Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Together and Apart - Stephen Martin

Like every married couple, you and your partner will have to wrestle with how much is enough togetherness — and what constitutes too much. There are as many answers to this question as there are marriages. Your agreement on this subject is also likely to change over the course of your marriage, as each of your individual needs and the needs of your family shift.

Problems arise when you and your partner disagree about the right balance of togetherness and separateness in your marriage. Take heart — very few couples begin in the same camp on this issue. What successful couples know is that the balance of togetherness and separateness is an issue they must keep on the table for ongoing discussion and compromise throughout their marriage.

Feelings of loneliness can also indicate another, more personal, problem that results from not liking your own company. If this is true of you and you haven't yet come to terms with your dilemma by going to individual therapy or taking other constructive steps, there is a danger that you will project your unconscious feelings of poor self worth onto your partner; in other words, you may believe he doesn't love you when in fact the problem is that you don't love you. At the base of loneliness is poor self-esteem.


Good self-esteem in both partners is the essential foundation for a healthy marriage. By combining two insufficient halves you do not get a whole. Only two whole people can form a happy, emotionally healthy relationship.

The Joys of Solitude

Loneliness stems from facing uncomfortable feelings that you may not be able to avoid when no one else is around to distract you from them. Solitude, on the other hand, is being comfortable with oneself. It is a time to relish your own thoughts and your own experiences. Solitude can be a time for self-renewal, for generating new ideas, for meditating on personal goals, and for creating a course for the future. It is in solitude that personal creativity occurs.

People who do not understand solitude tend to fear it. The belief is that in solitude you are alone and lonely. Partnering is a wonderful way to grow and develop the side of you that needs interaction with other humans, but solitude is just as valuable and just as rewarding. Solitude may need to be scheduled if you find yourself driven and too busy. Without time for self, the batteries run down and the light begins to fade. Just as we need solitude, people also need companionship.

Everything in life requires balance to be healthy. Balance provides us with the harmony we need to be emotionally healthy. However, it is also true that when many people are with others, they are not getting or giving enough of themselves to experience true intimacy. Solitude is essential for healthy human development, but so is real intimacy with real sharing. It is in the mix that people, and especially those attempting to make marriage work, find optimum opportunity.

With such busy lives, it's equally important to schedule time for solitude and time to be together with your committed partner. Many couples do this best by sharing a common adult interest that they do regularly together, be it golf, the symphony, motorcycle riding, or birding. This is not the same as attending children's sporting activities or recitals together as that falls into the category of family time. The important thing about couple togetherness is to make sure this time is solely about sharing something you enjoy doing as a couple. Make it fun for both of you; then it will be easy to keep it up as a habit for life.

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