Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Togetherness?

Romance. Courtship. Marriage. Divorce. How will we ever figure out what makes a relationship work, and what kills it?

Adult couple about to kissI came across an article this morning that led me to contemplate this: how much time is the “right” amount when it comes to a loving and functional couple?

“Well,” you’re saying to yourself, “That all depends, right?”

It’s a bit like asking how much sex is too much sex (no such thing for men?) – and the answer is likely a matter of the individuals involved.

That’s my first thought, certainly. But just as any relationship can grow strained when you spend too much time apart, can’t the same be said if you’re attached at the hip? Is it a problem if you’re spending all your time together?

What makes daily and nightly contact “just right” for some couples, and all wrong for others?

Shared Time, No Crime?

I think about spouses who work in the same profession or who build businesses together. I wonder about the perspectives and concerns they share as a result. Does this kind of mutual understanding strengthen their bond? Give it special meaning? A better shot at surviving the usual temptations and influences – including boredom – that cause the typical relationship rifts?

Is it just the opposite?

What if they share their workspace? If they share essentially everything?

Again, is it a matter of individuals and circumstances, or does all this togetherness place particular pressures on the couple?

The article states:

Spending time apart promotes an appreciation of your marriage and each other.

So what do you think?

Independence, Co-Dependence, Intimacy

I certainly see the point. But then, I’m an independent person by nature and by circumstance. I am immediately wary of someone who has no interests or friends outside of me – or in any relationship. That sort of emotional dependency doesn’t bode well for the long haul, because I don’t want to be someone’s “everything.”

I also thrive on differences, and even a bit of mystery. Know everything about my partner? Every story? No surprises? Then I’m restless. I’m feeling constricted. I want something more – including my freedom.

All of this leads me to agree – in principle – with what this writer has to say about time apart allowing for appreciating each other. And I don’t find that this compromises intimacywhich is something else again or, as defined by (paraphrased):

a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group; a close association with or detailed knowledge / understanding of a place, subject, etc.

For me, intimacy has to do with knowledge, trust, and shared touch. I find that intimacy is enhanced when two wholly owned individuals come together, which doesn’t require spending every day in the same space.

Keeping Romance Alive: Time, Timing, Circumstances

So how much time is enough time, and how much is too much? We all want to keep the romance alive, right?

Days away from each other?

For me, that’s no problem. Especially because I’m no longer in the baby business, up all night and desperate for sleep. But in marriage, for me, days at a time with a traveling husband was a different matter – for precisely that reason.

Days every week? On a regular basis?

If we’re involved, it’s not an issue. If we’re married or married with kids? The complexion of things changes dramatically when one spouse is carrying the load on the domestic front – with little or no relief.

In both of these scenarios, we’re talking about the practical side to serious relationships or marriage. Division of labor. Raising children. Running a household. Cooking, driving, laundry, bills. And often – work for pay outside the home as well. It’s the dilemma of “having it all” transformed into doing it all.

The challenge isn’t one of too much togetherness – it’s too damn much on one set of shoulders!

As for the more extreme end of the spectrum – weeks or months of separation? The long-term long distance marriage that is sometimes unavoidable? My hat goes off to those who an do it; I see the advantages when it’s by choice. But it’s not for me at this stage. And my hat goes off to those brave military wives and husbands who live with this year after year.

“I Want To Be Alone”

Recently, as I plunged back into the dating pool, not only have I thought about relationships and what makes them work, but I’ve given considerable time to thinking through what I really want in a relationship.

I realize that some of my needs have changed (of course!), and some have crystallized: I seek a man of character, humor, and smarts (immeasurably sexy to me). His appearance? Oh, I have my preferences like anyone, but they’re relatively unimportant. His interests? Not of significant consequence to me, though a man who’s mad for sports won’t be my cup of java.

Naturally, other factors come into play – to do with sexual chemistry, with the logistics of blended families should that arise, and with personality.

But too much togetherness?

