The trick here is to not set your expectations too high for what constitutes quality time—it can't always be served to you by black-tie waitstaff at four-star restaurants. You have to count the little in-between moments, the things that constitute a real, mature relationship. Those evenings cooking together in the kitchen when the two of you know each other so well you hardly have to speak, but every dish turns out just right? Those moments have to count. The long car rides when you have such a great conversation you can't believe you just drove 300 miles? Those have to count.
The problem with holding out for the big night out or the romantic vacation is that quality time will never live up to the expectations. Plans will fall through, the food won't be as good as you'd hoped, you'll feel guilty about spending too much money. And more importantly, from the man's perspective, it will feel more like an obligation than something he wanted to do on his own. Guys actually do count that time watching TV together as quality time, and expecting them to put on a show for it to "count" is asking for him to retreat even further.
Those little moments with your partner—the impromptu back rub while you're washing the dishes or the kiss on the cheek while the kids are hanging off his legs—those are the quality moments that make up a relationship. If you start treating them that way instead of mere downtime while you're waiting for the next, big, romantic thing, your time with your partner, in whatever shape or form, will feel much more special every day.
I knew exactly what I was doing when I pushed back against my wife after she asked me to do something differently. Sometimes we lose sight of what's important in a relationship and resort to petty point scoring. But once we took the time to talk about our issues and work on them together, it made all those differences a thing of the past.
Matt Wood is a writer living in Chicago. His work has also appeared in The Best Creative Nonfiction Vol 3, Anatomy of Baseball, Time Out Chicago and Babble. More of his work can be found at his Web site, Wood-Tang.com.