It’s an old joke. The wife turns to her husband of 50 years, recently retired, and she says: “I married you for life, but not for lunch.”
It’s one thing to see your spouse or significant other four or five hours each day, more or less throughout the weekends, and of course – on holidays and vacation. It’s quite another matter to wake up, try to go about your business, and have your life partner right there – every hour, every day, with you at every step.
Go. Please. Go… (Then Come Back)
Now if you work together, and it’s a compatible working relationship, bravo! But most of us don’t work with our spouses, our significant others, our lovers. And while “close” is great, too close… not so much.
If you’re anything like me and you find yourself in the constant company of others (even those you love), and with no time for yourself (not even 30 minutes)… Well, let’s just say you may be dreaming (or daydreaming) of just one morning to wake up blissfully alone, after a long night’s sleep, no fighting over the covers, and it goes without saying – no interruptions from kids, pets, boss, neighbors, or assorted aggravating beeps and buzzes from incoming emails and texts.
You just want a little space!
There is indeed such a thing as too much togetherness – and you don’t have to be married 50 years to know it, or married 20 years, or married at all. Moreover, in my opinion, finding the sweet spot – just the right amount of together time – is key to a good relationship.
Hitting the Dating Pool
So what happens when you’ve been married (now you’re not), you’ve been raising kids, you’ve been working for pay (inside or outside the home), and you’re also tap-dancing your way through creating yourself a love life? How much time do you want for yourself? Is it realistic?
Maybe your first forays back into the dating pool are a matter of sticking a dainty toe into the water. You share coffee with a guy. You chat about kids. You flirt a little, to make sure you still know how. You’re thrilled to have a sitter now and then and two hours out every few weeks.
Maybe you intend to “play” a bit, and enjoy casual sex (safely, of course), even if only occasionally. Maybe you are hoping for something more – a romance, an eventual remarriage – but in the meantime, you gain experience and self-knowledge in all relationship realms, including:
- What you enjoy sexually, conversationally, recreationally
- How much time you want to spend with someone you care for
- How much time you want – often jealously guarded – for yourself.
That last item? HUGE. So recognize if you’re comfortable with gobs of together time, or if you really need an hour a day, every day, just for you.
The Good News
The good news in this post-divorce dating process is that you rediscover aspects of yourself that you genuinely adore. And hey – it’s okay to adore yourself, at least a little! When we like who we are and we’re respectful of our own needs, don’t we have more to give to those we love?
More good news?
Our relationship missteps help us hone our radar when it comes to men. And we realize we don’t have to tolerate a lousy relationship just to “have someone.”
Now this may not happen immediately. For me, it was a gradual process of moving from the more controlling, narcissistic types (that were familiar) to kinder, gentler, (still sexy) but more egalitarian gentlemen. My post-marital dating journey was quite a trip, let me tell you… but I learned from every minute of it.
Part of assessing my relationship progress includes processing how I got along with someone’s children, how they got along with mine, how our values and habits meshed as we became more of a couple, and how much time a new partner expected of me – for him, for the relationship, and for his family.
I learned that we do have options. We can set boundaries. And if we do – then we need to be clear and kind in communicating the how and the why. So don’t feel like you have to give yourself away, or give away all of your “solo” time!
The Married Single Mom
I’ve been on both sides of this issue, and more than once. On the one hand, I had a husband who was emotionally distant. He also traveled, which left me alone for the largest portion of our marriage. I was independent when we wed, and stayed independent thereafter. (Did I have a choice?) I was the proverbial “married single mom.” As for him, he was always going, going, going… gone. Or so it seemed to me.
Four or five nights on my own each week? Especially with kids and a job? Bad news for the marriage. We shared far too little and it was one of many factors that exacerbated a lack of connection, and drove a wedge between us.
In a more recent relationship, my partner’s optimal togetherness quotient exceeds my own. He is gregarious, loves to share sociable meals and outings, and is happy to spend hours of a more “personal” nature. But his schedule is more generous with free time than mine. We bumped heads – repeatedly – over my need to be alone to work (and I work from home), as well downtime to detox, which I prefer in the quiet. Our “together time / alone time” was becoming a problem.
Yes, Talking. Yes, Listening.
Talking helped, as did remembering the quality and importance of the relationship as a whole. Listening helped, to each other, so we could piece together ways to make it work for both of us.
For awhile it was touch-and-go, and I wondered if one of us would exit an otherwise wonderful relationship. That would have left a gaping hole, certainly in my life, and to a lesser degree, for our respective families.
Still, I think about the old married couple and the retirement joke.
I get it. I am forewarned. Forewarned is forearmed, right?
I’ve had a taste of the dramas that can result from too much time together, and I hope I’ll know how to handle this in the future. That’s the beauty of learning from both marriage and divorce, followed by dating different types of people. You come to understand what you want in a relationship. You learn in no uncertain terms that there is no “perfect.” You recognize a good thing, and you know yourself to be “a good thing” for someone else.
Finally, you advocate clearly and kindly for what you need, understand what he needs, then negotiate to arrive at a working balance for both of you.
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