Scrabble saved my relationship

ALONE TOGETHER: This counts as quality time, right?
ALONE TOGETHER: This counts as quality time, right?

A couple of days ago, I was searching Stuff's image database for a picture of Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds to go with this story.

Of the 2851 hits I got for Johansson, guess how many showed her with her now ex-husband? Zero.

Al Gore, yes. Diana Ross, yes. But Ryan Reynolds? Nowhere to be seen.

It's no surprise, then, that Johansson blames their breakup on spending too much time apart.

As any self-help aficionado will tell you, communication is the key to a good relationship. How many times have you read an advice column and screamed "Tell him/her that!"

Talking is crucial, and I don't think any amount of texting, emailing or Skyping can come close to an honest, direct, face-to-face discussion.

However. There's something else that, in my opinion, is absolutely vital in any healthy relationship. I like to call it Fake Quality Time (FQT, henceforth).

FQT is the time you spend ostensibly with your partner but actually, secretly, not with them at all. You're in the same room, so you have the security of their presence. You might even be talking to them. But in your head, you're enjoying blissful, pressure-free alone time.

The best example, and the medium through which most couples meet their daily FQT quota, is TV.

Curled up on the couch with your significant other, you can let your mind wander at will. You can go half an hour without talking if you feel like it, without that horrible panic you feel when, for example, you find yourself sitting across from him in a restaurant with nothing to say. ("What's wrong with us? Why isn't he talking? Why aren't I talking? Are we one of those boring couples we used to make fun of?" etc.)

Even if you do talk, it's along the lines of "I can't believe Andrea got eliminated! Matt's dish was way worse! Guinness and liquorice? It's a travesty!"

And as you agree over these very minor things, which aren't connected to your relationship at all, you quietly cement your bond.

Personally, I get my FQT by playing Scrabble, something that we do at least three or four times a week.

This is partly because I love it (I may or may not have earnestly described it as "the ultimate freedom" the other day), and partly because the only channels we get are One and Prime, and Masterchef comes but once a week.

It serves the same purpose as TV - you sit there quietly, shuffling your tiles around, occasionally making pleasant remarks like "I hope you don't have the Q, because I've really opened up this triple word score, ho ho ho".

It's also good when you want to slyly steer the conversation around to certain topics, seemingly by accident. ("Are there one or two Rs in 'marriage', honey?")

But mostly, it's a way to cope with the (let's face it) quite bizarre nature of human relationships, whereby you spend 20-odd years merrily going through life with no knowledge that the other person exists, and then suddenly find yourself spending every moment glued to their side.

If only someone had told Scarlett and Ryan to dust off the Scrabble set before it was too late, eh?

How do you and your partner get your FQT?