Togetherness vs. Flying Solo
The impact of our preferences on our romantic relationships.
Posted May 01, 2019
People have different preferences when it comes to spending time solo versus hanging out with friends and family. While some of us prefer to carry out tasks and enjoy activities alone, others have more of a need for “togetherness.” Personally, I am someone who feels more comfortable sharing my time with others, though I have always admired those who are able to eat dinner alone or travel by themselves. I have recently been challenging myself by stepping out of my comfort zone and going to events alone, rather than staying at home if I can’t find an activity partner. While it has been nerve-wracking, it has also afforded me the ability to have new experiences, even when my friends aren’t able to join me.
Our preferences for how we spend our time become magnified when in a romantic relationship. When committed to another person, we need to balance our personal needs, the needs of our partners, the needs of the couple, and the demands placed on us by our growing social circle. It is important to consider how much time you need to yourself versus time with your partner. Beyond that, you must also think about how much time you need with your partner as a couple versus time spent with your extended social circle, consisting of family and friends.
Our Preferences within Romantic Relationships
When it comes to romantic relationships, which are inherently social in nature, our preferences for togetherness play a big role. Research has shown that romantic relationships are a part of individuals’ social experience and are linked to their relationships with their parents and peers (Connolly, 1996). Therefore, when we find a partner, we also gain our partner’s friends and family. Our desire to spend time solo and with others is important to share with our partner because it will inevitably create a problem if not communicated clearly.
Debby Herbenick, Research Scientist and Co-Director of The Center for Sexual Health Promotion and a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, notes that if people go along with their partner’s preferences when it comes to spending time together or alone, it can lead to them becoming frustrated if their beliefs do not align. She says, “Being aware of your preferences means that you may be able to clarify your feelings about the relationship” (Herbenick, 2012). Basically, if you don’t articulate your needs, your partner won’t necessarily be able to respect your preferences.
How to Communicate Your Needs
When communicating your needs to your partner, it is also imperative to explain your preferences clearly. Rather than simply saying “I want to be alone part of each weekend,” it is better to explain why this is the case, how it makes you feel, and how it potentially impacts the relationship. For example, sharing that it is important for you to spend some quiet time reflecting before being amongst friends and family is more effective. Communicating that you need time to yourself before being able to share your time with others expresses your needs, the reason for them, and your willingness to compromise.
Connolly, J. A., & Johnson, A. M. (1996). Adolescents' romantic relationships and the structure and quality of their close interpersonal ties. Personal Relationships, 3(2), 185-195.
Herbenick, D. (2012, December 17). Balancing time together vs. apart: Every relationship is a balance of time spent together and time spent alone. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-pleasures-sex/201212/balancing-time-together-vs-apart