My husband is a surfer. In the summertime when the swell is big on the south shore, he will get up before dawn and hit the water with friends or on his own. He needs that, it’s his time away from the house, from work, to enjoy the life he’s blessed with.
I am more what you would call… “indoors-ey.” I love to curl up on the couch and read, listen to a good podcast, or watch a documentary about WWII or a cooking show. The husband says I tricked him into marrying him by saying, “Yeah, I like to hike!”
I do! I like the idea of hiking. But I prefer to cuddle with my pillow.
Some couples do most things together, many of them have the same hobbies and interests, and that is great! What a blessing. But that’s not always the case. The only areas my husband and I connect (which are the same reasons I fell in love with him) are Jesus, hospitality, and feeding people. Otherwise, we’re as different as night and day.
As lovely as it is to be married, to share life with another person, taking breaks from each other can add value to a relationship. It sounds weird, but here’s what I mean: the time we have apart, to be ourselves, is what refreshes and encourages our individual spirit and passions. With this time, we can process, unwind, and spend time with others who share our passion – to live out our God-given calling.
The Honeymoon is Over
When we first got married, we waited with eager anticipation to see each other after work. To come home to our little cottage and bask in the glory of our togetherness, living the matrimonial dream. But I used to feel guilty on days that I wanted to spend away from him. Sometimes the catalyst was a disagreement of some sort, but not always. I wanted to go back to the figurative “place” where I could just be me. All of my focus an attention from planning the wedding, to moving in together had been a rushing whirlwind of time and energy.
I used to expect that we were always supposed to be together when we weren’t at work. I would cling to him, or give him that passive aggressive stare like, “Fine, do whatever you want. I guess you’d rather
[insert husbands’ hobby or activity] than hang out with me,” (as if I was entitled to all of his extra time).
I finally figured out that I was upset with the personal freedoms he was taking because I was insecure about who I was.
Learning to Be Apart
Unplugging is a good thing, it connects us with our deepest passions and dreams. Our individual identity is unique and beautiful, and never meant to be diminished by marriage or any other relationship. Your spouse has a unique identity, with talents and insights and gifting that you may not have! Taking the time to connect with the person we were created to be gives us time to ourselves to:
I go and go all day and don’t make time for my body to recuperate. It helps my mood to just sit for a while, maybe read a book to the kids, stretch out my body, or just nap. I know my husband needs at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time when he gets home from work. If I have a list of questions or concerns, they need to wait until after he’s had a chance to disconnect from his day and focus on his family.
I challenge myself to process thoughts, motivations, emotions every day. I do this best when I write in my journal, read my Bible, or listen to a podcast. Thinking before I act is just good discipline and improves my relationships with family and friends. My husband needs his processing time the most! In another article, My Husband Is Not My Best Friend, I addressed this issue and its biological implications – men and women’s brain process information and emotion very differently, and often he needs more time to ponder before giving a fair answer.
Like-minded people will spur each other on, and often times this is a close friend, maybe another parent or someone experiencing the same struggles. Open up and let at least one person in can who sit, listen, and be your “Me, too!” person. One of my closest friends who “gets me” and shares my passion lives in Washington state. But we talk just about every week while we’re doing chores. We love to share what we’ve been learning from life, quiet time, and reading. Bruce has the same connection with his guy friends, even if it’s just talking about surfing or Star Wars – knock yourself out, I say.
Best Alone Time Ever
Last year, my husband sent himself on a surf trip to Samoa with two other surf buddies, something he had last done when he was single, well over 10 years ago. He had been working non-stop building the family business, never able to just get away on his own. Some may think that’s the sacrifice when you get married and have a family, but I knew that his soul was aching for this get away. He had been alluding to it for years whenever we shared dreams for the future.
He was only gone for seven days, but when he came back, there was an excitement for life in his eyes that I had never seen before. Between surfing and eating, he made time to dive into books, and came home talking about what he learned. He talked so fast about all the waves they caught, making motions and drawing pictures with his hands (I still don’t know what that means, but it was exciting to watch!)
I thought, “Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?” This huge spike in energy continued into the following months, Our time apart made our time together so much better, because his soul was full and overflowing.
Now when my husband calls me to say he wants to invite guys over or go for a surf, I think, “Good for him!” Because, you know what… he does the same for me. He sent me home to California last year when I was missing my family. That time was precious and I came back feeling the same way he did after his surf trip. When I want to have friends over, I take care of dinner for them and he’s happy that I have someone else to talk to late into the night – because he recognizes it as a need for me. He doesn’t have to meet every one of my needs to be able to recognize them, and I don’t need to feel pressured to meet all of his. We just need to realize they exist.
Recognizing the Value
When we both came to a place where we believed our time alone was actually rejuvenating, the pressure of feeling like we needed to be there for each other diminished. We began to recognize the uniqueness that we brought into the marriage, and continue to build and grow on as the years go by. When we do find a common interest, it’s that much more exciting. We both love historical / political shows or dramas so now we watch Madam Secretary when he comes home from work at night. Win!
Allow your spouse the time they need to refresh, maybe even give a spa day or a golf game as a gift, and schedule the time they can take. Make cute little coupons for them to redeem. It’s the gift and the hope of time they can look forward to, and you may be surprised what it does for your relationship.