Together but Apart

Do you and your partner do too much together? Find out how too much togetherness can hurt your relationship and why experts advise some time apart.

In 2006 Bil Scott of Somerset, N.S., fulfilled a long-time dream when he flew to Vancouver and bicycled home. Bil was away from his wife, Anne, and their 10-year old daughter for his entire 48-day journey. And for the past two years, Anne has left Bil and Ellie behind in July to spend two and a half weeks in Halifax, where she plays snare drum in the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo.

This August, Anne and Bil will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. “Bil and I have separate interests that take us away from each other occasionally, but when we’re home we spend a lot of time together as a family” says Anne. “We enjoy each other’s company, talking and sharing opinions.”

According to relationship experts, the Scotts have discovered the secret to a healthy relationship: forming positive bonds that connect them while pursuing individual interests. Here are some simple tips on how you can stay close, even while you sleep in separate rooms, vacation apart or play different sports.

Share More Than Activities

“It’s more important to share core values—such as honesty and trust—as well as views on child rearing and finances, and to be supportive of each other’s careers and hobbies, than for a couple to play tennis together every weekend,” says David Mensink, a Halifax-based psychologist who has been providing therapy to couples for 30 years.

Keep Communication Open

Your husband might not want to spend a weekend at the spa with you, but when you get home he should want to hear about it. “There must be an openness within the relationship,” says Mensink. “To nurture the connection, it’s important to share your experiences with your partner.” Anne and Bil Scott stay connected during separations by calling or texting at least every other day.

Be Sensitive

If you must leave the bedroom because your spouse is snoring, don’t snap at him or her. “You could say, ‘I have a busy workday tomorrow and I really need a good night’s sleep. My leaving doesn’t mean I don’t want to be near you,’ ” says Kevin VanDerSwet Stafford, executive director of the Ontario Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Tweak Arrangements Periodically

If your guy has spent summers fishing with his buddies for years, and you find that you missing him more now than you used to, say so. “Couples must be able to have a discussion and come to a workable compromise, or resentment will set in,” says Stafford. “The solution must work for both people.”

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