“I Don't Have Enough Time to Connect With My Partner"May 23, 2023
Strategies for a common relationship challenge
“I want to connect intimately with my partner–to have great, super-passionate sex, or even just to cuddle and gaze into each other’s eyes for a little while. But I have to get the kids to school, and get everything done for my job, and take Mom to her doctor’s appointments, and the new puppy isn’t housetrained, and… and… and…”
If you feel like you have too much on your plate, and an ever-smaller portion is getting allocated to romantic time, you’re in good company. This is one of the most common things I hear from my clients. We’ve all got tons of responsibilities, tons of work, tons of projects, and anything that’s not 100% pressing tends to get pushed back and then even further back. (Ask me how I know! I’ve got every burner running in my life, too.)
So, what’s an overachiever to do?
- Get in touch with what you really want. Focus on the emotions here. Consider: What do I want to experience? Feelings of being engaged, fulfilled, connected, or…? What kinds of activities (or inactivity) give me the experiences I am seeking?
- Take stock of the many activities that are filling up your time. Which ones give back to you? Which ones light you up? And which ones drain your energy?
- Prepare for discovery. It’s possible that this internal assessment will result in discovering that having some peace and quiet or “me” time comes before sex. That’s perfectly fine and very common! In that case, it will be interesting to see what happens when you get that need met. Will you find yourself with more energy for things like sex and romance? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s worth trying the experiment just to learn more.
- Look for your inner motivation. What do I want more of, and why? If you want more sex or connection with your partner, why do you want that? How will it serve you? Why is it important? Perhaps because it feels great to be close, because it makes you feel loved and chosen, because it feels wonderful to have access to a different side of your partner–whatever’s true for you. Find the internal motivation that enables you to actually do what is necessary to make it happen.
- Prepare to let some things go. Acknowledge that in any given period of time you probably won’t get everything you could possibly want, or do everything you could possibly do. Figure out realistically how often you are willing to give something else up to make room for the things that keep falling off your list (but that you really want for yourself). Hint: many people drop some of the things that drain energy in order to make room for some things that create beautiful energy.
- Organize yourself around taking action on what is important to you. If the change you want was going to happen automatically, it would already have happened. You will probably need to take some action to make something different happen, and you can leverage your motivation (see above) to help you take action. Focus on why it is important and how it will pay off if this feels like a stretch or a challenge.
- Consider asking for assistance. Would this be more successful if you and your partner took a teamwork approach? Maybe a burst-of-energy applied to household responsibilities could free up a little time for both of you. In my home, this might be a 30 minute cleaning frenzy to create some psychic space for enjoyment in a less chaotic space, or maybe one of us tackling some errands while the other does yardwork, so we both will have an hour free at 3 pm. Working together as a team with focused energy tends to bring up the tone of interactions as a whole. That’s likely to have cascading effects for every part of your relationship, and it might also result in more sex. Try it yourself if you haven’t!
- If need be, call on more hands. You might consider enlisting your larger community: can your friends or family take the kids for a night? Can you consider a trade with friends–maybe treating them to dinner in exchange for help with a task that’s been looming over your head? Can you plan a “paperwork party” or “extra-stuff-purge party” or “mending party” with music, snacks, and company to get through some of the tasks that are distracting you from connection?
Since we’ve all recently been through a global pandemic, I also want to highlight that there are seasons in life. Some seasons have room for more sex, some are for recuperation, and some can be crisis times when it works best to just keep your head down and keep moving.
If you are in a crisis period, don’t beat yourself up over not having as much time or desire for connection. However, it’s very worth putting some serious thought into how you will intentionally recover once the crisis is over:
- How are you and your partner going to work together, making sure you can bounce back from this busy season?
- How will you know when the crisis is over and you can start moving back towards each other?
- How do you create the space within yourself to allow your partner to start moving back towards you?
- How do you break the habit of feeling super stressed out?
Being intentional about this makes all the difference, because it can be easy to fall into a habit of just moving farther apart as life places more demands on us.
Originally published on Psychology Today.