A question: Is it healthy for couples to spend time apart?
My husband has been away on a three-week trip for work, literally on the other side of the world. We’ve never been apart this long during our ten years together.
By Tara Mohr
I love my husband. He’s the most amazing man. I’ve missed him a lot. And when he gets home, I’m going to suggest to him that every couple years, we spend a few weeks apart.
1. Real Connection
During his time away, I started to think about the difference between blending and connecting. Connecting is, by definition, what happens when two different entities meet.
Over many years together, we—like so many other couples—had slipped into a mode of blending or merging—each person’s preferences and routines and being blurred with the other’s. This is comfortable, but it isn’t exciting, and it actually precludes connection. Think about it: two things that are blended together quite literally cannot connect.
During our time apart, both he and I re-centered in ourselves as individuals, laying the foundation for connection.
2. The People We Love
I got to see anew just how fabulous my friends are. I expected that I would spend more time with them while my husband was away, but I surprised to find that our time together was much higher quality than usual, because I was bringing more attention and energy to it.
As my husband travelled, he nurtured relationships and made new friends as well. This makes me very happy. I know from the scientific research that strong social bonds enhance not only happiness but also health and longevity. Of course I want all of that for him.
Plus, the stronger his friendships, the more I get to be me. The stronger my friendships, the more he gets to be himself. I can do art with my art buddies and he can go see Avatar with someone who actually wants to see it. When we aren’t looking to one another fill all of our social needs, we appreciate each other for who we are. We can connect rather than blend.
3. We See Unconscious Compromises
I knew I had made many unconscious compromises as my husband and I had lived a shared daily life for ten years, and I wanted to see what those were. When would I want to go to bed? When would I wake up? Would I spend my time differently? Would I be more focused or less? How would my mood be different?
I did end up getting on a different schedule, eating different foods, changing my workout patterns, and feeling much more independent. I rediscovered some of my own rhythms. Now I get to decide what I want to tweak in my routine going forward.
4. We Remembered How to…
My husband and I reject traditional gendered roles as much as possible, but we also specialize in tasks at home. He’s in charge of all things electronic, I’m in charge of all things social (sadly stereotypical, I know). I do groceries, he does mail. Etcetera.
Living alone, I did it all. (The cosmos itself seems to be very supportive of this project, since every time my husband boards a plane, a fuse blows, the modem commits mysterious acts, or the car begins roaring when in reverse. I deal. Well, I panic and then I deal.)
It’s important that I actually know what to do when these kinds of things happen. It’s quite lovely to feel like (or even be, perhaps) an autonomous adult. And it is important to me personally to know that my husband is my husband, not my husband/mechanic/IT support. Which brings me to my next point.
5. We Both Know We’d Be Just Fine
Because I feel so good when I’m around my husband, because he brings a lot of happiness into my life, I can understand how my brain concludes that if he weren’t there, I wouldn’t—or couldn’t—feel good. But I learned (and I wasn’t sure after ten years of coupled living) that’s I’m a very happy, well-functioning individual on my own. I am also very in love with my husband, a man who makes me very happy. Both are true. I don’t want to bring a spirit of needing or dependence into my relationship, so for me, knowing that I am just fine on my own is important.
So yes, I am recommending that if all this strikes a chord in you, you set up some intentional time apart from your darling. (And if you are someone whose partner is frequently away, what about consciously trying to use that time to strengthen yourself and the relationship?)
Yup, It Is A Little Scary
If you are feeling a little nervous about intentional time apart, I think that’s pretty normal. After all, it does entail leaving the familiar. Perhaps you are worried that one of you will conclude that time apart was better than time together. Maybe this just seems like dangerous rocking the boat. But on the other hand, this is your life. Aren’t you curious to see what is revealed when you shake things up?
You can use everything you learn (yes, absolutely everything) to make your relationship better. Just hold that as your intention, don’t get into blame, and use all your fabulous communication skills in the debrief discussions.
Up for it? Is time apart good for a relationship?
About The Author:
Tara Mohr writes about simple, compassionate, beautiful living at www.wiselivingblog.com. She loves poets, oceans, San Francisco cafes and the sound of 5 a.m.
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