Balancing “we time” with “me time”

Balancing “we time” with “me time”

You may have heard that a weekly date with your partner fosters a good relationship. Do you also make sure to enjoy self-nurturing activities individually?

You may have heard that a weekly date with your partner fosters a good relationship. Do you also make sure to enjoy self-nurturing activities individually?

by Marcia Naomi Berger — 

While still single, Emily discovered something important about marriage. She had heard the part about two becoming one. The eye-opener for her was finding out about one becoming two.

When she was not in a relationship, Emily spent her free time skiing, playing tennis, taking an art class or relaxing at the beach. She also joined women friends for dinner, a movie or  play. She was happy.

Her joie de vivre would soon attract a new boyfriend. She expected each relationship to last forever. Once she felt they were a couple, she arranged her life to revolve around him. If he liked to run, she shopped with him for a pair of running shoes for herself. She dropped her separate activities and picked up his.

Emily soon became dull. The guy would decide she was not for him. Bereft over the breakup for some time, she would finally start to refill the empty shell she had become with rejuvenating activities.

Again, she sparkled. Her aliveness would draw in her next boyfriend, and the process would then repeat itself; she would lose her vitality and the relationship, until one day she woke up.

Emily recognized her self-defeating pattern before she met her husband. She finally understood the importance of balancing togetherness with self-nurture. This recognition has served her and her husband, Jeff, well. Now married for more than 20 years, they demonstrate well how to invest themselves in both their individuality and in their relationship.

 

How Emily and Jeff attain a balance 

Emily and Jeff enjoy going to plays, movies, lectures and restaurants. But Emily usually goes skiing on her own or with a friend, and Jeff typically goes to ball games alone or with a friend. About once a year, though, the two of them stay for a couple of days at Emily’s favorite ski resort, where he watches televised sports while she has a blast on the slopes. Once in a while she goes to a baseball game with Jeff.

They are comfortable with each other pursuing separate interests individually. Both their separate self-nurturing activities and their time together contribute to their fulfilling, long-lasting marriage.

 

Making dates with your spouse — and yourself 

You may have heard that a weekly date with your partner fosters a good relationship. Do you also make sure to enjoy self-nurturing activities individually? By overdoing togetherness, you can lose touch with your essential self, like Emily did long ago. When this happens, you might sense something amiss in your relationship, such as the absence of romance and fun. You might feel discouraged or blame your partner. Or you might resign yourself to a flat relationship as being inevitable, since you have heard that marriage feels routine after a while.

But if you fail to try to correct the situation, you risk ending up with a serious case of soul neglect. This malady can appear in the form of depression, resentment, anxiety, anger, loss of interest in sex, thoughts of divorce or as an addiction, such as alcoholism, substance abuse or overeating.

 

More about dates with yourself 

According to the Talmud (the oral Torah), “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’” How much more so must humans keep engaging in growth-producing activities in order to lead fulfilling lives. Ongoing self-care promotes growth and vitality. When you sparkle with aliveness, you bring excitement into your relationships, especially your marriage.

Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, encourages everyone, not just professional artists, to spend a block of about two hours a week of quality time alone in a self-nurturing activity. Doing so creates a climate for accepting one’s true, uncensored thoughts and feelings, which emerge spontaneously in the right settings. In such places, ideas emerge for creative ways to address challenges a person may be experiencing in any aspect of life, including in marriage.

Many mothers feel guilty about taking time out for themselves. It is helpful to remember that no one likes being around a martyr, and especially to know, “When Mom is happy, everyone is happy.” A friend, who is the mother of nine children, conquers the guilt challenge by asking herself, “Would I rather feel guilty or resentful?” If she can do it, you can too. So at least sometimes, feel the guilt and do it anyway.

If you are already balancing self-care with together time, congratulations. But if you are not there yet, think about restorative activities to do alone. Start doing them at least once a week. If applicable, encourage your partner to do the same.

When you take charge of your own well-being, you recharge your battery. You also allow enough time to want to reconnect with your mate again. By creating enough “me time,” you will look forward to the “we time.” And you will be forming a more vibrant, fulfilling relationship.

 

Marcia Naomi Berger, LCSW, is a psychotherapist, clinical social worker and the author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted. marriagemeetings.com or newworldlibrary.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 3, June/July 2014.

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