Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn: How much time apart should a couple who live together have per week? I’m trying to gauge the healthy amount of togetherness and quality time as opposed to time apart with friends, family, and weekend overnights away from each other.
Gauging Time Apart
Some people don’t need any, and some can barely live with another person. There’s no “should” here.
At least, there isn’t one with respect to an amount of time.
There’s a towering “should” when it comes to listening to each other’s needs, respecting them and (this is huge) not taking them personally. Or, set of shoulds:
You should be honest about what you need, should encourage your partner to do the same, and should make an effort to find an amount of togetherness that feels right to you both — which includes being willing to yield a bit instead of pushing just for what you want, and being able to recognize when yielding has become caving and to say enough is enough.
And if you can’t get to this point for whatever reason, you should think carefully about whether you two are truly compatible.
How some other couples handle it:
▪ After we got engaged, we made an agreement that we would leave each other alone once a week — he’d have an activity or class, say, on Monday nights, and I’d have mine Saturday afternoons. It works great, gives us “me” time, and we’re not in each other’s hair all the time.
▪ There’s also a difference between “being together” and “doing something together” — and each person’s tolerance/appreciation for those two modes can be different. I can read a book while my girlfriend watches TV, sitting side-by-side on the couch, and we have a very slow conversation over a couple of hours. But that’s not for everyone.
▪ This will most likely change throughout the course of your relationship. For us, we aimed for no more than one social night completely apart a week when first married, but often we would get home late five to six nights a week due to gym/happy hour/social time. When I got pregnant, I encouraged my husband to go out with friends much more because I was no longer able to drink or stay awake past 9. It became a twice-a-week thing where he’d come home after my bedtime. When the kid got here, he only went out with friends once a month. Our alone time now happens in much smaller chunks.
▪ My partner of 15 years (wife for three) and I spend most of our time together. It works for us because it is what we both want. When we are at dinner, sometimes we realize there is nothing to talk about, but silence doesn’t bother us. Asking if we should be having “deep” conversations usually sparks one.
▪ My husband and I have lived together since 2010, and here’s a standard (that’s also a run-on sentence): If we have no new information to tell each other about, and dinner is an exercise in numb boredom, then we’ve spent far too much time up in each other’s business, and we need to detach and have some solo adventures so we have things to talk about.
Ha, I love this. Thanks, everyone.
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