From family catch-ups to nurturing your spiritual side, there are times that even the most committed couple benefits from doing some things alone.
Being in a relationship has many benefits: companionship, intimacy, a warm body to cosy up to at night. Indeed numerous studies have shown the pros outweigh the cons – longevity, better physical and mental health, even less stress. But while there’s much to be said for finding lasting happiness with a significant other, it’s also important to achieve a balance between nurturing your relationship and retaining a degree of independence.
“In relationships, we can often lose ourselves consciously and unconsciously,” explains The Friendly Psychologist Jacqui Manning. “This means losing sight of the things that make you sparkle, that bring you joy (aside from your partner) and that gives you the essence of what makes you the beautiful person you are.
It’s vital that no one ends up feeling snubbed or pushed out in the pursuit of keeping your sense of self alive. If that does happen, Jacqui suggests explaining it’s not because you don’t want to spend time with them. More, it helps you be the person they fell in love with in a more authentic way.
“Me time provides that space to be you, to find that spark and to replenish your energy so you can stay connected in a meaningful way,” she adds.
Here are six times it’s not only OK but preferable to go solo.
1. Visiting the rellies
Family dynamics can be a minefield, and we all have our own back stories that determine our relationships with relatives as adults. Throw in cultural differences and you have a recipe for ongoing arguments. “Families have differing levels of contact that shows connection and love,” says Jacqui. “There is no right or wrong way to do family, so discuss which events you’d like to attend together and which would be better to go solo. And don’t take it personally if their wishes are different from yours.”
2. Enjoying a hobby
Let’s face it, not everyone appreciates the subtle art of bonsai cultivation. And while sports may bore you senseless, for some watching a game live brings another, primal, aspect. “It’s the modern equivalent of hunting as they focus so intently on the play of the ball and notice tiny aspects of the game,” says Jacqui. Either way, give each other room and space to do what brings joy. “And then it gives you something to share when you get home!” Jacqui notes.
3. Staying home alone
Those stolen moments of solitude can be a life-saver in these hectic times. You may catch up on that reality TV your partner scoffs at (hello, Kardashians). Or it could be a chance to simply sit in silence. Jacqui says: “That space at home when you are the only one there is a retreat from our busy world, and you’ll both be in need of it sometimes, so be mindful and share.”
4. Catching up with friends
It’s great to have mutual friends you both enjoy hanging out with, but there’s much to be said for those reunions with old school mates which you leave you crying with laughter over decades of shared memories. Equally, research shows male bonding can lower their stress levels. So don’t be offended if your partner seeks time out with their mates, and see it as a chance to foster the friendships that provide support and an emotional framework to your life.
5. Nurturing your spiritual side
Yes, religion can be a tricky subject at the best of times. But you and your partner can have different values within a successful relationship – so long as there’s respect shown on both sides. And some elements are better practised alone: think mediation or mind-calming retreats. “You can go to church/worship without expecting your partner to join you - your relationship with your God is your own,” insists Jacqui.
6. Getting out and about
You’re a social butterfly, he’s happiest at home with the History Channel and a cat on his lap. And that’s totally fine. “You may have different needs in relation to going out,” says Jacqui. “One of you may be happy being a homebody, the other may feel energised being around people, so plan ahead how this will work. If you both know it’s not personal, and it’s simply a matter of getting your individual needs met, you can make it work.” There will be times when a united front is preferable. “Recognise that sometimes compromises will need to happen,” says Jacqui.