Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quality Time

I think it's very important to spend quality time with my loved ones. In fact, I think quality time is one of the best gifts I can give the people I love. It's important for me to do things to help my loved ones, to provide guidance for them when they need it, and to give them gifts on special occasions or in their times of need, but quality time is the glue that holds our whole relationship together.

I don't consider all the time I spend with loved ones to be the 'quality time' to which I'm referring here. For me, 'quality time' has a few characteristics that make it a very special part of my relationships:
  • The point is to be together, not to accomplish a specific task. Quality time spent with loved ones often involves fun but unimportant activities. Maybe we're going out to dinner, playing a game, or taking a walk. While we may be doing something, what we're doing isn't really all that important. What we care about most is that we're together. We may choose to do something in order to help us to have a good time together, but the company is more important than the activity.
  • We're relaxed and enjoying each other's company. Serious conversations are an important part of most close relationships, but I don't want to have to be serious all the time. There shouldn't be something important at stake in every conversation I have with my loved ones. I do want the people in my life to challenge me to be a better person and to help me find my way, but I also want them to just be with me sometimes. Quality time allows me to connect to my loved ones in a relaxed way, and that will help prepare me for the next time we need to tackle something serious in our relationship.
  • We're focused on each other and not just on ourselves. If I get together with some friends for a game of Monopoly and then turn into a gloating poor sport as I gleefully take them all out of the game, I'm not really fostering quality time. I'm focused more on my enjoyment in winning the game than on my friends' enjoyment in playing it with me. Likewise, I'm not really focused on having quality time if I drag my husband to a movie that I want to see but he doesn't or if I go out with a group of friends and dominate the conversation all evening. I need to be able to make sure that the people who are with me are having a good time along with me. The point is for us to all enjoy our time together, not for me to take enjoyment at someone else's expense.
Some people think that getting a drink with friends or playing a board game with family members is a waste of time. After all, it doesn't really look like we're accomplishing anything by doing these things. I've come to realize, however, that sometimes doing 'nothing much' with the people I love can be one of the most important things I do. Quality time doesn't accomplish tasks, but it solidifies relationships, and that's a big deal. I prioritize people above accomplishments, and that's why I'm willing to spend my time with loved ones even at the expense of getting some things done.

Every Friday night, my husband and I spend quality time together. Sometimes we watch a movie. Sometimes we play a game or go out with friends. Sometimes we just relax and talk. He could be using that time to do homework for his grad classes, but we've realized that it's more important for us to spend that time together. Likewise, I spend most Monday evenings hanging out with some friends. We mostly just chat and watch TV together, but that weekly connection makes a huge difference in our relationship. That's why I choose to spend my Monday evenings watching TV with friends instead of doing more 'important' tasks, and I feel good about that decision. Last Saturday I had lots of stuff that I could have been doing around the house, but instead I decided to join a couple of friends, the girl they mentor, and their dog for an afternoon at the dog park and to stay up late singing karaoke with a bunch of friends. I don't regret my decision to do these things. It was all time well spent.

It's true that I do have a lot of work to get done in my life. I need to fulfill the duties of my job and do chores around the house, and I also choose other activities that I deem important. I participate in musical groups and church groups, and I write this blog, for example. I make priorities among those activities, however, and sometimes I choose spending time with loved ones over some activities. Some people feel that they have to get everything done before they can spend time with people, but I organize my life differently—spending time with my loved ones trumps some of the tasks on my to-do list, sometimes even relatively important tasks. People matter to me, so I make sure to invest in quality time.

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