Speaking the Love Languages: What is “Quality” Time?
Hello DL Family! Welcome to the second installment of my Speaking the Love Languages series!
When deciding which Love Language to begin with, I decided on Quality Time as it is, in my opinion, one of the easiest ones to understand, and one that most people recognize as quite important in their relationships. Plus, it’s tied as 1 of my 2 primary Love Languages.
By the way, if you haven’t read the introductory article in this series, “The Myth of the In-Love Experience,” you should probably do that first for some background.
What Makes “Quality” Time?
“I mean giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television together. When you spend time that way, Netflix or HBO has your attention — not your spouse.”
While I appreciate this advice to some extent, I have to disagree with this on the premise of something a friend of mine once called “passive company.” Passive company refers to the feelings of companionship and the bonding experience that occurs when you and another person simply co-exist together in the same space for periods of time.
Sharing space in silence is something I’ve spent a lot of time doing. As someone who’s sat in university libraries with friends in silence, writing papers, chatting rarely and only briefly; as someone who’s been on long roadtrips with family and close friends where hours are spent in contented quiet on the highway; I can attest to the bonding power of passive company.
Feeling comfortable enough to simply be, offering nothing and asking for nothing, with another person for periods of time is the reason I don’t believe Chapman’s assertion that “it isn’t enough to just be in the same room with someone.” Sometimes it is. Especially for those of us who struggle with mental health, sometimes there is nothing as nice as just knowing that your partner or friend is just as content with you as you are with them, just as you are.
Chapman does get it very right when he says:
“What happens on the emotional level is what matters. Our spending time together in a common pursuit communicates that we care about each other, that we enjoy being with each other, that we like to do things together.”
Dialect #1: Quality Conversation
One of the 2 “dialects” of the Quality Time Love Language is Quality Conversation. Quality Conversation boils down to feeling love through a sense that one feels able to, and does, share everything openly with their partner and, importantly, that their partner does the same in return. It’s the feeling that you really know and understand your partner, and that your partner really knows and understands you.
Quality Conversation involves what Chapman calls sympathetic dialogue, which occurs when “2 individuals share their experiences, thoughts, feelings, and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context.”
Chapman offers the following advice on how to practice sympathetic dialogue:
- Make eye contact and pay attention to body language
- Your attention should be undivided and you must refuse to interrupt
- If you’re unsure, summarize what you heard to confirm you understood. This also communicates that you’re actively listening.
Where the trust in a relationship is really cemented for me personally, however, is the love I feel when a friend or a partner regularly shares their lives, their stories, and their feelings with me. I know my best friend trusts me with everything and that makes my trust in her stronger, too.
That’s why Chapman points out that it’s important to be mindful and aware of your own emotions so you can share them with Quality Conversers. “We are influenced by our personality,” Chapman reminds us, “but not controlled by it.”
Dialect #2: Quality Activities
The second dialect of the the Quality Time Love Language is Quality Activities, which “include anything in which one or both of you have an interest. The emphasis is not on what you are doing but on why you are doing it. The purpose is to experience something together.”
This dialect essentially communicates love through shared experiences - maybe that’s a regular farmer’s market trip on Sundays, going traveling, or attending important events like weddings or doctor’s appointments.
As a fluent speaker of Quality Time, I draw a lot of my sense of love from the shared activities and experiences I’ve had with close friends, family, and with partners. Not to mention, Chapman hits the nostalgic nail on the head when he points out that “one of the by-products of quality activities is that they provide a memory bank from which to draw in the years ahead.”
What it comes down to for speakers of the Quality Time Love Language is that, as Chapman points out, “time is a precious commodity.” Choosing to spend significant amounts of time and mental energy on one person, when there are a thousand other things in the world to do, is a big deal for us.
“And where do we find time for such activities, especially if both of us have vocations outside the home? We make time, just as we make time for lunch and dinner. Why? Because it is just as essential to our [relationships] as meals are to our health.”
Try not to see your Quality Time speaking partner as necessarily needy. Their priorities are just different because of course they prioritize the things and the people whom they love as often as they possibly can. (That being said, even Quality Timers might need Quality Time alone by themselves, too. Always make time for self-love!)
Whether or not Quality Time is one of your primary Love Languages, never underestimate the volumes that simply spending time with your loved ones can speak.