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The Astonishing Benefit of Being Alone in a Relationship

Woman alone looking at oceanMAUDE: The other day, Phil went down to LAX to meet with his sister, who was traveling through LA on her way back to the UK. In talking afterward, I shared that it was really a different and very pleasurable experience to be alone in the house all day. This was no reflection on how great it is to have Phil around. He and I are lucky to have a large space and often are in different parts of the house for hours at a time. Rather, it was a comment on today’s blog topic: we all need time alone with ourselves.

Just as it is important to have new experiences within relationships, it is just as important to have new experiences with yourself; to explore, check in, play and refresh. This gives you energy and makes it all the more possible to be with others; to be deeply in relationship and to bring more of yourself to the table. It’s not just the process of getting to know yourself, but is also about experiencing yourself.

There is a peace and sense of calm you can acquire by spending time with yourself, that cannot be replaced by any other kind of activity. For me, it is critical to my sense of well being. And yet often, people do not give enough time or recognition to this part of life.

When this kind of self relating doesn’t occur or happens too infrequently, resentment often builds up that causes potential estrangements and distance in a relationship. One or the other partner may start to feel claustrophobic and feel they need breathing room. This can lead to the misinterpretation that the relationship is suffocating or infringing on too much personal space.

There is an easy solution, and one which should be created long before either partner gets to this point. Just as it is important to make sure you create time to really be with each other, it is just as important to build in time alone. Time that is pleasurable. Time that is reflective. Time that brings you closer to your true self.

In our interviews with couples, this is often cited as an area that is important to the success of a relationship. Each partnership (or any relationship, for that matter) must find a balance that is right for them.

Even in a very tiny shared living space, people have found ways to create a small area they can have for themselves and where they can be alone.

I once lived in a small two bedroom apartment, where one bedroom was occupied by my oldest child and the other was shared with me, my husband and our youngest child. I purchased a very large old oak desk and by setting it up in a corner and pushing it out from the wall, I created a space that was walled off from view and allowed privacy within the small space.

This same important factor is the reason for some couples, who are very much together, to live apart. They either move back and forth from one home to the other or meet to come together in one of the abodes. One long term couple we interviewed chose this style of being together for this very reason. They both have the need to have space for themselves and to be alone in it. They take care to create many wonderful experiences together, come together in the evenings and travel away one day every two weeks together.

Of course, you do not need to remain indoors either. Getting out into nature is a wonderful way to spend time alone, and to feel the connection we all have to the greater whole. I always return from these forays full of energy and love to share.

If you take care of yourself and take time to explore yourself, you will be able to relate more lovingly and be more available in all your relationships.

PHIL: I drove down to LAX to spend the day with my sister who was returning home through L.A. When I got back, Maude described how different it felt to be in the house alone, even though when we’re both home, we are often in separate rooms for hours at a time. I’ve had the same sense when Maude has been away taking care of the grandchildren for the weekend.

Solitude. I need it. I crave it. I am revived by it, especially in nature. I’m an introvert, and maybe other people have completely different responses.

I have two contradictory descriptions. I lose myself through the connection with everything else in the world. I also find myself because, being removed from other people, I no longer comport myself to fit in. (If you don’t think you do this, you haven’t looked closely enough.)

The apparent contradiction of losing vs. finding is because there are two different relations: one with the world, and one with other people. They both involve identity: how I see and feel about myself. Solitude is a way that I connect with my deep self and can bring that back into my relationship and society.

Like I said, I’m an introvert and you may have an entirely different balance with other people. One of the delightful aspects of Maude is that she understands and has this exact same joy about solitude. In her first marriage, she and her husband often happily spent months apart. Taking space in this way allows us to move between being together and being apart with no effort, no friction. We do this so easily because the sense of connection between us is never broken, and so never needs to be repaired. This is easy because we both feel complete in ourselves, and being together adds to us, rather than completes us. The companionship, sex and support are bonuses, not entitlements.

Many people, especially younger people, enter into a relationship expecting it to fill some deep need; not surprising because they have only just left home where they were supported throughout childhood. You have to fill that yourself through knowing yourself, and only in the silence of solitude can you hear your own voice.

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner

BookshelfThis week, we wrote about the astonishing benefit of being alone in a relationship. Here are some articles on this topic.

7 Signs Your Partner’s Need For Alone Time Is OK Vs. A Threat To Your Relationship "'There is nothing inherently wrong with alone time,' Joanna Townsend, a life coach and a Washington D.C.-based psychotherapist for Blush Online Life Coaching, tells Bustle. 'Alone time is healthy, particularly in relationships. It's imperative for recharging, re-centering, connecting with oneself, and being able to show up to the relationship fully.' It can be a really useful tool in a relationship."

7 Reasons Why You and Your S.O. Need Time Apart "Whether you’ve been in a relationship for 10 years or two weeks (or simply thinking about getting back into the game), it’s important to remember that you are a whole person and were a whole person before you became part of a team. And just because you’re in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you have to be with them 24/7. Being apart from them allows you to reset and feel comfortable being with your own company."

Great Relationships Embrace ‘We Time’ and ‘Me Time’ "You may have heard that a weekly date with your partner fosters a good relationship. Do you also make sure to enjoy self-nurturing activities individually? By overdoing togetherness, you can lose touch with your essential self, like Emily did long ago. When this happens, you might sense something amiss in your relationship, such as the absence of romance and fun. You might feel discouraged or blame your partner."


Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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