Last week I was at coffee with a few friends from my mothers’ group back when the kids were in school. We were chatting about life now that things are slowing down for most (however still speeding up for some!) and we’re all beginning to enjoy the retirement stage of life.
One of the girls was telling us that the “empty nest syndrome” was making her feel emotionally isolated from her husband – even though it was a time when things should be heating up. One of the girls, Wendy, then declared that she and her husband Greg had decided to embark on something a little unusual they read about and that it was working wonders for them. It was a hall pass.
It sounds very high school, but it is in fact a temporary “break” from your marriage. Although they love each other very much, Wendy and Greg weren’t feeling as “in love” as they once were. They said that while they were living in separate states as two young professionals, they made the most of every second they had together and the relationship was as fun and passionate as ever.
The concept actually does make sense; a study published in the Journal of Communication in 2013 found that couples that see each other less frequently have more meaningful communication and positive interactions. This leads to higher levels of intimacy than those who spend all available time together.
Now I can understand that – there’s something special about being in the arms of the one you love after some time away, but for me all I need is a few hours – not a few days! My relationship certainly hasn’t been perfect over the years and raising four children dealing with sudden unemployment and then sudden reemployment hasn’t always helped with a happy home. But what I think we have done well is keep enough of our own interests separate so we always had alone time.
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For example, while we love our kids to bits and we did our best to be there for them always, we made sure we had our own hobbies too. He has always enjoyed cycling and is part of a twice-weekly ride team. He has also been into craft brewing for a decade or so and enjoys “brewing session” with the men, too. About once a year they travel interstate for a weekend to adventure to another brewery and this also meant a break. For myself, I’ve had a craft group going from when the kids were tiny tots as well as a tennis group once a week. We go for a craft weekend once a year and my closest friends and I try to go away once a year as well as catch up weekly.
None of our time away means taking a break from our vows, it is just time away to make sure we keep on going as individuals and be happy in ourselves – trust me, we’re both easier to love when we’re happy!
I don’t think taking time off from my marriage is something I could ever do. I admire those who can do it and enjoy it but it just isn’t for me. My personal belief is that couples who consider that kind of option should do a little “relationship health check” first. Just asking questions like, “Do we spend, special, quality one on one time together once a week?” “Do we have individual interests outside of our life together?” “Do we make an effort to do one thing special for each other each week?” and the likes can really make a difference.
As I said, I’m no expert and my marriage isn’t perfect either, I’m just me. But I am curious to know what you think. Could you take time off from your marriage? Is this something you have done or do you know someone who does it? Share your thoughts in the comments below…