Couple Counselling Blog

Improve Your Relationship by Spending Time Apart

Don’t foster your relationship at the risk of losing yourself – Improve your relationship by spending time apart

Q. What’s the secret to achieving a long marriage?

A. The successful couple make sure they go out twice each week: a little candlelight dinner, soft music, and a slow-walk back home.

The Mrs. goes Tuesdays; He goes Fridays.

Okay, so the secret to a long and successful marriage described above is just a joke…. But it’s actually not such a crazy idea.

Research by psychologists and sociologists suggest that a relationship can be strengthened by time spent apart – whether literally/physically or figuratively. This is because couples who are too intertwined and co-reliant, become overly dependent on each other – they risk losing their own sense of identity and their own capacity to function outside of the relationship.

Of course, being emotionally connected to your partner, wanting to spend time together, enjoying shared activities, none of this is bad – indeed, it helps to achieve intimacy which is one of the foundations of a successful relationship. But be careful that whilst you are creating this deep connection with your partner, that you don’t lose sight of who you are.

So why is co-dependence so unhealthy in a relationship?

Co-dependence is problematic, because over time, it can have a negative affect on your social life and your working life. It can lessen your interest in other activities or other people, and most significantly, reduce your self-esteem and sense of self. It can also have a devastating effect on the individual if their relationship breaks up or their partner passes away. Children can also place an immense strain on a relationship where the parties are too deeply embedded and emotionally reliant on each other, because the relationship simply doesn’t have space for another (in this case, the child).

Below are some indicators of when you and your partner might be overly co-dependent:

– Do you have trouble making decisions on your own?
– Do you hate being on your own?
– Do you have your own set of friends? Do you see them without your partner?
– Do you have your own hobbies?
– Do you make much opportunity to engage in life separate to your partner?

So what can you do to be more independent of your relationship? Here are some practical strategies that will help you achieve improved independence, greater resilience and a stronger sense of self:

– Take time to develop your own hobbies or engage in your own activities
– Cultivate your own friendships
– Spend time at home alone
– Encourage (or don’t discourage) time spent physically apart, e.g. work trips or the odd separate holiday

And maybe go out to dinner solo once in a while… You might find that the experience is liberating and confidence boosting – and you might just be super excited to rush home to your partner and tell him or her all about it!


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