Thursday, October 25, 2012

4 Ways Time Apart Can Improve Your Relationship - Emily Southwood

How much time do you spend with your significant other? Are you together every night? Or do you do lots of things separately? Do you share the same hobbies? What about friends? We’ve all heard the cliché that absence makes the heart grow fonder. But is this really good relationship sense or just a hackneyed idiom? I’ve always had a hunch that a little distance is good for a union.

Recently my husband has been considering a job that would take him away for the better part of the summer. It always makes me sad to think about being away from him, but truthfully it’s nothing new for us. We were apart for two years during grad school and it’s not unfamiliar that hubby’s job as a cinematographer takes him on the road. Consequently, we’ve come to our own conclusions about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to distance. Any longer than three weeks and we both grow impatient; a month is definitely too long. But much as I hate to be away from my guy, not to mention my bed-warmer, there are reasons why I believe it’s good for us in the long run.

So in the spirit of seeing the glass half full, here are four ways that spending some time apart has improved my relationship. And why a little space could be a good thing for yours too.


In my relationship, there is no question that a little distance leads to hot nookie. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the details. But we’re not the only ones who’ve discovered this trick for keeping the sparks alive. Esther Perel, relationship expert and author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic, believes that too much time together is a serious passion killer. We all know how sexy picking up someone’s socks is. In her words: “…longing springs from distance,” and “…proximity can kill sex faster than fainting.” Wow, that’s fast. Now, I’m not necessarily recommending separate mortgages (I hear those are actually a buzz kill) but whether you take a day, week or month, it’s good for the libido to miss your mate.


Just as having common interests are important to a relationship, it’s often advised that having your own passions is equally so. This is also a tip I’ve taken from my parents who’ve been married for 38 years and have always maintained their own hobbies. For my dad, that’s model railroading; for mom, doing more yoga than the Dalai Lama. They’re both retired now with ample time for such things. But sometimes in the day-to-day bustle we forget to prioritize the things we love. Having a bit of time alone can remind you of the activities you gravitate to, whether it’s ballet, baking or tennis. I recently took back up horseback riding after not doing it for ten years. It’s reminded me that there actually is somebody I love almost as much as my husband. His name is William and he weighs about 1000 pounds.


If you are in a relationship, and especially if you’re living together, you’ll remember a time when you were on your own. Whether you lived alone or had roommates, most gals these days have lived independently at some point. We’ve paid the rent and the phone bills and hopefully not dealt with too much plumbing. Personally, I have come to depend on my man for several things. And while I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing—I’ll happily never install a light fixture again—sometimes it’s good to remember that I can do these things. Or at least call someone who can.


Who hasn’t experienced those times when your primary relationship takes up so much of your time that you realize it’s been weeks (months?) since you saw Sarah, Jen or Kim? It often happens at the beginning of relationships that we disappear into the duo bubble, but sometimes the cumulative effects over time can be just as friend alienating. And I can only imagine how that can multiply with time devoted to kids. Since I moved to a new city to be with my man, and was then saddled with lots of alone time, I was forced to branch out and meet new friends. But I’m grateful for the kick-start actually. There can be a lot of pressure on our one-and-only-true-loves to meet all of our emotional needs. But taking some time apart always reminds me of the importance of friendships and not relying entirely on your primary union.

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