Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Just being there

Well once again I'm afraid it's been ages since I wrote a blog! Here though, at last, is the 5th post in my series looking at the Five Love Languages - http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ This time I'll be thinking about 'Quality Time'. I've already looked at the other 4 - Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts and Physical Touch. You can find them all if you scroll back through the last few months' posts.

So what is Quality Time all about? Well it's about really being 'with' some - genuinely present, in the moment, giving them your undivided attention. It might involve doing something that they want to do although you'd rather not, or it might simply be 'doing nothing' together - that companionable silence and shared space which can be really lovely when we're comfortable with the other person.

I guess Quality Time is important to many of us in some way - none of us wants to feel like we don't matter, or that someone is looking over our shoulder to see how fast they can get away, or looking at their watch thinking about where they need to be next. Whether it's an appointment with our GP, a chat with a friend over coffee, or a meeting with our boss over an issue at work, we want to feel that the other person has got time for us, that they are genuinely present in the conversation and that they've got time for us. If we don't feel like that, but instead feel that they can't wait to get away, we'll be far less likely to say the thing that we've actually come to say, or to be honest and open.

With friendships too, this is really important. Quality Time doesn't have to be long, and it doesn't have to be all the time. It might consist of seeing someone for a day a year. It might be an hour a week. But in that time, however long and however regular, the person's time will be given completely to the other, as an act of generosity.

So Quality Time is important for many of us, but how does it specifically affect single people? It's probably more of(although not exclusively) an issue for those who don't have children and who live alone, because there just isn't someone 'there' to spend time with.

Sean Doherty, in Part 1 of his brilliant series 'The Only Way is Ethics' (Authentic, 2015) makes a brilliant point:
"Once when preaching I talked about needing deep friendships. But someone pointed out to me afterwards that depth is not enough. She had deep friendships. What she missed was someone to share shallow things with. Maybe 80 per cent of marriage is the 'shallow' stuff: emptying the dishwasher, sharing how your day went, watching a movie, knowing someone will miss you when you're away. Intimacy is built on small things."

Yes! This is so true. Sometimes as single people we find ourselves invited for 'special events' but still excluded from the mundane and day to day stuff of life. That's not meant to sound like a complaint! But it's lovely also to be invited to just hang out with people, to watch TV, to have a 'normal' tea (not just a fancy dinner party), to go for a walk, to mooch round the shops... Living alone I find I really do miss doing that 'normal' stuff with other people.

Although Quality Time is about being present it doesn't have to be intense, I don't think. Today I popped round to my friend's house to pick up some things I'm borrowing for a school assembly. I then spent an hour hanging out in her kitchen over a cuppa. During that hour she made tea for the kids, who came and went - they laughed, cuddled, argued, cried, fell out and showed me their homework. She and I had a conversation interrupted by spelling practice, sibling arguments and post-football-reports. But it was still Quality Time because I know they love me, and I'm allowed to be part of their family, and my friend wanted to hear about the important conversation I'd had earlier.

Quality Time takes a bit of effort. Sometimes we end up seeing time with friends as one more thing on our to-do list, and after a half hour chat and cuppa we can cross it off and crack on with the next job. But Quality Time is about being generous with ourselves and our time, being there for one another. It's definitely an investment worth making!

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