“Together you shall be forever more…But let there be spaces in your togetherness.” Kahlil Gibran
When I took Gary Chapman’s, 5 Love Languages official assessment, I learned my primary love language is touch and my secondary love language is quality time. I enjoy being with my husband and we like spending our days traveling, antiquing, hiking, and dining together.
But one lesson I have learned about marriage, is the truth that in order to love our spouse well, we must also be on a journey of loving ourselves. When I take time for self-care, I have so much more to offer my husband and other people in my life.
Unity candles are a beautiful symbol on a wedding day because two hearts truly do become one. When I married my husband we had a unity candle on the altar, but we also had two separate candles on either side of the unity candle. These two candles represented our individual lives, families of origin, unique hobbies, and distinct sets of friends. The two candles surrounding our unity candle will always serve as a reminder to us that we have chosen a journey together, but no one person can ever complete us. We are one and yet we are also two individuals with distinctive needs.
It is important to spend some time away from each other
My husband and I both need time apart to read books, explore hobbies, and be with loved ones. And then when have time together, we have more to give and to talk about. Life is more stagnant, bleak and lackluster when we are attached at the hip, but when we find time to tune into our own needs we find vibrancy, color, and joy in our marriage.
In Dr. John Gottman’s book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, he shares, “There are times when you feel drawn to your loved one and times when you feel the need to pull back and replenish your sense of autonomy.” Finding a balance between connection and freedom is a dance my husband and I are both still learning. In our relationship, I am definitely the partner who craves more intimacy and time together; while my husband is slightly more independent than I am.
Many years ago, yoga became a self-care practice in my life that I don’t want to live without. When I first started practicing yoga, I wanted my husband to do it with me. I desired him to engage in this spiritual and physical practice because I love being with him and I also felt like it would be a very connective experience for us. And to give him credit, he tried it with me several times, and he doesn’t hate yoga, but it’s just not his thing.
Having separate areas of interest
To be honest, it took me a while to give up my romanticized notion of us doing yoga together. I had to be awakened to the fact that this is a practice that helps me to fill my cup, but it isn’t my husband’s ideal way to spend an hour. He would rather go for a walk, play the drums, ride his bike, do yard work or spend time volunteering. The fact that he loves yard work is to my advantage because I absolutely deplore it! It was important for the well-being of our relationship, for me to realize that yoga does not feed his soul, but it nourishes mine and it is important for me to spend this time without him. I have more to offer our relationship if I have taken this time for myself.
There is also more life in me and in my relationship when I spend time with treasured loved ones. It is life-giving to take my niece and nephew to the movies, to go on walks with girlfriends, and to have phone conversations with friends. John Donne is most famous for saying, “No man is an island.” Likewise, no marriage is an island. We need many people to find fullness in life.
Take a moment to consider these important questions:
- What do you do to fill your cup?
- Are you honoring your partner’s need for self-care?
- When was the last time you spent quality time doing something life-affirming with someone besides your spouse?
- Do you allow enough space for yourself?
Since I am the partner who most significantly values quality time and touch, there are times when I do let my husband know that I am in need of more time with him. And in a similar way, he also lets me know when he needs some time alone to rejuvenate before we connect. Finding the picture-perfect balance between intimacy and autonomy is not always possible. But what matters most, is our recognition that both of these ingredients are important in a marriage, and so daily we try to negotiate our schedules, so we are making space for our own desires and our collective needs.
Read More: 15 Key Secrets To A Successful Marriage
Perhaps you need to remind yourself of the importance of both independence and connection, by creating a space in your home with one big candle to represent life together, and then place two smaller candles surrounding the bigger one, to signify the importance of your individual lives. I believe the more space we allow to connect with our self and support system, the greater chance we have of being together, until death we do part. So start finding space for yourself and I believe it will bring more life and joy to your marriage.