Marriage requires serious accountability to each other in order to last. This is why we are wary of advice to spend time away from each other as if that alone will improve our relationship. Perfectly valid solo activities can be chosen for the wrong reasons, particularly when the reason is avoiding my spouse.
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Jen: Having individual interests and activities isn’t wrong. I enjoy spending time at my sewing machine or chilling out watching a show while crocheting. Nick enjoys kicking back with his guitar or spending time playing Dungeons and Dragons. Once again, doing these things separate from one another is not wrong. We have different interests and can spend time doing them without injuring our relationship. My chosen alone-time can even be nurturing to my mental and physical health. For instance, spending some wind-down time at the end of a workday with yarn in my hands can reset my brain and put me in a better place to listen to Nick. It can drag me out of work and put me back in the present moment of our relationship.
Nick: Yet even the most innocent activity can become a stumbling block if I go into it with the wrong attitude. When Jen and I haven’t made a point of assuring we are on the same page, it colors the individual activities I’m involved in. I could be helping a friend and at the same time stewing over a disconnect with Jen. It’s easy to justify myself – after all, I’m doing good, so doesn’t that make up for putting Jen’s needs to the side for the moment? Similarly, if I’m taking some downtime and I’m really at odds with Jen, what should be a good experience ends up being soured by my awareness that Jen and I are not connected. This creates traps of resentment – where I can resent that my preoccupation with her ruined the activity or she could resent that I’m taking part in it when there’s such an obvious elephant in the room.
Instead of looking at time alone as the absence that makes our hearts grow fonder, we try to flip that on its head and think of “me” time as earned by being connected first. Being on the same page creates the harmony we need to be more aware of each other’s needs. It opens us up to healthy invitations to back each other up and even arrange for a little “their” time when we can tell our spouse needs it.
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