In your relationship, are you typically the one who is pulling for more time together, or the one resisting your partner’s pull for more time?
When it comes to spending more time together vs not spending enough time together vs spending too much time together in your relationship, there are basically three different states you might find yourself in.
You feel you spend too little time together with your partner and you want more
You feel you spend too much time together with you partner and you want more time to yourself
You’re happy with the amount of time you spend together and apart.
An ongoing struggle
In many marriages and relationships, there is an ongoing struggle between the person who wants more time together and the one who wants less. Often this turns into a real tug-of-war that can have negative impact on your connection and intimacy.
Especially in the beginning of our relationship, Sonika and I had this dynamic too. When she was pulling for us to spend more time together and commit on a deeper level, I’d frequently get triggered and feel my freedom encroached upon. Then she’d get triggered by my reaction, and we now had “a situation!”
This is a common scenario (although by no means the only one), with the female partner wanting more connection and more time together, and the male partner either resisting her pull for more time together or actively pulling for more time apart.
This dynamic produces predictable negative outcomes for both partners. In this post, we hope to give you useful insight and tips to alleviate the hurt and make some simple changes to your relationship.
Perhaps the most important thing to realize is the existence of we call the Together-Apart Spectrum.
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The Together-Apart Spectrum
Imagine a spectrum with 100% Togetherness on one end and 100% "Apart-ness" on the other. On the Together-end of the spectrum, we’re together with our partner all the time; whereas on the opposite end we might have a partner, but we spend no time together at all (one might argue that’s not a relationship at all, but we’ll leave that for now).
Every human being has a natural “sweet spot” on this spectrum. In the straight-couple example above, the woman is closer to the Together-end of the spectrum and the guy is closer to the Apart-end.
Where your sweet spot is on the spectrum is not personal. It’s a result of several factors such as upbringing, family modeling, personality, attachment style, wounding, preference, etc. But we don’t need to understand the entire psychological history of someone to make this concept useful.
The biggest problem arises from us making up negative conclusions and taking it personally when we see that our partner has a different sweet spot from our own.
If you’re the one who wants more togetherness and your partner seems resistant to that, it’s really easy to make up that he’s deliberately NOT wanting to be with you, that he’s saying he doesn’t love you, that he doesn’t care about the relationship, or that he feels better without you (see our post, My Husband Doesn’t Value Me).
If you’re the one closer to the Apart-end of the spectrum, it’s easy to make up that your partner’s pull for more time together means that she’s controlling, can never get enough, that you’re not doing enough, and that you’ll never be able to satisfy her or make her happy (see our post, My Wife Doesn’t Respect Me).
Making up these types of conclusions really hurts. It messes with your own peace of mind and your ability to freely love and connect. It places your partner in the role of an adversary who’s out to get you and doesn’t care about you. That’s bad news in any relationship. That’s “a situation!”
It can really help to de-personalize this dynamic. Imagine that this entire issue of spending more time together vs not spending enough time together vs spending too much time together is nothing personal at all. I know, that can be tricky, but try it out. Imagine that it’s just differences in preferences the same way your favorite color is orange and your partner’s favorite is blue.
Imagine if you acknowledged that you simply have different sweet spots on this spectrum and that it’s not a statement about how much you love each other or care about the relationship.
Sonika and I are a classic example. As the “default setting” she leans towards more connection and I lean more towards “me-time” over “we-time”. Since we know this about each other we can now work to take care of both of us.
What the YouTube video of this post with Sonika & Christian
Taking care of both of you
This brings us to the practical side of this dynamic. Once we understand we have different sweet spots on the spectrum, the next step is to figure out how to take care of both of our needs and desires.
(As a side note, in Covid times the challenge has been turned upside down for a lot of couples. Whereas during pre-Covid times working couples were often challenged to find enough together time, they are now challenged to find enough apart-time because they are forced to be in the same dwelling, working, living, cooking, child-rearing 24/7 in the same space.)
It’s important to remember that we both want and need time together and time apart. So how do we take care of both of us? How do we set up our lives so we have satisfying quality time together as well as time to pursue our own ideas and interests, or chill out in our own space?
As a starting point, you could look at the coming week or month and consider what are some of the activities you’d like to do together, and what are some of the activities you each want to do on your own. How can you accomplish (some of) both?
Just this past week, we’ve coached couples who have gotten really creative with their time together and time apart. One couple took turns doing first a “mommy-cation” where mom had the kids while dad went away on trip for few days. Then they swapped and did a “daddy-cation” where dad took the kids to granma’s house while mom had time to herself. Another couple came up with each getting their own office spaces outside the house, so they could take turns leaving the house and getting work done. Which then made them enjoy their time together a lot more.
Point being, look for solutions for taking care of both of your needs and desires. We take the stand that you can always find a way to satisfy both of you. Don’t give up just because it seems to be an ever-going discussion whether you should spending more time together vs not spending enough time together vs spending too much time together in your relationship.
Get better at working together
If you would like support on how to work more collaboratively as partners in relationship to ensure you both feel fully supported to get your differing needs met, check out our mini-workhshop, How To Get On The Same Team.
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