Stronger at the Broken Places

How challenges can strengthen your relationship

Not Enough Time for Intimacy?

Try the Bic Cure.

Jason and Carolyn are a power couple. He’s an investment banker and she’s an attorney. They also have two daughters, ages 7 and 5. They both share a commitment to provide quality parenting for their girls and share child-rearing responsibilities. In between jobs and childcare, they somehow manage to squeeze in regular workouts at the local gym. They also are on several community and neighborhood committees and volunteer at their daughters’ school. In their spare time, they…well, there isn’t much of that. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of time or energy left over for much of anything else, including their love life, which is the real neglected child of the family.

To say that the romantic element of their relationship is in the toilet would be a gross understatement. By the time they collapse into bed at night they have barely enough energy left to turn out the lights. And sex? What’s that? If they make love once a month these days, it’s a minor miracle.

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Things, of course, were not always this way. “Before we had kids, it was all very different," Jason told us. "We both knew that there would be changes after the kids came along, but neither of us ever imagined the degree to which we would feel overwhelmed with all of the demands of fulfilling the needs of the family, our marriage, and ourselves.”

Carolyn added, “I’ve always been blessed with a strong constitution that has allowed me to burn the candle at both ends and accomplish as much in one day as any three people. I thought I’d be able to over-achieve forever. Boy was I wrong!

But we’ve created a life-style and added new commitments that require a lot more from us than we seem to have time or energy to provide. I’m not sure how it happened, but all of sudden Jason and I found ourselves with much more weight on our shoulders than we could carry and it’s really hard to see what we can put down.”

Jason: “I was brought up to believe that you eat your vegetables first and clean your plate before you can have dessert. In my mind that translates into fulfilling your commitments and responsibilities first and then you get to play and have fun. The problem is that it seems like the vegetables keep getting piled onto the plate and it never gets clean. Consequently, play-time never happens. And all work and no play makes Jason an unhappy boy.”

Carolyn: “And makes Carolyn an unhappy girl. Neither one of us have been a lot of fun to be around lately. I don’t even like being around myself these days. I used to have a great disposition, but now I find myself complaining and grumbling to myself and to whoever else will listen about how burnt out I’m feeling. I know that we need to do something about how overcommitted we are, but I just don’t see how or where the changes can come from.”

The couples’ relationship is the hub of the wheel of the family, from which all other parts of our lives radiate like spokes. When the wheel is out of balance, things don’t run smoothly. Our capacity to manage stress diminishes and the smallest difficulties can seem insurmountable. When the hub is strong and the wheel is balanced, even the biggest challenges become manageable.

Jason and Carolyn are not lacking in intelligence, intentionality, motivation, or effort. What they are not doing, however, is putting their attention in the area that will bring about the greatest return for their energies. That’s right: their relationship. This is not a matter of “working on their relationship,” but rather, it’s about feeding the relationship and giving it the time, energy, attention, care, and pleasure that it requires in order to thrive. And how, one might ask, can it be possible to add another plate to the twelve that are already spinning up there? The answer to this question is simply what we refer to as “The Bic Cure”.

The Bic Cure is writing in ink (uneraseable) on your calendar a weekly date night or afternoon, and a monthly romantic getaway of at least one day. Nowadays, many people have stopped using paper calendars and use their technological devices to schedule important appointments. Both methods work if we use them. Carolyn and Jason need to have reliable, consistent, trustworthy childcare to be responsible for their kids, during the times that they are giving care and nurturance to the other child in their family, their marriage.

For the Bic Cure to be successful, they’ll need to schedule their romantic interludes and commit to them by writing in ink on their calendars. Since time spent on the health and maintenance of their relationship is as essential as any other aspect of their lives, this time must be held as sacred and essential as time spent doing anything else that nurtures the well-being of the family. The dates are just as important as any client appointments, dentist visits or pediatric check ups. As Carolyn and Jason begin to regularly nourish their romantic partnership, like freeze-dried food, once it’s moistened, it plumps up and springs right back into shape.

Jason and Carolyn both accepted the “Bic challenge”, and while Jason was optimistic and enthusiastic about trying out this idea, Carolyn was somewhat hesitant and protested that she liked spontaneity, and that scheduling took some of the fun out of it. But Jason suggested that scheduled intimacy time didn’t preclude the possibility of spontaneous interludes and might even make them more likely. Although somewhat reluctantly, Carolyn agreed to give the Bic Cure a try. And guess what? Her fear that scheduled intimacy time would be mechanical and unexciting proved to be unfounded. “Once we got into it, I was amazed at how much I enjoyed being close again. I hadn’t realized how long it had been since we’d shared time together that didn’t involve conversations about work, kids, or money. It was less much about the physical connection that we shared and more about the feeling of being close and free from concerns about the cares and worries and responsibilities that prevent us from really being with each other, in the truest sense of the word. I felt like someone who had been dying of thirst who was finally getting a long drink of cool, refreshing water.”

Our health, career, financial well being, relationships with family and friends, creative expression, and even spiritual life all radiate out from the well being of that flourishing intimate partnership.

It is inevitable that we will have to draw boundaries and say no to some professional opportunities and to some social engagements. But it is for a good cause. Our family and friends will just have to understand the utter importance of prioritizing our romantic partnership. The partnership is a living, breathing, growing entity that needs nurturance and care just as our literal children do. And when we take care of our primary relationship, it grows healthy, strong and beautiful just as our literal children do.

Linda Bloom, L.C.S.W., and Charlie Bloom, M.S.W., are the authors of Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truths from Real Couples About Lasting Love.

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