Strengthen Marriage: How to Negotiate "Guy Time" and "Girl Time" in Marriage

Create more love in your marriage by becoming emotionally independent

Real question answered by First Answers expert Dr. Scott W. Seaman


How to Handle Guys Night OutQ: My husband and I have an issue that continually comes up and has been more and more frequent as we have started having children; "Guy time".  When we were first married 6 years ago, we decided that we were not going to do girls night out or guys night out because it would split our family and gossiping about the spouse usually occurs.  As our lives have become more filled and we finished school and then had our first daughter the frequency of his desiring guy time or guy adrenaline activity time has increased. 

I am pregnant with our 2nd baby and since our first is just 1 year old I have been unable to do the fun activities that we used to do together.  He feels like since I can't go that he should still be able to go and have fun.  I resent his leaving and being pregnant because I am left with the 1 year old to take care of. He resents me for limiting his life. His solution for me is to come and watch him having fun on his motorcycle or whatever activity he is doing.  For me, that includes chasing a 1 year old trying to keep her out of danger being 7 months pregnant.  I don't consider that including me and having fun.

He feels like it is important for him to have some release activity and I agree.  I need some too. I suggested that when I am pregnant we both pair down our activities and spend more time doing less intense activities.  Since we are both responsible for the creation of this child he should support me knowing that I can no longer do the fun things and find different activities that our 1 year old and I can do with him.  He, however, wants to do an active activity once a month for 1/2 a day.  Then it makes me feel like I should get 1x a month 1/2 a day and so we start keeping track of who owes who time or when the last time was we got to do a fun activity.  My worry is that we have now started engaging in a pattern that will continue to separate our family.  Our family is young and will not be able to water ski or snow ski or ride a motorcycle for many years, yet these are the activities that he wants to do with the guys and he feels that it is okay to leave me and the kids to do them. 

I would like to participate, but when I am pregnant I cannot and when the baby is young I am rarely able to leave the baby for an entire day.  We have talked and talked about this issue and he is defensive saying I should be happy that he is a good provider and that I should want him to go and have fun. He mentions that we sacrifice as a family and mine is being pregnant; therefore limiting my activities. Since he is not, he shouldn't have to sacrifice his fun too. I married him to be with him and to do things with him.  He is my best friend and I want him to want to do everything with me too, but he doesn't; at least not anymore.  I don't feel happy when I am left.  He suggests that I find a girlfriend to hang out with and then I would not want to be with him so much (clingy) and it wouldn't be such a big deal for him to go. 

Am I wrong for wanting to do activities as a family and not as an individual?  It seems like the world teaches that guy time is important and that time away from each other creates a better relationship.  I don't agree that we need more away time from each other .  We are separated for 8 hours during the work day.  That is enough for me.  Do I need to just relinquish this ideal that I have that our activities we choose include the family? Or relax and say 1/2 day 1x a month is nothing so don't make a big deal out of it? I feel like if I give 1/2 a day 1x a month it will become a 1/2 day each weekend and just spiral from there. I am also concerned that this issue will limit the children that we decide to have.

I would appreciate some advice on this issue and how I can discuss it better with my husband so there is minimal accusations and defensiveness. 
Thank you for listening,

A: Dear Kathryn,

I’m so glad that you’re thinking about these things and asking the important “open to change” questions that you are.  This is SO important to any successful marriage.  I can see that you find yourself in a confusing and difficult situation, albeit a fairly common one for couples who are trying to figure out how to craft their ideal marriage and who are working hard at adjusting to life’s ever changing demands.  First and foremost, keep working, keep trying, and keep searching for the answers that best fit you, your husband, and your growing family’s situation. 

