“Quality time is giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television. I mean sitting on the couch with the TV off, looking at each other and talking, and giving each other your undivided attention.” Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages
The 5 Love Languages
I’ve read Gary Chapman’s book a few years ago. Since then, I kept on recommending it to friends and parents of children I work with. (There is also a version of it applied to children). So if You haven’t read it yet, I suggest to put it on your books-to-read-ASAP-list 🙂
Why do I find this book so important? I’ll share a recent personal story, when if I didn’t know about the 5 languages of love and particularly about the one of quality time, I would have easily turned into a drama queen.
I was recently out for a drink with two male friends. Actually, they are more than friends, since a month a ago, they are also my flatmates. To clear out all confusion from the beginning, no, I am not romantically involved with neither of them, we are just very good friends.
I am not going to get into details about this social experiment now, maybe I will write a post later on.
Back to our evening out: we got out of the house for a walk, a quick snack at our favourite Turkish fast-food ( a small, local and healthier alternative to the well known American ones) and then the guys decided they wanted to stop for a beer on our way back.
I agreed, although I was not going to have a beer on such a chilly evening. So we sat at a table on a terrace, in the heart of the Old Town of Bucharest.
What Happened When I Was Expecting Quality Time And I Didn’t Get It
The beers arrived. Smiles…Cheers!…and then…nothing! To my surprise, I’ve noticed I was actually alone. They were both absent from the table: one was caught up in his head, still busy with solving his business issues that he worked on the whole day, the other was also caught up with some business over the phone.
I’ve mistakenly assumed that “let’s go for a beer together” meant also “let’s spend some quality time together, talking, sharing, communicating”.
I, as a woman, I wouldn’t go out for any drinks, alcoholic or not, if I didn’t want to spend quality time with the person(s) I would be sharing them with. Apparently, this is not valid for men too. Or at least for those two. Sometimes, for them, let’s go for a beer, means just that: drinking a beer! (Amazing, huh? 🙂 I’ve been learning a lot about male psychology, lately)
So, becoming aware of my frustration, I’ve told them: “guys, I feel frustrated cause we are here together, having a beer, but I feel you are both absent, caught up in your minds, businesses, whatever. I would like us to spend some real time together.”
One of them told me: “but we are all the time together at home, and besides, you should be also thinking about your business”
Hmmm…my frustration was now turning into a bit of anger, but I kept my cool: “Being at home, in the same living room, each of us working on their business, doesn’t count as spending time together for me. And if we are here together, I would like us to connect, and talk. But if you don’t feel like doing that, that’s OK, I can be as “antisocial” as you are, surfing on FB, and chatting on Whatsapp.”
(The second reason of my anger was him telling me what I should be thinking about. But I didn’t go there, I chose to ignore this, cause I know he was well meant.)
To my surprise, he quickly agreed with me about the definition of spending time together. He admitted his argument was wrong and that was, more or less, the end of our talk.
So I turned to surfing the web on my phone – thank God we have free wi-fi almost everywhere in Bucharest! 🙂 – but in the back of my head, this article was writing itself.
The Confusions Around “Spending Quality Time Together”
In Couple Relationships & Between Parents and Children
I’ve remembered how many times I heard my girlfriends complaining about not getting enough attention from their boyfriends or spouses.
And how many children are brought to me to help them with their reading and learning issues – when in fact they are just running on empty love- cups – they lack the quality time with their too busy parents.
Many people confuse sharing space with spending quality time.
It’s a common mistake to consider that if we live together, it means we are all the time together.
And especially people who do not have this language of love in the top 2, they don’t understand their close friend, spouse or child for whom this is an important love language.
And they might consider them clingy and over demanding, or never satisfied, if they keep expressing their love in all the other languages but this one.
I’ve seen mothers so caught up and tired with work, studies, house chores that spent many hours in the house with their children but not really spending time with them. And then they were wondering why can’t they have a quiet moment for themselves. “Why is this child always asking for something, always desperate for my attention? Didn’t we just spent the whole day together?”
When I’ve asked a mother like this: “how many hours did you play with your child today, or worked on a project together, or included her in your activities, like assisting you in the kitchen?” The answer was: “none! But she’s been around me the whole day!!!”
That doesn’t count as quality time for her. She needs your undivided attention, even if for only 15 minutes when you don’t have more.
This means – simply put- being there for and with her, for whatever she feels like doing with you. NO phones, no TV, no emails, no distraction whatsoever.
The same is valid for adults. If your spouse has this language of love as the main one, then You will need to make sure you give him or her your undivided attention often and long enough to fill their cup.
Spending Quality Time Has (Usually) Different Meanings For Men And Women
For most men I know, watching a game, drinking a beer, and not exchanging more than 20 words in one evening, can sometimes count as quality time spent together.
For most women I know, this would be frustrating and alienating if they were expecting to spend quality time with that person. If all they wanted was to watch a game, then they might be OK with this.
From my experience, as a person who has spending quality time language of love ranking number 2, such an evening would be perceived as frustrating if there would be no additional talking and connecting, during or after watching the game.
If I didn’t know about the languages of love and that quality time is important for me I wouldn’t have so easily identified the cause of my frustration when I was recently out with my mates.
10 years go I would have either blamed them for being rude or insensitive or pretend I was OK with the situation although I would continue to suffer on the inside. And I would have probably expressed that frustration into a passive aggressive behaviour later on. Thank God, I’ve learned a bit about myself in the last couple of years 🙂
What Can You Do When You Don’t Receive The Quality Time You Were Expecting?
Well, You could turn into a drama queen and accuse the other one of being insensitive. Or You could hide your frustration and punish them later on by being passive aggressive (please, don’t, You can do better! :)) For more on this topic read 10 mistakes women make in relationships .
Or, You could express openly how You feel, and what your thoughts are and act from there on.
That’s what I did. Instead of feeling frustrated and hiding it, I’ve expressed openly how I was feeling and continued to be aware of my feelings. I didn’t blame or accuse anyone, I’ve just shared where I was at.
Then, I acted according to the feed-back I received. If my friends were not in the mood of connecting and sharing quality time, why would I continue to ask it from them? I respected their mood, and I chose to do something else than continue to ruminate about it.
Plus, me and my mates, it is not like we are in a couple relationship (That was another argument of my friend. And he was right from this point of view, we don’t have to fill each other’s cups as friends & flatmates, although we can if we choose to. But that makes me wonder: if one makes this mistake with friends, flatmates, how would he avoid making it with their girlfriend or boyfriend?)
I’ve shared this personal story with You, because I feel that the quality time language of love is one of the most subtle and easiest to walk by in any relationship.
And I feel this is an important issue to many of us, humans of the 21st century, so easily distracted by our being 24 hours connected via Internet, but rarely truly connecting with our friends, spouses or children.
How About You?
Are You familiar with the 5 love languages? If so, did You identify your primary ones? How about the ones of your significant other? Let me know in the comments bellow, I would love to hear about it.
Liked this article? Share it with your friends on FB, Twitter, Google+, email, whichever You prefer.
Thank you for being around, I do appreciate it.
With all my love,
P.S. You can get Dr. Chapman’s book here:
P.P.S: You are Perfect just the way You are. I mean it, You are Awesome! 🙂