After we put our kids to bed, we used to watch House Hunters while mindlessly scrolling our phones. And it drove me crazy.

I used to be hurt when our “couple time” was the opposite of what you’d call quality. My love languages are 100% in the quality time and words corner, and after we put the kids to bed, I wouldn’t feel the love when we ended our day basically ignoring each other.

Life is exhausting. Kids are exhausting.

I get that.

A study found nearly 13% of parents have experienced “high burnout” and I feel every part of that.

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Just this weekend, we had a playdate, coached a soccer game, went to a birthday party, hosted for the football game, attended our church’s fall festival, and had dinner at a friend’s house. Sprinkled in between was whining and complaints, baking cake for the festival, homework assignments, and meal shopping and prepping.

On weekdays, my husband adds regular work trips and some 10-hour days to the mix. After the kids are in bed, needless to say, our energy is completely wrung out.

Still, despite the exhaustion, I felt a little slighted when we checked out at night rather than playing a game or chatting over eye contact.

Ten years in, though, I’m coming to realize how much we both just need to chill and recharge after exhausting days in our own ways.

Most couples end their days watching something, but we have polar opposite interests in television so even enjoying a show together feels like an impossible feat. He’s into Game of Thrones and thinks This Is Us is nauseating. Bless him.

A while back, I talked to a friend about their nightly routine. Her husband was in an online grad school program and also worked at a job that meant some nights away.

When he was home, many nights he read his textbook on the couch while she watched the shows she enjoyed. Other nights she’d read a book for her mom’s group while he watched his shows to relax. Always in the same room sitting by each other but relaxing and getting caught up in their own ways.

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That got me thinking. Maybe we didn’t need to spend all our free time doing everything together just because we were married. By doing our own things at night and keeping up with the things we love, we could better be the people we were when we got married.

This revelation has been huge for me.

Changing my mindset about the after-bedtime routine having to be our peak QT hours has done wonders. Neither of our strongest hours is from 8-10 p.m. (is anyone’s, really?) and expecting them to be our strongest time to connect was unfair.

Now, I’m more content doing our separate things together, i.e. reading or catching up on blogging or laundry while he watches Game of Thrones. Giving him the grace to do his thing has given me the freedom to fill my cup however I see fit.

Sometimes quality time can mean having time to yourselves. And maybe that’s OK.

Because here’s the thing. None of us marry our personality twin and marrying our interest twin would be boring. Sure, my husband and I both like to watch college football and hang with friends, but other than that, our interest compatibility, except for our faith and kids, is pretty polar opposite (did I mention This is Us?).

As we get further along, I’m learning our differences have challenged me to grow. When I’ve tried his things: fishing, politics, shows (GOT is still a no), etc., I appreciate them in a new light and have more respect for the things he’s passionate about.

I’m very proud to say after starting at season one, episode one (because what’s a show if you don’t know the character drama) 10 years in, we’ve finally found a show we both agree on after bedtime!

If you’re struggling to find a way to unwind together, try one new activity after the kids are in bed. Maybe you’re one of those crazy couples who have the energy to work out at night. Or try meal prepping for the week or switching who picks the show.

If you’re a QT-loving person who needs phone-off time, say that. Schedule that. But don’t expect it at 9 p.m.

Your marriage is not on the rocks if one of you is in crazy, lunch-packing and uniform-hemming mode while the other needs to sit on the couch and check out over HGTV.

If you and your spouse need to unwind in different ways or even in different rooms (yeah, I said that), maybe you’ll wake up even stronger for it.

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Ashley Stevens

Ashley Stevens is a speaker, writer, wife, and mother of three. While serving as a campus missionary shortly after getting engaged, she was T-boned by a Mack truck and nearly lost her life. They got married on the one-year anniversary of the accident to redeem the day and she writes to encourage those whose life isn't going according to plan at www.mountainsunmoved.com.