There are a lot of differing opinions about his and her time and what’s appropriate, important, and necessary.  The bottom line is that each couple has to reach their own agreement about what is workable for them.  Some couples will swear that eliminating “alone time with friends” has strengthened or even saved their marriage.  Others insist that it’s only by having that time that their marriage thrives.  I don’t think there is really any “right” answer to your situation . . . except the balance that works for BOTH you and your husband.  That being said, there are some important concepts to keep in mind.  Hallmark is teamwork.  You and your husband must find a way to sit down and talk through this and other problems.  Let me give you a couple of suggestions.

1st: Understand

Seek to understand (what’s his need, want, why he seeks this time, how he feels when he gets it and when he doesn’t, etc.) before seeking to change (him).  He gets to do the same for you.

2nd: Identify AND Communicate Yours and His Needs

Identify and tell each other what each of you wants and explain to each other why that’s important/necessary to you.  This probably includes some discussion about values and what’s important to each of you.  We often butt heads when our wants/needs seem to be in opposition.  That’s all we tend to see, the opposition, and not that there is a way to have both needs met.  This alternate solution is often a third “best for both” option, as opposed to a compromise.  In this way, it works for both of you without anyone losing. 

3rd: Negotiate

If there is not a clear third option that works to meet both needs then switch into negotiating mode where you each are able to state something that you’re willing to give in return for something you want.  For example, “O.K., you can have half a day per month with your friends if you’re willing to give me some time for x,y,or,z.”  Now, with regard to something you mentioned, it is important that your “negotiated deal” be specific and contained to one particular trade of events.  For example, if another “half-day” is wanted or taken this needs to be renegotiated and not lumped into the original deal.  This helps avoid a tit-for-tat or snowballing situation. 

4th: Communicate & Plan

It’s vital that concerns be expressed, such as “I’m worried that a half-day once-a-month will turn into twice and then three times a month.”  And with this, some pre-emptive discussion that you both agree on about what to do if things head that way.  I would also put into place a scheduled weekly sit down together time (20-30 minutes) where you check-in with each other and evaluate how things are working out.  If things are not working out then you can bring them to the meeting and say “there’s a problem that we need to rework.”  This can go a long way toward rectifying and preventing difficulties.   

Be Flexible

Life is certainly an ebb and flow experience.  What works now will probably not always work in the future.  Pregnancy and young children are definitely an example of this.   Like the old analogy of steel, if we don’t learn how to flex, we shatter.  As a couple, we have to learn how to ebb and flow (flex) as well, sometimes having more of what we want and sometimes being willing to sacrifice and adjust to less.  This will be true for both you and your husband.  Sometimes one person struggles with this more than the other and we have to be patient as they learn how. 

Be in Control of Your emotions and Learn to Give FreelyFreedom and Commitment in Marriage

Another important element to keep in mind is that the more skilled we become at taking care of each other, the more able we are to express love and appreciation, and the more we take care of each others’ needs then the happier and more peaceful our marriage will be.  If you can cultivate an attitude of “I love him and I know he really enjoys getting out and busting loose for awhile, whether he really “needs” it or not, and I can give him the gift of some time away even if I’d rather be together. Then I want to and do so freely.” And if he develops the approach of “I can see that she’s really needing me here with her, she needs some comforting and attention, and I can give her that gift,” then your love will grow and grow.  But see, it takes each person being willing to set themselves aside for a moment and see the other’s wants and needsWhen we give something freely there is no resentment.  There is no scorecard, and fairness becomes a moot point.  It’s also contagious–when we make them feel cared for they begin to have a greater desire to care for us! 

My advice is to give him the ½ day, freely, and see the joy it brings him.  Also, ask him for what you need and want and let him work on becoming an attentive and loving husband.  Be patient.  Work on being responsible for your own feelings and thus happiness, even when the situation is not your ideal, this way you’ll be truly free and not dependent on anyone or anything to be happy.  This frees you up to become interdependent with him and the two of you together can become more than either can be alone.  Well, I hope this has answered some questions and given you some things to think about and experiment with.  Again, keep working and trying new things.  I like the idea of relaxing, we always think and do better when we’re relaxed! Good luck!

 Dr. Seaman, First Answers Expert


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