The great debate over quality time vs. quantity time continues in every relationship whether it be parent/child, husband/wife, friendships or family. In some situations, quality time is sought after due to time constraints or distance. The pursuit of quality time can be trying due to expectations. When one’s expectations exceed the actual experience, disappointment often arises. On the flip side, some believe that quantity time is best. Spending more time with the ones you love is paramount and trumps the special moments. That it is in the everyday interactions, such as a family dinner, that create bigger impact or impression within a relationship. I, myself, prefer the latter; and here is an example within my own experience in which I tested this theory.
“I started a list of items we need at the grocery store, it’s on the counter” said my husband
“Great” I yelled with my head in the dryer as I was in the process of doing laundry, “I’ll add to the list when I’m finished here.”
Then came his dreaded response, “Let’s go together!”
“Bang!” I hit my head on the dryer door, “Ummm, ok?” “Well, hey why don’t you relax, it’s your day off, I got it, and we have a list right?” I replied.
“No, I insist, it will be fun and we will be together, let’s go” he said excitedly
Off to the store we went with list in hand. I remained hesitant yet hopeful that our time together would be quality. As he drove, I recited the lists contents aloud adding a few items that I had forgotten. This is when my impending feeling of doubt grew. My husband began negating the items I had listed, questioning whether we “needed” them or not. I knew for sure, at this moment, that things could go south quickly. So I took a deep breath, forced a smile and replied “Maybe you’re right”.
Upon entering the store, I bumped into an acquaintance and believed that a quick hello would not suffice, so I motioned for my husband to begin shopping without me. The conversation I was now engaged in was not productive as my thoughts were elsewhere. Was he dropping items from the list that he deemed unnecessary? Items that I needed for planned recipes during the week. Guilt, fear and an overall sense of anxiety were permeating my thoughts. I excused myself from the conversation and began searching for my husband in the first few isles. No sign of him. “Where could he be?” A quick text message would tell me that he was now in isle 6.
Thus, my assumptions began, Isle 6, what? How did he get to isle 6 so fast, he must have ignored the list and shopped for his preferred items?
“Hey, there you are” I smiled. “Yup, you haven’t learned to keep walking, have you?” he replied- A pointed commentary on my inability to avoid lengthy conversations at inappropriate times. Hmmm… he was right, however, we were both on guard at this point. I stated, “Honey, did you get everything on the list, geez isle 6, I think you have missed a few items” when the older couple next to us smiled as if there was a familiarity in our exchange. “Nope, got it all!” he said proudly. I suggested we return to isle 1 together and continue our “quality time”. I began filling the cart with some necessary and some unnecessary items out of spite. I could sense his agitation. “Hey, let’s split the rest of the list up and meet back at the register” He said. He must have sensed our quality time was becoming merely quantity time. When we reached the checkout, he decided to jump out of line to go back for one item he forgot. Great, I smiled, I will be right here. The checkout woman noticed the grimace on my face and acknowledged me. “Hello” I said, “I’m smiling because I have an idea for an article, you see shopping with my husband can be stressful, and I think we may need an appointment with our therapist to sort things out”….“paper or plastic” she replied grinning widely. When my husband returned carrying multiple items in his hands I giggled, “how about boxes!”
Going over the list one final time, I noticed I had left off lemons. I ran to beat the clock and return in time. When I returned to the register out of breath, the cashier laughed and my husband looked a bit guilty. “What?” I asked. She stated that he had made a similar comment about shopping together, and it was common in her line. Many couples find shopping together stressful and arguments frequently ensue. Each of us laughed, and my husband and I put the experience into perspective and continued out to the car, as if it had never happened. We decided that sometimes quantity time is actually better then quality time. You see, disagreement is a key ingredient in seeking common ground and relationships are strengthened by patience, consideration and mindfulness. Without these items remaining on “your list” shopping alone may be the only option, and then you experience neither quality nor quantity time.
Here’s a list of questions you may want to ask yourself when pondering quality time vs. quantity time:
1. How do you define quality time?
2. What are your expectations around quality time? And what are your companion’s expectations?
3. Do they align?
4. How do you distinguish between quality vs. quantity time?
5. What do you value in a relationship?
6. Are you mindful of your time?