How much time do you and your partner spend together?

I don’t mean time spent doing a chore, as you’re getting ready or getting dinner, with the kids or, sad-but-often-true, both collapsed on the couch in front of the TV.

No, I mean time spent with just the two of you. Doing something you enjoy, recharging your relationship.

If you’re like many couples who come to see me in Chicago couples counseling or marriage counseling, the answer is probably less than an hour a week. You might have more actual face-to-face interaction every week with your kid’s teacher or the staff at Starbucks.

If you want your relationship to be a R-E-L-A-T-I-O-N-S-H-I-P, this is one of the most important things that has to change.

Couples Spending Time Together

Think back to those days when you were falling in love. Did you bump into each other a couple of times a day and mumble about which bills were due or whether the dog went out? No. You spent time together, exploring interests and sharing who you were. That is precisely what you need to do again.

The challenge, for all couples, is making the time. The secret is that you have to schedule it. Religiously.

It’s like saving money. There never seems to be enough money to tuck away in your savings account if you pay for everything else first. So, smart savers “pay themselves first” and soon they see that savings account filling up.

The same is true of your time. Set aside time every week for just you and your partner. These are the times you’ll wait to eat dinner together (and if you’re used to kid-friendly meals, have a real, grown up meal complete with glassware that is potentially breakable). You’ll pick out a movie or do something you both enjoy. Don’t talk about the bills, the kids or work, and don’t include friends or family. Enjoy each other’s company and talk about what’s fun, what you enjoy, your dreams.

Time Together

If you can, set aside a time once or more a month to go out on a date — again, just the two of you. Enlist the help of family or a babysitter if you have kids, and go do something fun. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive — but the key is to do something that you will both enjoy. Relax, and treat your partner like you did when you were dating.

Don’t think your partner wants to do this? You might be surprised. Be creative, and see if you can come up with something that both of you would really enjoy doing, and then plan it together as a treat (or separately as a surprise if you must). Schedule it on a night when there are no conflicts.

The person you fell in love with is still there — you’ve both just gotten swallowed up by life.