First, you’ve got your 40-hour gig. That’s the job that ensures food and shelter. And then there’s the time you have to invest to keep a good relationship going.
Recently, I was talking to my friend, Julia. She and her boyfriend, Chad, are an active couple. They’ve always got something going on.
A couple of weekends back, they toured a local vineyard, attended a music festival, and ran a 5K together. All in the same weekend!
While that sounds like fun, there’s a potential downside. The minute your relationship starts to feel like a second full-time job, POOF! There goes the romance.
A recent study confirms what Julia already knows.
Researchers from Ohio State University conducted a series of 13 experiments. (Apparently, they’re thorough in Ohio.) Their findings were consistent. Packing your weekends full, even with fun stuff, makes Saturday and Sunday feel like another job.[i]
Of course, the opposite’s no better. Sitting around in your sleep pants eating pizza and binge-watching Netflix may be fun for one weekend, but that gets old fast.
So, how do you strike a balance? How do you make plans…without making plans?
I know this is shocking, but I have a strategy for you. There’s an easy way to ensure that your weekends are fun AND carefree.
You just have to follow two rules.
RULE #1: Don’t make plans for more than one specific activity per weekend.
That’s right. ONE planned event.
If there’s a party you both plan to attend on Saturday night, leave Sunday wide open. If your company picnic falls on Sunday, don’t commit to anything for Saturday. Don’t obligate yourselves as a couple to more than one block of time per weekend.
One appointment on the weekend, whether that’s dinner just between the two of you or his niece’s birthday party, isn’t going to feel like a chore. But if you’re running from one thing to another, neither of you will feel relaxed.
That’s when leisure time starts to feel like work. It drains you, and you subconsciously start looking for ways to get away from that. Not good.
You can reclaim a relaxed vibe by limiting the number of weekend commitments you make.[ii] It creates the space your relationship needs to breathe.
As a side note, there will be times, like around certain holidays, when this rule is impossible to enforce.
That’s okay. Just do the best you can.
RULE #2: Make as many “open-ended” plans as you like.
Open-ended plans are great. Let me describe what this means.
Let’s say there are three things happening on Saturday. It all sounds like fun, and you could make plans to attend all three events. Ah, but then you’ll feel rushed and duty-bound. Ugh.
So instead of nailing down plans to do it all, just tell your man about what’s going on and suggest that it might be fun to check this stuff out. If he asks if you want to put any of it on the calendar, politely decline.
Say something like, “Nah. Let’s just keep in mind what’s going on. If any of it sounds like fun on Saturday, we’ll go.” (Only do this if you are already in a relationship.)
Now you have options for the weekend and no obligations. If you do any of it, it’ll feel spontaneous.
And I probably don’t have to tell you this, but spontaneity does wonders for passion.[iii]
You really can have the best of both worlds. You can make plans without feeling chained to them. Just limit the number of specific weekend plans to one obligation, and leave everything else open-ended.
Follow these two simple rules, and your time as a couple will always feel fresh, fun and exciting.
[i] Tonietto, Gabriela N., and Selin A. Malkoc. “The Calendar Mindset: Scheduling Takes the Fun Out and Puts the Work In.” Journal of Marketing Research 53.6 (2016): 922-36. Web.
[ii] Von Pfetten, Verena. “The Art of Making (and Not Making) Plans.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 15 Oct. 2016. Web. 05 Jan. 2017.
[iii] Hemmings, Jo. “Being Spontaneous Improves Your Love Life.” The Huffington Post. AOL, 15 Aug. 2014. Web. 05 Jan. 2017.