If on your wedding day someone challenged you to “give a full 1% of your time each week” to each other, to just be together, peacefully sifting through the bits and pieces of your lives; giving space for your love to recover, heal, discover and grow… how do you think you’d respond?
“1%? Scheesh… that’s nothing! We’ll be giving a lot more than that!”
More precisely, that’s 1 hour & 40 minutes & 48 seconds per week. Heck. Round it off to 1.5 hours, or 0.89%.
“Sweetheart… can I have 0.89% of your undivided and undistracted time this week? Please?”
On the face of it, this does not seem an unreasonable request. But how many of us enjoy this real living together as a couple, for this 1% of our week?
One recent survey suggested that 16% of couples manage a weekly date night, but I suspect this is often a movie or some other kind of entertainment not geared toward the quiet interest and seduction I’m suggesting.
Westerners have forgotten the present. Bit by bit they have whittled it down to nothing, and to retrieve it, they must undergo a genuine re-education. ~ Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber
Let’s think on this for just a moment …
If you are reading this post in the early part of your day, then ask yourself, what real living am I hoping and planning to fully enjoy today?
Blaise Pascal mused (400 years ago) that most of us spend our energies planning to fully live and to be happy sometime in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future. “It is inevitable” he writes, “that we shall never be happy, as we are always planning on a time which we rarely reach,” … that of really living with each other, in the present.
If you are reading this post toward the end of your day, then perhaps ask, with some reflection, what real living did I fully enjoy today?
Pascal suggested that our lives are full of tasks and distractions which stop us getting to the good bits! The day runs out before we get to the living. Even more sobering, our lives may run out as well. Someone suggested that the main disease of old age is regret. “I just didn’t quite get to the things that I really wanted to do. Perhaps to the loving I really wanted to experience and offer and enjoy.”
We may need help.
I’m going to suggest that nothing breaks into this madness better than sitting idly with your lover, “practicing the presence” of each other. I urge my clients to “just show up” in each other’s lives without much fuss. Think of how easily, happily and perhaps even deliriously we did this in the early moments of our falling in love together. Suddenly it was 3 a.m. Timeless, wonderful, so good.
Think about your spouse right now. Is this your experience these days?
I know, the naysayers will cry “life changes!” Kids, work, aging, bills, driving, more work, resentments, and that awful “creeping separateness” which leaves us, perhaps not as enemies, but maybe as foreigners!
Ok then. How about this. 1% of your lives in some sort of dreamy, healing, restoring and enlivening bliss. You can keep on as usual in the other 99%.
I’m going to suggest that this 1% experience will have a striking impact on the other 99% of your life. It can also be addicting. My wife and I started with 1%, but I shamefully confess that recently, this has gotten out of hand, and we are sometimes checking out for up to 2.5% of our week!
These days this always takes the form of coffee out together. These are not times of intense discussion or problem-solving. No attempt is made to create some sort of deep encounter. For the most part, we commit to put everything else aside, to just be together; quiet, lazy, open.
We are nearly always tempted to shelve the “1% experience” as it seems a bit of a waste of time.
So far, we have never been disappointed.
Practicing the presence of each other can almost be done in silence, and perhaps sometimes should be. Words are so often used to push each other about as we try to negotiate a better deal for ourselves. (In therapy I often encourage couples to make love, to go for a long walk, and to enjoy an entire meal, all in complete silence. The results are sometimes quite fantastic!)
At the end of my work-week, the last thing I do before leaving is to water the plants (currently five) in my office. It takes me just 2-3 minutes. I do not have degree in botany or plant sciences, and forget how photosynthesis really works, and yet, the plants are thriving and regularly need re-potting. Amazing.
The “1% Experience” is just the same. Water your relationship for a few minutes each week and it will thrive (as opposed to just “getting along ok”); if you don’t water it, it will die. It really will. Basic science.
Keep in mind that this “lazily being together” is much easier to agree upon and to look forward to, than a time that we might be setting aside to “deal with issues.” (Ugg!) It should look great in a movie; the couple lingering quietly over a few cups of java, together watching life go by, musing over a few random thoughts and observations, and “letting their minds leak” out in bits and pieces.
If this never becomes part of our lives, I know we will regret this deeply.
If possible, see if you can agree upon a time that might work for you each week. i.e. – when the kids are in the pool, or at lessons, or a regular drop-off at friends or the grandparents. (Some of my clients have made a deal with friends; you take our kids this Tuesday night, we’ll take yours next week. Friends with friends. We all get our 1%. Win-win across the board; affordable, regular, easy).
When we meet again each week for our 1% (watering the plant so to speak), we often refer to it as once again “picking up the threads” of our relationship, or the ongoing conversation of this elegant relationship. Almost any thought will do, and we’re away.
Think about it. When you first fell in love, as you were arranging to get together, you neither worried about what you might talk about, or even if you’d talk much. The being together was the imperative; delicious, necessary, and sometimes timeless. “Look! It’s almost 3:00 a.m. again!” Practicing the presence of each other.
Here’s an easy and revealing possibility for your next time together (join the “1% Experience” club): Begin to talk through these two questions together…
What are the things that fill my life, that for me … just aren’t the really living parts! The tasks, the details, the responsibilities, etc. that keep surfacing moment by moment throughout my days; the things that never seem to get done?
What are (dreaming a bit) the “really living” things I’d love to enjoy with you WAY more? The things that may have got marginalized, the things that perhaps once filled our relationship and living together, the things I’d like to bring back?
One of the things just might be this … sitting here with you, over a cup of coffee, smiling thankfully at each other with, “…now where were we?!”
Pick up the watering can. Go wild!
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it! ~ Goethe (1749-1832)
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