Remember those moments when you first met your now-husband or -wife and all you could think was, "Wow, we have so much in common!" When you're first dating—and for some pairs, even years into the relationship—you're amazed at how many times you say "Me too!" when he comments on a band he likes, a vacation he adored, or a workout that gets his heart racing. While shared interests, values, and hobbies are often what bring couples together, as relationships deepen and strengthen over time, you might find yourself spending far more time with this person and not necessarily enjoying those you both once loved to do on your own. While your partner is probably always going to be your favorite person to lounge around with on a Sunday afternoon (after all, you did marry him or her!), for the sake of your relationship (and your sanity), making an effort to disconnect is important.
"Other than driving each other crazy, spending time away from each other will give the relationship the right amount of space it needs to thrive. It's extremely problematic for couples when they try to get all their needs met by their partner. It's just not realistic. Your partner cannot be everything for you, and you cannot be everything for your partner," Crystal Bradshaw, LPC, a psychotherapist specializing in relationships, says. "You'll need to do certain things apart and with other people. You need a tribe. You need others to fill certain roles as to not deplete your partner. Being everything to one person is too much for anyone. Expecting your partner to fill all the roles and wear all the hats is a great burden on them and the relationship."
So, if you want to keep your relationship on solid ground, you each need to make time for yourselves. Here's what to do separately to keep your marriage healthy, happy, and thriving.
Spend one night a week with your best friend.
You probably don't want to head out with your single friends on Saturday night to mingle with eligible dates or have countless shots that lead into the night. But a post-work happy hour on a Wednesday because your bestie got a new promotion? Or, frankly, you just missed her? Psychotherapist and author Dr. Mike Dow says having an evening away from your husband (and giving him a night away from you), will help alleviate the tendency to put way too much stock and pressure into a single relationship. "It's important to not develop codependent relationships where you can't do anything independently. Healthy couples will often go out with their friends together most of the time, but it's important to have some one-on-one with your best friend once in a while as well," he says.
Do the workouts you love.
So maybe you're more into boxing and outdoor boot camp classes, while your partner would rather just go for a run or shoot some hoops at a pickup basketball game. Or, you both like yoga—but different types: he or she'll go to a Bikram class, while you prefer a Vinyasa flow. Even though it can be a fun alternative to date night to work out together, you shouldn't feel pressured to make all of your exercise scheduling around your partner. "One common conflict I see in my private practice is that people often have different ideas about health, food, and workouts. If your husband's weight is driving you crazy, the best way to change it isn't to insist that he eats what you eat," Bradshaw says. "People will often naturally make changes when the other person is modeling healthy behavior, so let him. Go do your yoga class solo. Workouts are great 'you' time."
Find a group or recurring event to join.
In addition to investing in your friendships, joining an activity club or signing up for a weekly event will help you explore your interests, without forcing someone to come with you—friend, partner, or anyone. It also will give you more to talk about when you come back to your marital home and your husband asks about your day, instead of retreating to the bedroom or den because you just spent hours together, doing something that only one of you actually enjoys.
"It could be a book club, attending conventions, exercising, being in a hiking club, taking cooking classes, art classes, playing Dungeons and Dragons once a week at the local gaming store, or volunteering. If you love going to a book club and your husband doesn't enjoy reading or isn't a fan of the same genre, don't insist he tag along," Bradshaw says. "Would you want to tag along with him and spend hours doing something you really don't want to do? No. So divide and conquer. Get stuff done that's meaningful to you and join back up."
Have girls' and guys' nights apart.
Think about your group of best gals. A few are married, one or two have babies, some are engaged, a handful are single, and some are off jet-setting about the world, in no hurry to settle down anytime soon. And how about your partner's gang? The same is probably true for them. So when you force your respective groups to mingle with one another? They might oblige, but they're secretly wishing they could be doing something else, while you probably feel the push-and-pull between sitting with your hubby and chatting with your girlfriends. That's why Los Angeles-based psychologist Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D, says to have those nights out separately.
"This helps your marriage because it adds new experiences and growth to your life by being with people other than your partner and cultivating satisfying connections with others. Time spent with your friends without your partner also can give each of you a little breather from each other and help you appreciate each other and your couple time more when you are together again instead of taking this for granted," she explains.
Schedule some solo family time.
Though you might have already thought you had plenty of family obligations already, once you become a married couple, you double the amount of reunions, Mother's Days, Father's Days, and other holiday events that you once attended. It can be tough to ever see your family by yourself, when you're trying to balance time to visit with your in-laws, too. But Thomas says it's vital, not only for your relationship but for those long-lasting connections with the family you treasure and love. "Having some time bonding with their own families is better to do solo periodically so that these family relationships aren't neglected at the expense of one now being married," she says. "By continuing to put effort into your family relationships, you can get the double reward of strengthening those connections instead of becoming overly dependent on your spouse."
Your household chores.
Every couple breaks up the household cleaning in a way that works for them. Even so, because these tasks aren't exactly sexy or romantic, they can also be a source of contentment if one partner feels like the other one is not pulling their fair share of the weight. Thomas' solution? Don't do them at the same time or together. "Household chores should be done separately to keep the peace in the marriage if one or both of the partners tends to get moody or negative when doing his or her duties," she notes. "Since people often don't like tending to these responsibilities and can have a bad attitude while doing them, it is better and healthier for the good of the marriage to not interact with each other nor to critique one's efforts and/or results during these times."