Name something that can help you have a long-lasting, thriving marriage. I’ll give you a moment to run through the usual answers… communication, working through conflict, intimacy, yadda, yadda, yadda. The one you’re looking for is…
Spending time alone.
You might crave it and don’t get enough of it. Perhaps your spouse craves alone time and you don’t understand it. This can be a landmine in relationships, but it doesn’t have to be. Talking about and understanding each other’s need for alone time can make your relationship better.
Here’s why spending time alone is good for your marriage.
Opportunity to nurture your own interests.
Not every couple shares all the same interests. While it’s important to share some interests, it’s also okay that you have some you don’t share. Don Cole, Master Counselor for the Gottman Institute, says it’s more important that couples support their partner’s interests as opposed to feeling obligated to share interests. These interests are part of what makes you the person your honey fell in love with.
My wife likes to complete jigsaw puzzles—big ones. Me—not so much. Jigsaw puzzles help to keep her mind sharp, provides her recreation, it’s peaceful and gives her a sense of joy to complete. All these things make her an even better spouse. I’m not a fan of jigsaw puzzles, so when I try to help, we quickly realize that the joy is absent. She’d still be stuck on 500-piece puzzles if she didn’t have some alone time to nurture that interest. Instead, 10,000 piece puzzles have become the norm.
As long as spending time together is a priority, making space for alone time may help you develop a stronger sense of who you are which will increase the intimacy the two of you share.
Leisure and Relaxation.
Everyone needs time to sit and do nothing or enjoy activities which aren’t stressful or taxing to the brain. Not having to worry about attending to kids and letting go of the expectations others may have of you, unwinding, and being carefree, even if it’s just for an hour, can make you a better partner. Research suggests that leisure and relaxation help you have a clearer mind that is better able to think positively and make good decisions.
Yes, relaxing with your spouse is great. Sometimes what is relaxation for one is work for the other. (Can you say “jigsaw puzzle?”) Taking alone time to relax can recharge you. You’ll be better able to respond to your spouse as the two of you work through everyday life.
Parental burnout, similar to professional burnout, is a real thing according to the research. (You’re thinking, I didn’t need research to tell me that.) Parental burnout can cause you to become irritable, exhausted, and less tuned-in to your kids much less your spouse. It strips the joy from your relationships when you constantly feel like you’re living for others and not taking time to get recharged.
When you need time alone, it’s not your family that’s the problem. The need to recharge and give your body some energy to work with is real.
Growing more comfortable in your own skin.
It’s easy to subconsciously fall into a space where you need the approval of others, particularly your spouse. While it’s good and sometimes necessary to get affirmation or validation for your thoughts and perspectives, you shouldn’t rely on your spouse exclusively for validation.
Spending time alone is good for your marriage because it can help you be more self-aware, and clarify emotions and desires. This helps you guard against becoming reliant on your spouse or anyone else for your self-worth.
Alone with your thoughts.
I’ve had lots of conversations where my thoughts were expressed before they were anywhere near being fully developed. (Introverts can relate to this all too well.) When this happens, you feel like you’re only sharing a part of yourself without the whole story. Getting alone with your thoughts sometimes becomes the key to you being understood. They don’t get interrupted by the spontaneous needs of all those wonderful people living with you who desire your attention.
Alone time is a great opportunity to just be in the moment and collect your thoughts. It’s great for dreaming, planning, being grateful, etc. Not for negative thoughts which can build resentment, but helpful thoughts that can move you toward better understanding yourself, your spouse, and those around you.
See your partner with fresh eyes.
Being away from your partner for some alone time can help you appreciate the greatness of your partner. We can take one another for granted when we’re always working on something for one another or the family. A walk, a nice drive, or some exercise can do wonders in helping your perception of your spouse improve. As research indicates, as your perception of your spouse improves, the relationship is likely to improve as well. Some alone time may be exactly what’s needed to see your spouse with the right eyes.
Spending time alone is not a bad thing. If you become obsessed with spending time apart from your spouse, then there may be some marital issues to address. However, taking some time to invest in you may make you more fun and engaging to your spouse and help you be the person you want to be in your marriage.
Talking and agreeing with one another about the need for some alone time can strengthen your marriage in amazing ways! Explore it!
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***