Someone asked me recently for my most important piece of relationship advice: If there was one rule that all couples should unequivocally follow, what would it be? My answer: even when you’re in a relationship you must have your own life.
What I mean by this is that the most important thing you can do for your own happiness, your partner’s happiness and the good of your relationship is to do your own thing every once and a while. The beauty of a relationship is that it exists between two people— with different preferences, points of view, and experiences. If two people lead such parallel lives that they’re essentially one person, the tension that keeps a relationship interesting in the first place is lost.
For many of us, our inclination in a relationship can be to spend the majority of our time with our partner. And indeed, maintaining a life separate from your partner can be a tricky (and even scary) thing to do. If we’re honest, we may experience some anxiety when we’re away from them: “Is she having fun without me?” “Is he meeting someone else?” “Am I less important to her than she is to me?”
The best way to assure that your relationship stays strong and your partner remains interested isn’t to cling to them with all your might; it’s to continue following your own passions, hobbies and friendships.
As romantic as it may seem, you just can’t rely on anther person to be your everything. There are going to be some activities, interests and conversations that are just better suited for your friends. And in order to maintain strong friendships, you have to continue to put effort into them and make time for them. Not having close friends puts too much pressure on your relationship — it creates a dependence that makes it difficult for either one of you to truly thrive.
Of course being in a relationship means shared activities, lots of time together and intense intimacy. But it doesn’t have to mean you’re completely enmeshed in each other’s lives. So, my singular piece of advice: Your time apart is just as important as your time together.
— Amber Madison is a nationally noted relationship expert and practicing therapist who lives in Manhattan. She is also the author of “Are All Guys Assholes?” for which she interviewed over 1,000 guys and found the answer to this question is “no.” Follow her on Twitter @ambermadi to get her latest advice.