Then consider spending some time apart……………….
Here at Headway Psychology, we see hundreds of clients every week. Often we find that relationship issues are the cause of people’s distress. When people experience problems in their relationships, mental health tends to suffer. To the contrary, good mental health is often experienced when relationships are going well and are intact.
So, what is it about spending time away from your partner that seems to improve the relationship? There are a few theories as to why this is the case. The first is that as humans, we tend to get used to things reasonably quickly. Think about when you first met your partner. Many people report the excitement of a new relationship, commonly known as the “honeymoon” period. Unfortunately for most, it doesn’t take long before you become accustomed to the dynamics of the relationship and can start taking things for granted. If the couple takes the significant leap of moving in together, then this “habituation” can take on a new level. Some of the early excitement can disappear and be replaced by frustration, annoyance or even boredom in the relationship. Herein lies the importance of spending time apart. This can provide the spark, energy or excitement to get the relationship going.
For some couples, spending too much time together can negatively impact the relationship. We have provided services for couples who have chosen to live and work together meaning that they rarely spend time apart. No surprises that they have run into relationship trouble. For some people, spending too much time together can lead to petty arguments and conflict over even minor things. If unmanaged, it is these factors that can erode the relationship over time.
The same issue can be seen in couples that go into retirement at a similar time. There is a danger that ceasing work and spending a lot of the day together can create its own problems. This is something that newly retired couples need to think about and plan for carefully.
In some situations, the old saying, absence makes the heart grow fonder could be considered true. We are certainly not saying spend lots of time apart and invest heavily in activities or hobbies outside the relationship to the detriment of the other person or to the relationship. What we are saying is that there needs to be a balance between spending quality time together and time apart.
If you are looking to enhance the quality of your relationship this year, consider talking to your partner about spending some time away from each other to improve the way you are interacting. We believe the benefits can be seen with only a few hours apart. Consider socialising, exercising or learning separately. It’s amazing how good it can be when you come back together as a couple and share your experiences. What seems to be important is that time away can lead to new experiences or learnings that can then be shared when the couple reunite. These experiences can stimulate conversations and ultimately enhance the relationship.
Another strategy to improve your relationship dynamic is to see your partner in a different environment. It could be seeing them in a work or social environment that is different to the usual. Sometimes the experience of seeing your partner in a different context can lead to a new level of respect or appreciation. We believe the key is variety, changing things up between you and your partner to add some spice to the relationship.
The key to any of these strategies is that you need the blessing of your partner to spend some time apart. Often couples run into challenges when they don’t have this blessing. This is a really important part of engaging in a regular practice to make things between you and your partner better. After all, if your relationship is healthy, there is a good chance you’ll be in decent shape yourself, at least from a well-being perspective.
Ultimately if you want to improve something in your life, more often than not you need to work at it. Relationships are no different.
There are some good resources out there for people wanting to know more about the science behind healthy relationships. Consider having a look at The Gottman Institute, an organisation that has spent its lifetime researching and studying relationships. More can be found at https://www.gottman.com/