“Where’s your husband?” is a question that I get asked at an alarmingly high frequency. People who don’t know me too well seem to find it odd that my husband isn’t always with me. It may be at a dinner, out downtown, or at the beach, and the question keeps springing up. My husband and I love our time together but we love doing our own thing, too. And it seems this is seen as something unique, or at least not usual. So it’s gotten me thinking: How much time should you spend with – or without – your partner?
It has slowly become one of those age-old relationship questions, something that you can quickly Google, or which you discuss and compare (and quietly judge) with friends and other couples. Should you be spending every available minute together? And is it OK to even think about going on a girls weekend getaway – or even just a night out?
But the answer to how much time you should spend with your significant other isn’t simple. In fact, it really has a lot of answers out there. One simple Google search on the topic reveals a plethora of opinions. It seems easy to remember, but many articles will recommend quality over quantity time together. Psych Central reminds us that “When you make a point of being together, without kids, pets and other interruptions, you will form a bond that will get you through life’s rough spots.”
But then Psychology Today has several pieces on the importance of maintaining a separate identity and life – by spending time away from your partner. Spending time apart is key to a happy marriage, these articles tell us. And then it seems that everyone knows someone who used to know an elderly couple who saw each other every single day for 50 plus years. Even my own grandparents spent as much time together as they possibly could. They were neighbors as toddlers, married in their late teens, and their longest time spent apart was when my grandfather died in his eighth decade.
So, what should you and your partner do – spend a lot of time together, or time on your own?
Really what you should do is what you both feel comfortable with, and want. For my husband and I, that means spending quite a bit of time together, because it is preferable to time apart, but also a significant amount of time spent, well not together.
Both my husband and I have placed high importance in forming a life outside of each other. I’m talking about time spent alone (just me, myself and I), or with a friend or two. It includes seeing a movie, having dinner, going out to a bar or club without the other one. It can even mean going to what would typically be a couples outing by ourselves, or with a friend, either because one of us didn’t want to go, or would rather do something else. Time spent without each other can also mean doing things we love: reading, hiking, or a small day trip all alone. Oh, and even traveling solo – my husband pranced around London without me, I went hiking in Costa Rica without him; he cycled around the United Kingdom, and I lazed my way in the Orkney Isles. We even plan our own thing while we are home together. He’s a gamer, so while he plays, I read, or watch a favorite movie.
Now don’t run away with the idea that we are constantly apart. The vast majority of evenings and weekends are spent together, and we both work from home. So a lot – and I mean a lot – of time is together. But as both of us are introverts and thrive off of our alone time, we decided to carve out time just for ourselves, to use however we want. And that’s key for our mental, emotional, and marital health.
So read the advice from the experts and try following it if you want, but especially if you feel overwhelmed in your marriage. If you already know you want to spend as much time as possible with your partner, and you are both happy, then don’t change a thing. If not, give going out without your partner a chance – either solo, or with friends. Take a day trip to the beach or mountains with no kids, no husband, no wife, maybe with no one. You may find out that you really, really hate it, or it may become something that you love doing every once and awhile.
The key? Do what feels natural. If you aren’t sure what that is, then now is the time to figure it out by talking with your partner, and trying out different schedules and activities. Why? Because a happier you makes you a better partner within your relationship, which in turn creates a relationship that much more satisfying. Now excuse me, I’m getting ready for an outing with a friend. And yes, my husband is staying home.
PHOTO BY ABBIE REDMON