The premise of Gary Chapman’s popular book, The Five Love Languages, is a simple one: Be aware of how your partner gives and receives love and then respond accordingly and you will find yourself in better relationships. After taking the assessment online, you’ll learn your personal love language through results that rank each one. For example, I ranked highest for quality time and lowest for gifts and tokens.
However, all five of these love languages — quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, and gifts — make deposits into the relational “love bank” of your partner. Regardless of how your results rank, there’s no denying the fact that regular, intentional quality time is crucial in determining the quality of your relationship with your significant other.
In the report The National Marriage Project, sociologists Jeffrey Dew and W. Bradford Wilcox presented their finding that married individuals spending more quality alone time with their spouses are 3.5 times more likely to describe themselves as being “very happy” in their relationships than the married individuals spending less time.
There seems to be a fallacy that love, if it’s True Love, is self-sustaining. This fallacy goes so far as to surmise that if you “fall out of love” with your partner, the two of you must not have ever been in-love at all. However, love demands nurture and care. Love demands intentionality.
Perhaps this is an offshoot of that fallacy, but it seems that many are just as afraid of the word “intentionality” when it comes to this area. We’re positively inclined to being intentional when it comes to our career goals or our gym schedule or finally making that switch to Vegan. When it comes to matters of the heart, however, Intentionality seems to be at direct, even hostile odds to romance, an area in which Spontaneity is the idol.
We see this phenomenon play out when it comes to how averse many busy couples are to the idea of scheduling sex. The word “spontaneity” seems to be called out and repeated like a spiritual affirmation whenever someone is asked to put into words their idea of passionate, exciting romance. One of my favorite modern intellectuals, Esther Perel, is a relationship therapist with a private practice in New York City. In her book Mating in Captivity, she writes:
“For many of us, premeditated sex is suspicious. It threatens our belief that sex is subject only to the machinations of magic and chemistry. The idea that sex must be spontaneous keeps us one step removed from having to will sex, to own our desire, and to express it with intent. As long as sex is something that just happens, you don’t have to claim it.”
I bring up sex and Madame Perel because of a particular word she uses in that passage, which I absolutely adore, and that’s “to own.”
Much of being intentional really comes down to taking ownership.
We are intentional about throwing away the bottled juice and white bread and eating more vegetables and going to the gym because we take ownership of our health and of our bodies.
We are intentional about scheduling time to study a new language or painting or writing because we take ownership of who we are and who we want to become.
We are intentional about scheduling intimacy with our spouse because we take ownership of the quantity and quality of touch and physical intimacy in our relationship.
And so, if we are to take ownership of the quality of our relationship, we must be intentional about quality time together as a couple.
In his book entitled Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage: 12 Secrets to a Lifelong Romance, Dr. Greg Smalley writes:
I see it over and over again: Couples don’t make spending enough time together a priority, and that might be the primary reason for divorce today… By spending so much time on the job, hobbies, kids, ministry, community-building endeavors, and personal passions, a spouse sends a strong message to his or her mate: you don’t matter.
Being intentional about things one might think we should be spontaneous about, things like quality time or sex, doesn’t make these moments less romantic when they occur. Intentionally setting time aside to schedule it is very romantic to me because it communicates that something is important enough for you to clear out your evening and prioritize it on your schedule.
Weekly date nights, for example, are no less romantic than your spouse looking at you and saying, “Hey, I don’t feel like cooking. Let’s go out.” In some ways, these scheduled dates are more romantic because you look forward to them throughout the week, anticipation builds, and the intentionality of scheduling them turns them into sacred traditions.
Let’s be intentional with our relationships, taking ownership of them. Let’s plan for times to reconnect without technology, with focused conversation, with asking them how their day is and what’s on their minds. Let’s look them in the eye and give them our full attention and a full hour. Let’s go out for coffee or do something fun.
Your relationship and your partner deserve to be penciled in.