Time apart is the secret to a happy and fulfilling relationship, Barbra Streisand recently said of her 14-year marriage.
“It gets romantic because even the conversations on the phone get more romantic. You need some distance,” Streisand told Katie Couric in an interview late last month about her relationship with actor James Brolin.
I'll never forget Dolly Parton’s response when she was asked the same question after being married for 46 years to Carl Thomas Dean.
“I always say I stay gone! Stay apart. You can't be in each other's face all the time,” the country singer told Tasteofcountry.com. “Actually, I think that has been the best formula for us, the fact that we appreciate each other when we are together. We don't have to be together all the time.”
They’re not alone.
According to an unpublished, ongoing U.S. study of more than 370 married couples, having alone time is more important than a good sex life.
“It’s very surprising,” Terri Orbuch, research professor at the University of Michigan, said of her findings in the 25-year study.
More women than men, 31% and 26%, respectively, said they wanted more time solo.
Orbuch said this is likely because women tend to take care of children and elderly parents.
“Time for self, or space, allows you to pursue your own hobbies and interests, develop yourself more, become more passionate and motivated,” said Orbuch, the author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great.
Even my retired grandmother, who just celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary, tells me spending time apart is key. She spends her summers holed up at the family cottage north of Toronto with just her two dogs, while her (younger) husband works in Toronto.
"Familiarity breeds contempt," she said.
But Orbuch cautions too much absence isn't good.
"You have to be happy when you leave with your partner. If you're really unhappy, absence makes whatever emotion you leave with grow."
Tips from Orbuch:
Don’t say, “I need to space.” Instead say, for example, “I would love to take a cooking class on Monday nights at the culinary school. It makes me happy and I can’t wait to make you the desserts that I learn.”
You don't have to spend time apart by travelling. It can be just listening to music or reading in separate rooms at the same house.
Schedule quality time together on a calendar. For example, if you’re going on a work trip abroad, perhaps return to the destination as a couple.