The #1 Way to Kill Your Romantic Relationship.
This has even more impact than sex life, a relationship psychologist says.
Dr. Terri Orbuch is an authority on marriage and divorce. Dr. Orbuch is also a psychologist, a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, and the author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship.
Since 1990 she has been involved in a long-term U.S. study of marriage called The Early Years of Marriage Project, which has been following the same 373 married couples for over 25 years. 46 percent of the couples have since divorced. So, nearly half of them.
During her research, Orbuch found that 29 percent of spouses said they did not have enough “privacy or time for self” in their relationship, with more wives than husbands reporting not having enough space (31 percent versus 26 percent). Of those who reported being unhappy, 11.5 percent said the reason was lack of privacy or time for self. This was a greater percentage than the 6 percent who said they were unhappy with their sex lives.
Thus, having enough space or privacy in a relationship is more important for a couple’s happiness than having a good sex life, according to Dr. Orbuch.
So why is space so important in a relationship?
“When partners have their own set of interests, friends, and time for self, that makes them happier,” says Orbuch. “Time alone also gives partners space to process their thoughts, pursue hobbies, and relax without responsibilities to others.”
John Aiken, a relationship psychologist and author agrees: “Couples need space in a relationship so they don’t suffocate each other. Having time apart is extremely healthy and keeps freshness in their relationship. It encourages each person to maintain their own sense of identity while still being a couple, and it fosters independence and strength rather than neediness and clinginess.”
Yet, in traditional, typical romantic relationships, we have this sense, belief, and idea that couples should want to spend most or even all of their time together, and if not, well, “something is amiss or wrong in the relationship.”
This value and belief is misleading and even damaging.
Lust and love yearn at closing the gaps between two people, all while these very gaps are where our strongest desires for one another stem from.
When falling for someone, we cannot get enough of them. We seek to close the space and separateness between ourselves and the other, to all but merge. Growing in love is, more often than not, coupled with the yearning to know everything and anything about the other.
And yet, in the spaces between two people, this is exactly where desire is found. Where it exists, ignites, even flourishes.
In our not fully knowing the other, and within the tension of longing for exactly that, this is where eroticism and desire come and build.
That is why a lot of relationships can tend to grow stale, even with someone whom we may love deeply. It’s why they shift wordlessly into all but platonic friendships who have occasional sex. The sex, when it does occur, feeling akin to a predictable, well-oiled machine. With the moves and interplay essentially able to be played out with their eyes closed. The buildup is gone, the spark extinguished. The tension, flat. It’s why sex readily decreases with time, or even for some, grinds to a halt. This happens because of too much closeness, too much familiarity, and not enough separateness or space.
When we love someone, our knee jerk reaction is to want to do everything with them. To spend as much time together as possible. To learn all the nuances of their past and present, their thoughts and feelings, their daily activities. Resist these inclinations.
Spend significant time with your love, but make sure to live your own life as well and do things apart from them frequently too.
Actively create and maintain your own experiences, separate from your partner.
Maintain your own life, a vibrant, active, and rich one.
This will breathe more life and interest into your relationship.
Essentially, desire is found in one’s willingness not to extinguish the tension, nor to attempt closing all distance between you and your love. (Ironically, though it isn’t helpful to long-term desire, this tends to be our automatic human inclination. We seek to close distance to feel safer, more secure, less fearful in our relationships).
Yet, eroticism, attraction, desire, and arousal are found in one’s ability to bravely accept and even lean into the spaces and unknowns between each other. To allow for this and even, to embrace it. Even as it may feel a bit uncomfortable.
While loving deeply and sharing a significant part of your life with a partner, what is really sexy and enticing is you as your own separate “other” from your love. With projects and friends, temperaments and interests, entirely apart from your love.
Not only does this make you a more interesting person, as well as more attractive to both your love and people in general, but it also keeps vibrancy and life alive in your relationship. It makes you lively and interesting. Having a joyous, full, rich life, in addition to the great love shared with your partner.
Your partner will want to know what you’re up to, and what it is that this fascinating person (you) does in their spare time. They will wonder who all these people are that seem to love their partner’s (your) company, as well as, will just find themselves interested in peering behind the curtain of all your life happenings. And that, my friends, is where desire is found.