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Do You Want to Stop Time Apart from Destroying Your Marriage

I read somewhere that one of the reasons marriages fail is because couples aren't spending enough time together. And I can really believe it. We live such busy lives. There are so many things that demand our attention during the waking hours of our days.

If we spend 8 hours sleeping, that means that we have 16 hours awake. For most people 10.5 of those 16 hours are spent at work and commuting to and from work.

This gives us only about 4.5 of our waking hours to spend with our family, on our out of work activities, and sometimes on ourselves. If we have children, they take a great deal of our attention after work especially for most working mothers (and some working fathers).

This gives us very little time each day to spend with our spouses. My colleague says that he knows me as much and better than my husband because he spends more time with me than my husband does. It's true that I spend more hours in the same physical location with him than my husband, but it's not true that he knows me more or really spends more time with me. My husband and I learnt a secret a long time ago when we first got married. Spending time together starts with the mind and it involves communication. Do you know that you can be with someone every single moment of the day, in the same physical location, but be apart in your mind? How many of us have taken trips to an exotic location in our minds while we were at work? By the look of some people's faces in church sometimes, you can tell that they're in another part of town holdng a conversation with somebody.

Their bodies are physically present, but their minds and attention are miles away. When my husband and I just got married, we spent over a year apart because he was in the United Kingdom, and my travel papers hadn't come through for me to join him. We didn't have access to technology that we do today like email and SMS and the phone system in my country of birth was not anything to write home about. Talking to him at that time over the phone was a major event which involved me going to the national communication building at the centre of the city.

At the time, the place was usually full of people queuing up for their three-minute time slots at the very un-private booths where they were trying to quickly shout down their long distant messages before their three minutes were up. I couldn't really say the things I wanted to do. It was too stressful and unsatisfying so we stopped.

But, because I wanted to keep communicating with him, I began to write. I wrote long letters and I wrote short letters. He wrote back to me as well. Because I was thinking about him and he was thinking about me, even though we had limited communication resources, we spent time together through the words we wrote to each other. We were exchanging our thoughts and feelings through our words.

I heard about a couple who had serious problems with this issue of spending time together. The man was a travelling sales man and his wife stayed at home during the time he was away. He would come back on Friday night and leave again on Sunday evening. During his time on the road, they hardly communicated with each other.

When he got home, he would spend most of Saturday pottering in his toolshed and then spend the evening with his friends. The weekend was his time to relax and unwind and he didn't want to spend it talking about "heavy" issues or making conversation with his wife. They were a disconnected couple. They had grown apart and were living separate lives. His wife was desparately unhappy about the situation and tried to talk to him about it, but he became defensive because he felt that she was trying to put pressure on him during the only time he could rest throughout the week. The problem with this couple was not the time spent away from each other, the problem was that the separation started in their minds.

If they had both formed a practice of sending each other emails or calling everyday to share the way their days had gone or their thoughts and feelings, despite the distance between their physical locations, they would not have grown apart. I can remember my mum remarking to me during the time I was running a home-based business that I talked more with my husband when he was at work than when he was at home. We had made it a practice to talk for at least 30 minutes together everyday.

Not all at once, but at various times of the day. We don't do so that much now because of our current work place restrictions, but we do exchange emails throughout the day. Even if we don't have anything to share at the time, we just say "How are you?" or "I love you", etc. This means that we don't have to make an effort to re-connect with each other at the end of our working day. If husbands took this tip, they would be surprised at the response they get from their wives at night.

There is a couple that I respect greatly. Their lives and words and have been a source of tremendous inspiration to my family and I. Their example lets me know that a marriage can still flourish and grow even when distance separates people. They speak to each other everyday and end their conversations with "I love you." They are in constant communication with each other because there's no separation in their minds.

I observe that they're closer to each other than some others who see each other everyday. Many of us know the story of the Duke of Orleans who was the one of the earliest creators of valentine cards. He had been taken as a prisoner in 1415 during the battle of Agincourt.

Despite his many years of imprisonment in the Tower of London, he wrote and sent many rhyming love letters to his wife in France. The distance couldn't keep their hearts apart. I think it would have been difficult for them to lose their love because they were spending time together by the only means of communication they had. If the life you live is a very busy one, you need to find out how you can spend time with your spouse.

Your relationship really depends on it. Even if most of your waking hours during the day are taken doing other things, or you have to put up with a long-distant relationship, you need to spend time with each other. Here are some ideas to help you out. - Give yourself at least one evening a week with the TV off to just talk about big things and small things.

- Engage in late night or early morning pillow talk. - Plan for an occasional night or weekend break. You don't need to travel, you can book into a local hotel. Some people call it overnight honeymoon. - Communicate by email or SMS during the day.

Doing these things help you keep your minds on each other. It helps you enjoy your spouse's presence in your life. It affirms their significance in your life and keeps your relationship vibrant and alive. But remember it starts with the mind.

Valentina Ibeachum's incisive counsel has helped pre-weds prepare effectively for marriage as well as helped troubled couples resolve relationship crisis. For Free Advice, or to download her Pre-Marriage Questionnaire, log on to Relationshipwrks.com.

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