I really appreciate guest contributor Stephanie Manes for this important and timely guest post:
You’ve heard it all before — don’t forget date night! Schedule time with your mate! But before you know it, the week — no the month — has gone by and the closest you’ve been to a date is getting through half of a movie on Netflix before the two of you pass out on the couch. There always seems to be a million good reasons why we make time with our spouse the least pressing engagement. That little bit of extra sleep, the chance to spend some time with kids (who, between work schedules and after school activities, can be as tough to see as an a-list hair dresser), or even the rare moment to see a girl-friend, get to a yoga class, or work a little on that project you promised yourself would get done this year. Somehow everything else can feel a little more urgent than that date you promised each other.
But here is why your time alone as a couple is urgent. Intimacy is a practice, a verb, and a discipline. Unless we keep at it, we lose the ability to achieve it. Think of intimacy as a path between you and your mate. Without frequent use, the path becomes overgrown, until finally time, you forget where it is. And intimacy requires time. Think of time alone with your mate as the open space where conversation and shared experience naturally weave you closer together. There is a delicious closeness that grows around the shared terrain of family and parenting. But the kind of intimacy that supports a marriage needs the mutual recognition of two people who exist beyond the world of parenting. It requires seeing each other as separate and unique individuals — something that is nearly impossible to do in frantic morning dashes, or through emails about schedules and to-do lists, over family dinners (which are lovely and important but primarily about the kids), etc.
So remind each other that your time alone together can’t wait. Move it up to the top of the list, mark it in the calendar, plan ahead and stick to it. Like anything else in life, the more diligent you are in your practice of intimacy, the more devoted and mindful your approach is, the greater the benefit that will flow to you, your mate, and your family!
Stephanie Manes, LCSW is a licsenced clinical social worker specializing in working with couples and families. She received her BA from Barnard College in 1990, her JD from Brooklyn Law School in 1995 and her MSW from New York University School of Social Work in 2007. She completed post-graduate studies in family and couple’s therapy at the Ackerman Institute for Families in 2010. Stephanie also has a special interest in narrative therapy, buddhist psychology and the role of contemplative practices in personal healing and growth. Stephanie is currently affiliated with the Ackerman Institute’s Center for Families and Health and Memorial Sloan Kettering Center for Behavioral Health. She works part-time at the Hallowell Center of New York, where she helps couples and families struggling with issues around ADHD. Stephanie also maintains a private practice in New York City where she treats individuals, couples and families.