Balancing Togetherness and Individuality
Mutuality is one of the most important aspects of marriage success. But how do you become part of a couple while maintaining a strong sense of yourself? How do you manage your need for time together and time apart? And what do you do if you and your partner have different ideas of how much time to spend together? How much time together is enough? Is there such a thing as too much togetherness? Is there a way to maintain closeness even when your work life is especially demanding of your time and attention, perhaps including prolonged separations?
Obviously, these are questions without simple answers, but research on successful marriage indicates that one key is to find the middle ground. According to David Olsen, couples who are neither too separate from one another, nor overly involved with one another are in the best position to succeed. Moderate levels of closeness are optimal. Very low or high levels of autonomy in marriage work less well. By the way, the same model applies to your relationships with your families of origin-being neither too close, nor overly distant works best.
In fact, we learn our patterns of togetherness and individuality in our families of origin. Different families have different styles. Some families emphasize closeness, while others accentuate individual needs and activities. Your partner will have different expectations shaped by their family experience, so you may have to find a new balance.
It’s common for couples to struggle over finding the "right" balance of time spent together and apart, as well as what level of closeness to maintain with one’s original family. However, your aim should be to find a cooperative rather than adversarial way to engage in this essential process.
Couples may find it challenges them both personally to make changes in style as they both steer for the middle ground by moderating extreme...
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