A friend and reader recently wrote: “Marriage question– Is it offensive and/or helpful in the union to allow your partner alone time, which could be anything from prayer to seeing friends to going out to eat without you?”
Peter and I have a regular date night, during which we almost always go out to dinner just the two of us. I look forward to it all week long, and in my type-A-planner way, there are even weeks where I keep an index card with a list of topics I want to discuss, stories I want to share, and questions I want to ask. It’s rare that we have long conversations during the other six days of the week–most of the time we’re just trying to keep up with our children and the bills that need to be paid and watering the grass and all the rest. But Thursday nights out are a haven.
With that said, we both also desperately need time alone. We’re careful about what that time looks like. Peter, for instance, early on in our marriage made two sports-related decisions about his time. One, he cancelled cable television so he couldn’t watch Sports Center anymore. Two, he decided to put away his golf clubs until he retired. He still runs and plays tennis and he listens to baseball games through his Iphone. But his sports consumption and athletic endeavors have become deliberate. He’s intentional in taking that time away from our family, away from me, and it brings him joy and keeps him healthy. (With that said, I must admit that I wasn’t terribly upset last year when the Yankees didn’t make it very far in the post-season…)Similarly, both of us long for time alone to pray and read the Bible. We used to aim for it every day. Now that we have three children also vying for attention in the early mornings, we hope for a couple times a week. So we often share the breakfast hour(s)–Peter spends an hour with the kids while I get ready for the day and “spend time with God,” and then we switch.
And finally, we both try to encourage the others in same-sex friendships. He is happy to put our kids to bed so that I can go to book club. I do the same when he wants to have dinner with his brother or another friend.
But it’s all about balance. If Peter went to a bar every night and never had dinner with us or put the kids to bed, that wouldn’t work. If his alone time in the morning involved checking email or watching TV, I’d be less supportive than I am when I know he’s getting some extra sleep, taking a run, or reading the Bible. The bottom line is that how we spend our time reflects what we value and who we love. For us to effectively love others, we need to take care of ourselves. But we need to do that thoughtfully. And then, hopefully, the time alone allows for a stronger marriage, for even better time together.