Stephanie Sieberhagen
Psychologist

Relationship Specialist

Dr Steph's blog

Time apart - a fine balance

Posted by stephaniesieberhagen@gmail.com on April 5, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Friends of ours seperated recently. It is always a heart-breaking event filled with much analysis and regret on both sides. If only we had... Maybe if we... If only I...

Not to over-simplify their situation - relationships (especially long standing ones) are complex, but today I would like to focus on one element that caused a crack in their commitment toward each other. Four years ago they had a son. To try and maintain their finances and general well-being, they fell into the habit of splitting responsibilities: one would work/ shop/ sleep while the other looked after their son and then they would swop. After four years of this - they had grown apart.

This scenario always makes me think of a trip to the mall. You and your partner have a list - you have to go to several different shops. Do you tackle it together or split the list to get through the experience as efficiently as possible?

Life is like that, we often share out the tasks to get them done faster or to give someone a rest. This can work really well up to a point, but red flags should be going up if this has become a habit for you and your loved one.I have had some fun times in shopping centres: giggling in the vegetable isle; flirting with an elderly man as he ponders which deodorant to choose or having a fat chat while queueing for the cashiers. Sharing this with your partner can be a bonding experience that lightens your day and gives you something to laugh about later. Or sometimes it can just be boring - that happens too.

Always splitting can lead to splitting - corny but true.

On the flip side of the coin - doing everything together can really cramp your style. You are part of a partnership, but you are also an individual. Every relationship has its compromises and over time we learn to forget the compromises we now make without even thinking about them. But deep down, there are ways of being in the world that you simply cannot access when you are always a two-some and never ever have time to just be by yourself or spend time with your friends without your plus-one. 

When we have breaks from each other, we have time to rediscover ourselves or just to have the luxury of indulging in little habits that are subtly different from when the whole family is home. Maybe it is as simple as the way you like to eat or the shows you like to watch. Maybe you find that when you hang out with your firends, the topics are a bit different from when you see them together.

The big red flag here is when you love your 'own time' so much, that you resent it when the other one joins you again. If that happens, you have to take a serious look at your relationship communication, commitment and trust issues. Look hard, because if you play out the resentment game, it may not end well.

So there is your challenge - talk to your partner about doing things together and doing things on your own. I bet you will find they have been thinking about it too.

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