Individual time may be as important as together time in romantic relationships


**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.

When I was engaged to be married, a woman told me that “marriage is when two people become one.” At the time, I nodded my head and feigned a smile, but inside I was cringing.

I think love is a beautiful thing, something to be cherished and celebrated, but the notion that two people could become one seemed daunting, if not impossible. How could two people, with their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences, ever truly merge into one?

Perhaps the woman was trying to convey the idea that married people spend an excessive amount of time together. Or maybe she was trying to say that marriage requires compromise and a willingness to let your partner’s wants and needs supersede your own.

But I can’t entirely agree with those things either.

In my experience, after being married and divorced, I have come to realize that in romantic relationships, individual time is as important as time together.

Even in my current relationship, my partner and I relish our time together and apart. I enjoy his company, and he enjoys mine. But neither of us is interested in spending every waking moment together.

There are things he enjoys doing solo and experiences that I desire to have without him.

And that’s okay.

It seems to me that the true secret to a lasting relationship is not becoming one but rather learning to appreciate your partner as a separate and unique individual.

How does alone time improve relationship health?

The time you spend apart gives you and your partner time to pursue your interests, hobbies, and goals.

While parts of yourself can only be grown in a relationship with another person, the contrast is also true. A considerable amount of your evolution relies upon your ability to grow independently.

Each person in the relationship needs time spent apart to maintain a sense of self. And the more “you” you feel, the better you are at relating to others, including your partner.

“A mix of time with friends and family, time together as a couple, and separate time for each partner add to the quality of your relationship.” — Alexa Ellington, LMFT

Quality time cannot be quantified.

The amount of time you spend with your partner is not nearly as important as the quality of that time.

It’s not about whether you spend two hours talking on the phone every night or one-hour cuddling on the couch. It’s about being present in the moment and being fully engaged with your partner.

It’s about listening, laughing, and sharing your thoughts and feelings openly.

It’s about intimacy, which is impossible to measure by a ticking clock. Alone time can help to deepen intimacy in relationships.


When you’re apart from your partner and have different experiences, there is more of you to share. Aside from telling tales from your time alone, you can also communicate in other ways — a picture, a text, a phone call.

You can share your thoughts and feelings about the experience and the experience itself.

It’s like getting two gifts in one. And the more you’re able to share with your partner, the closer you become.

Pouring from an empty cup.

We are socialized to perceive love in a way that promotes unhealthy attachment. It’s easy to become so wrapped up in your partner that you forget about the other meaningful relationships in your life.

The truth is, you cannot pour from an empty cup. To be the best partner you can be, you need to take care of yourself first.

It would be best to make sure that your own needs are being met, both physically and emotionally. Having your own hobbies, interests, and friends allows you to maintain your identity outside of the relationship.

“Personal time allows us to maintain our individual identities, provides opportunities to do things we like to do, and lets us feel like we have some control over our lives. Alone time can actually help to keep a relationship fresh and less stressful.” — Rob Pascale and Lou Primavera Ph.D.

The takeaway.

“Two become one” is not a phrase that I would use to describe marriage or any romantic relationship for that matter.

I believe that for a relationship to be healthy, both partners need to maintain a sense of self. And it’s okay to want to spend time apart. Don’t worry, your relationship will not only survive, but it will thrive.

Do you agree or disagree? Do you think that spending time apart is essential for a healthy relationship? Let me know in the comments!

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Intimacy & Relationship coach, writer, and creator of The Sensuality Project. I specialize in Relationship-ing (it's a verb).

Los Angeles County, CA

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