If you've ever been friends with one of those seemingly inseparable couples—the one that gets a joint Facebook page, that only uses the pronoun "we," and suddenly can't do anything alone after they get engaged or married—you've probably wondered how much time spent together is really healthy in a relationship. But have you ever wondered about pairs that fall to the other end of the spectrum? While you probably know it's a red flag to need to spend every waking moment with your significant other, how do you know if you're spending too much time apart? We caught up with Trina Dolenz, LCSW, and author of "Retool Your Relationship: Fix the One You're With," and Garett Coan, LCSW, owner of Creative Counseling, to find out how much alone time is healthy. Here, they break it all down, plus share the ideal amount of time to spend together and apart.
As with most things in life, it seems the right amount of alone time is a matter of moderation. "On the one extreme is the 'disengaged' couple who do little or nothing together," explains Coan. "They eventually wind up living parallel lives as glorified roommates. Then, there's the enmeshed couple who feel threatened when even momentarily separated. A healthy relationship is characterized by a state of being lying somewhere in the middle."
Naturally, this perfect balance is a tough one to achieve. With a variety of ways to stay hyper-connected, it's no surprise Dolenz feels the majority of couples actually struggle more with too little alone time than too much. "Most couples today do not spend enough time alone or with others or other pursuits," she says. The result is a relationship that begins to lose its spark over time. "Being apart brings new experiences and ideas back into the relationship, along with vitality and oxygen," Dolenz explains. When each partner is free to go outside the relationship and spend time doing what makes them feel whole, they bring that recharged energy back home for the better of everyone.
The bottom line? Coan advises every couple to adhere to the 70/30 rule: For the happiest, most harmonious relationship, the pro suggests spending 70% of time together, and 30% apart. That gives each of you enough freedom to explore your own interests while still being rooted and invested in your relationship.