We all know that one couple that seems to do everything together. You know the one. They share every leisure activity, and rarely, if ever, does one partner make plans that don’t involve the other. Maybe you see this in your best friend’s relationship, maybe in a relative’s relationship, or maybe in your own!
Maintaining a sense of emotional closeness with your partner is important; it is one of the major pillars of a healthy intimate relationship. That being said, you can have too much of a good thing. Dr. David Olson’s Circumplex Model research demonstrates that a healthy relationship requires a balance of togetherness and separateness. Closeness is important, but so is maintaining your own sense of identity and independence.
Here are some tips for achieving an appropriate balance between “I” and “We”:
- Make new friends, and keep the old.
- Sometimes when people enter a serious relationship or get married, they let other friendships fall by the wayside. Just as it takes work to maintain a marriage, friendships also require an effort. Nurture existing friendships, and keep yourself open to making new connections.
- Get to know yourself.
- Spend time by yourself—and try to relish it! Do things that you enjoy, whether that is jogging, going for a walk, reading, or watching your favorite TV show (maybe that one that your partner doesn’t like). Explore new places on your own. Reflect on what’s on your mind and record your thoughts in a journal.
- Pick up an old hobby — or find a new one.
- Perhaps you used to be into crafting or photography or gardening, but life got busy, and you just can’t seem to find the time anymore. Make the time! You may have forgotten how much enjoyment or stress relief the activity provides you. Or discover a new hobby by taking a class, either alone or with friends.
- Talk about it.
- In a previous blog post, we talked about the importance of assertive communication. If you or your partner are feeling unbalanced in terms of your time spent together and apart, talk to each other about how you feel and what kinds of adjustments you’d like to try to make.
Know that spending time apart does not mean you are decreasing the overall closeness in your relationship. When a strong emotional connection already exists, you and your partner are able to pursue your own separate interests and endeavors to help each of you grow individually, while still feeling supported by your partner and confident in your relationship.