Connecting After the Kids are Down

So in our online homeroom community, this is where we throw out a challenge every single month to the 3000 or so people in homeroom to help build their family teams. Rebecca, we have lots of questions people ask when there is basically a giant think tank for family teams, and so it’s so awesome to hear these questions. But just today, we’ve got this question from Rebecca. She says, “My husband is not a reader at all. He likes to watch TV after the kids go to bed. Don’t get me wrong, Shawn and Gus are hilarious, but not every night. I find sitcoms boring and a waste of my reading time. When I don’t watch TV with him, I feel disconnected from him. We’ve tried schedules, watching TV three nights a week and reading the other nights, we’ve tried me reading a book aloud so it gives us something to discuss and talk about. Didn’t work. I’m just kind of at a loss as to what to do now.”

I’m imagining some large percentage of guys listening to this, and I’m definitely in the camp, you’re home, you’re tired, it’s 8:00 or 9:00 at night, and there’s so much good stuff to watch on Netflix, or wherever, and you find yourself just night after night after night zoning out, and in this case, this dad has an amazing wife who wants to connect with him and doesn’t feel like binge watching is the way to do it. Jeff, what do you think of this one?

I think this is a really good one. And I like it because me and Alyssa have dealt with his exact same thing in a little different ways. Alyssa likes her Hallmark movies, but she’s actually similar to Rebecca where she wants to connect at night too sometimes.

Here’s how we’ve navigated it I think that’s been really helpful. Is first set expectations really well. What is that nighttime for? Because it starts colliding and hurting when either of you have expectations that you’ve never ever said. I explicitly want the nighttime to be my veg time, where I’m alone, where I get to watch YouTube videos, and where I read. That’s what I see it as. I read books and I’ll watch steak videos on YouTube. That’s my nighttime.

Alyssa is very similar, but with a show or something like that, but then wants to connect a couple of times too. So a couple ways that we’ve solved that is I’ve noticed that time at night becomes a drag on both of us. Meaning where we feel like, man, we’re not connecting, we’re kind of just ships in the night. When we’re not getting that other places in the day, if that makes sense.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, we’ve put that connecting time at other places when we’re not as tired and when we don’t want to veg out and we actually do want to connect. And then when we get to the nighttime, we both kind of say, hey, love, you, love you, go do your thing. You know what I mean? And we enjoy it that way.

It does take on a spirit of disconnection. There’s something about it psychologically. You know what I mean? When every night you’re like, whatever, when you don’t have that somewhere else. So just put it somewhere else. Put it somewhere else. Or I would say we kind of do a blend where we put it somewhere else, we make sure we are always connecting in a strong way once a day, usually in the morning or afternoon, and then we have more of a date night once a week at night. And so those cover us where then the expectations are set and we’re actually filled up enough where then the nighttime is just like, hey, we just need to rest. It was a long day kids, toddlers, work. And so that’s kind of done it for us.

But it took a while to get that equation. So I would say mess with the equation, and set expectations very clearly, and kind of say what you need and see if you can get what you need not in that time. That’s what I would say. What would you say, Jeremy?

Yeah, I agree totally that a lot of this is just an energy problem. Some guys just literally… There’s kind of two different problems that I try to differentiate these two. So the first one you described, is it just by 9:00 at night, you’re done, you can’t fall asleep, and you just can’t think, you can’t talk, and the only thing you could think to do is veg out in front of something on TV.

I think it’s really important though, to differentiate that from, yeah, I have a little energy to connect, but I just want to do what’s easy. And so you have to be really honest with yourself, which one you’re doing. And for me, it almost depends on the night. And so what I’ve learned is probably around 8:00 or 9:00 at night, I will kind of check in with myself and try to be really honest with myself. I’ll always want to just veg out in front of something, I mean, 100% of the time, but I will try to ask myself the question, am I doing this because I’m really, really tired and I just need to veg out, or do I have a little more relational energy left that I can give? And if I do, I’ll try to lean into something else. Reading, hanging out with my kids, talking to April. Of course she might be checking out too.

I’ve done this thing the last couple of weeks, it’s kind of a tongue in cheek thing, but all of our kids I can text now, except for Kira, and so I was feeling a little extra energy one night and I was going to write, grab a drink and come hang out with me in my office. It was like 9:00 at night. And then I decided to brand it drinking with dad. So a couple of people grabbed drinks, they come into my office, we have this amazing conversation. So I’ve been doing that a few times.

It’s really good to have a go-to thing you do when you have relational energy left. Sending out a signal to your wife, like, hey, by the way, I’d love to talk, or hey, can we just have a deep conversation? Let’s grab some hot tea, let’s grab a drink, let’s go talk about the day. And again, if you’re doing that when you have that relational energy, then hopefully she’ll give you all the grace when you need to just veg out.

There’s definitely times where we’re all just tapped and it’s understandable we just need to relax. So yeah, those are a couple of tips, Rebecca. Every marriage I know has to navigate this dance and so continue to try to figure it out. I don’t think anyone’s going to maybe figure out the ultimate answer to this, but definitely keep trying to figure out what works for you within your marriage.

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