lives.”

“Date night” has often been a prescribed way for couples to reconnect. Gold says that men will agree to a “date night” because they know that it’s very important to the woman in their lives and they like to do things together also. Women love when a man goes out of his way to do something for her.

“When he stretches beyond his usual behavior, she feels loved,” says Gold. “When he is able to listen without giving advice, she feels respected and understood. Men often feel love by the way that women respond to them. If women are enthusiastic and positive toward them, they want to be around us.”

So if your man comes home from a day of work and isn’t the attentive superstar you wish he’d be, complaining probably won’t get you anywhere.

“Physiologically, men use up more of the neurotransmitter dopamine during their day so often they want to come home and relax and recharge,” says Gold. “On the other hand, women use a lot of the neurotransmitter serotonin, so when they are able to talk and feel understood they build up their supply. So often men need to relax and women need to talk.”

She maintains that as we mature, we are often able to understand the needs of our partner and want to do the things that create mutual love and connection. This usually happens around age 35 and older. “As a man matures, he will be able to listen and support a woman without taking things personally and getting defensive, so he will be able to enjoy just being with her,” explains Gold.

“A woman will be able to receive what a man offers her and appreciate him. It can be in small interactions that this exchange of positive regard and love takes place and in those special get-away romantic vacations where you look forward to a longer quality time together.

“Yes, men and women experience life differently,” says Gold. “However, if two people love each other, then it is through communicating what they are each experiencing that they can understand the needs and desires of their partner and extend beyond the self into a mutual relationship.”

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