After seventeen or so years of living together and carefully examining our habits, we started to notice the importance of mode switching in relationships.
All relationships have a variety of modes. For instance, we often get caught in logistics mode. This is the mode where we become like two startup cofounders, spending our days coordinating calendars, executing on important to-dos, and thinking ahead to upcoming events, trips, and kids activities.
Then there’s parent mode. This is the mode of playing hide-and-go-seek, building Legos, and reading aloud before bed. It’s pretty different from logistics mode. And it’s often overrun by the momentum of logistics.
Then there’s intimacy mode, the most elusive mode for those of us trying to balance marriage, career, and kids. This is the mode where time drops away, where we lose ourselves in moments of deep connection. It’s pure love and the ecstatic experience of oneness.
There's only one problem. This most intimate mode in marriage can become almost impossible to find in the midst of life's chaos.
The problem is that some of these modes (especially logistics mode) have an almost irresistible momentum to them. In our interviews with couples, for instance, we heard countless stories about how, even during date night, the momentum of logistics mode took over. These couples told us that, somehow, they always ended up planning out next week's logistics instead of tearing each other‘s clothes off.
So how can you enhance your ability to switch between logistics mode and intimacy mode?
This one is a no brainer. Intimacy requires open space. It’s inefficient and unproductive. It's counter to our culture of constant doing. So in order to make it happen, we have to make time for it. We have to block it off on the calendar. In practice, this looks like scheduling a date night, a date walk, or some other time together.
We’d love to tell you that you can wave a magic wand and clear your mind of all thoughts. Unfortunately, that’s not possible. You can, however, reduce the mind wandering hangover of logistics mode by putting on paper all of those lingering to-dos and mental reminders that might be swirling through your mind. To do this, just take a moment at the end of the day or before a date night to write out all of these lingering logistical thoughts. Put them on a Post-it note or 3 x 5 card and leave it for later.
Even if you carve out time for intimacy, the momentum of logistics mode can still take over. So it’s worth starting date night or time alone together with an activity that takes you out of your head, the zone of planning and logistics, and into your body, the zone of presence. Go for a walk. Sit outside. Meditate. Pray. Do whatever you need to do to release the frenetic energy of logistics and come back to what’s actually happening right here, right now...each other.