Too Much Togetherness

These days, we have no choice.

Posted Apr 09, 2020

When I counseled couples, particularly those about to get married, I would cover certain basics: money, sex, spiritual beliefs, family, and the use of time. For instance: Can she continue to have girls’ night out? Can he retreat to the garage every weekend to tinker with his car? What are their expectations about what they do together and what do they do apart?

How two people spend their time turns out to be a major source of contention in some couples. Expectations are often at loggerheads. I urge every couple to do some things together beyond the obvious of having meals together and sharing a bed (although these are sometimes not a given either). If they don’t share a pastime, I urge them to find one they both might like and learn together. Social dancing or bike riding are two examples; anything that gets the blood flowing and the heart thumping will likely increase intimacy.

Just as important, and often overlooked, is time to oneself. Often I hear that a person needs to get that by retreating to the bathroom and locking the door, using the excuse of a long shower or bath in order to find some privacy.

As I write this in April of 2020, most of us are confined to the places we live and the people who share it. COVID-19 has not only wreaked havoc in the world in which we live, it has done so to the rhythm of many couples, forcing them into an intimacy they neither want nor can happily tolerate.

Perhaps now one or both work at home or do online studying. There is no time out at the gym, with friends, with solitary hobbies away from home. One’s partner is always there and there is no escape.

This is the time the small irritating habits you could politely ignore before become gargantuan. People get testy, irritable, and lose all tolerance of their partner and there is no solution in sight. I have had clients insist they have fallen out of love with their mate after spending too much time together on a vacation, for instance.

I strongly suggest you nip this common problem in the bud. Be aware of your need for privacy and solitude and of your partner’s. How much time alone a person needs can vary greatly one to another.

A way to achieve some time alone is to spend time in separate rooms during the day. Read a book in bed if that’s the only place to be alone! Come together for meals and at the end of the day. Then you will find you have more to talk about and be eager to see your partner rather than wish him or her into oblivion.

During this time of mandatory sequestering, and later on, too, protect your privacy. Ask your partner how much s/he needs or prefers and figure out together how to get that in the space in which you live and later on when you have the world to choose from. You will both be much happier for it.