Marriage Hack #6: Coffee Walks
When you have kids, especially young kids, and especially especially young kids with extra challenges, finding time to connect with your partner seems as doable as climbing Mount Everest. In theory, you know it’s possible, but in reality it seems impossible. (See Marriage Hack #1: Schedule Alone Time for some tips on conquering this seemingly insurmountable problem).
When you do manage to schedule some alone time, you want to enjoy each other’s company, have fun, revel in your time as a couple sans kids. The last thing you want to do is spend your precious date night talking about your “issues,” whether they be marital, personal, or parental. (Unless, you’re like me and you’d actually LOVE to spend date night dissecting your issues even though your husband would rather have his eyes poked out with a fork.)
Either way, we parents are faced with a conundrum. Couple time is a scarce commodity, so how do we stay connected to our partners and ensure that we’re consistently communicating about hot button issues so they don’t go from difficult to impossible?
My husband discovered a solution and it’s genius: Coffee Walks. Once a week, we meet for coffee, go for a 30 minute walk and talk about whatever “issues” are on our minds. It’s our dedicated time to deal with the hard stuff that would otherwise easily get brushed under the rug, inevitably resurfacing at a later time as a much bigger issue.
My husband’s solution is genius for a few reasons: 1. It frees up our date nights to be light and sexy and fun. 2. We bicker and fight less in between our coffee walks because we are consistently dealing with our issues- we don’t let things fester. 3. Walking and talking about difficult things is much easier than sitting and talking face to face.
Number 3 was an unexpected discovery. After a few weeks of coffee walks, my husband and I both noticed and commented on how much easier it was to have difficult conversations while we were taking a walk. It totally makes sense- physical movement has been proven to release endorphins, which create feelings of happiness that help buffer our nervous systems. With this buffer in place, we are less reactive and more responsive.
Don’t get me wrong, we still have our tense moments, but they’re less intense and shorter-lived than when we’re sitting at home, lying in bed or dining at a restaurant and delving into a fiery topic.
I know what you’re thinking- This sounds great and all, but who the hell has time to meet for a coffee walk every week?? My partner and I are lucky if we have time to say two words to each other in any given day!! This is a valid and understandable objection, but listen: If it’s important enough, you can always find a way to make it work.
Maybe you start out with once or twice a month. Maybe you have a neighbor come over for 30 minutes on a weekend day, while your kids are napping, so you and your partner can sneak out for a walk. And don’t worry if 30 minutes is too short and you don’t get a chance to resolve anything. Our coffee walks rarely end in resolution, but no matter what, we always feel better and more connected by the end of them.
Recently, we fell off the coffee walk wagon. There were a bunch of stressful things going on and we got off track. After several weeks with no coffee walks, the old, familiar rift in our relationship began to rear its ugly head. During one particularly frustrating disagreement, my husband interrupted my embittered rant and said, “Babe, we just need a coffee walk.” He was right. The next day, we met for our walk and continued our “discussion,” but in a much more open and constructive way.
There’s nothing more important for your well-being and for the well-being of your kids than having a solid, connected marriage. If you and your partner are struggling to stay connected and feel like your marriage is slipping away, regular coffee walks could be the key to your reconnection. Now grab your half-caf, almond milk latte and hit the pavement.