It’s something I hadn’t given thought to before reading the referenced article, which is, incidentally, presented in the context of marriage and divorce. And it’s something worth thinking about, particularly if you, like me, want some time alone – need some time alone. I feel strangled when I don’t have it; to write, to think, to be.

Is this the burden of women, still? Do we feel guilty when we ask for – or take – a little alone time?

Romance Racetrack

When it comes to romance, getting back in the race is about more than time to invest in courtship and getting to know a possible partner.

Having hit that half century mark, demographics aren’t in my favor. Moreover, the nature of the work I do is isolating. But then there’s attitude, timing, and my willingness to say yes to taking risks. My children are older, and though my days and evenings are filled with writing and related tasks, I’m (theoretically) more available. I’m certainly more flexible – at least I hope so – cognizant that I’ll need to adjust some habits and make compromises.

I’ll need to reorient.

Still, there’s a limit to how much time I want to spend with a significant other. I have my interests; he will need to have his. I cherish my friendships, and I hope the same will be true for him. Then, I believe, the “ours” and the “hours” we share will be all the more worth savoring.

  • What is the right amount of partner time for you?
  • Is there such a thing as too much?
  • Do you work with your partner or spouse, and does that foster a close relationship or complicate it?
  • How dependent are you on a single “other” for friendship, activities, love, and romance?


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  1. says

    I have a Venn diagram theory of relationships. The two circles need to overlap a bit to have a chance of a healthy relationship. Problems can be accelerated (a) if the two circles become completely separate, or if they overlap only a tiny bit, or (b) if the two circles become one, leaving very little space for individual growth.

    “Doctor” Leanne
    Qualifications: zero
    Opinions: infinite

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Love it, Doctor Leanne! (Venn diagrams fit so many life scenarios, don’t they? And parenting (with a sense of humor) qualifies us for plenty.)

  2. says

    This is great! I recently jumped in the dating pool and am struggling to figure out how much time is just right. One guy was interested but failed to make an effort to spend any time with me aside from a date-date once a week, maybe. I ended up losing interest from his of apparent lack of interest in me. Time apart is crucial, and so is time together. It’s so complicated! I just want to hold hands and watch movies on the couch with someone.

  3. says

    Joined at the hip – NO, definitely not us. Having both same and different interests and friends – YES, in a balance appropriate for the particular couple. Daytimes apart – SOMEWHAT, fine. Nighttimes apart – NO, a different story. We always share our day then, if we have been different places. Work that separates couples physically for extended periods is hard on relationships. On occasion, we may be apart a night or few. That’s infrequent, so no problem and even a chance for checking our relationship. I’ve taken a couple of solo backpacking trips when Fran couldn’t go, had a good experience, and Fran never looked better than when I came dragging back (with lots of stories, of course).

  4. says

    Right now Husband and I are at the stage where we spend plenty of time together co-parenting, but very little quality time being grown-ups together. Just last night we were talking about tweaking our schedules in order to get some of that relationship-building time back. As much as we realize that this tiny kid stage of our marriage is short-lived, we recognize the foolhardiness of ignoring our relationship during it and then expecting that it will still be healthy and vital once it’s done.

  5. says

    Ugh….I have no good answer to this question. Now that I’m remarried I’m wondering the same thing. I felt differently when we were first dating … I was single and handling everything and relatively OK with that. Now I want help–a division of labor–and without that I feel less than romantic toward him. Might be wrong but it’s there. We communicate about it though and he’s receptive to hearing my side and to making changes, though. We don’t work together, but I do believe shared experiences build intimacy–whether it’s sexual or not–so perhaps they feel closer bonds because of the shared experiences of growing a business, etc.? There’s not a right answer, but I’ll admit I was hoping to find one in your post :)

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Glad you stopped by to weigh in on this one, Soccer Mom (and Kristen, and Paul, and Lindsey, and Leanne)… I think we may arrive at some helpful suggestions through this discussion, if not explicitly in my post. And there are so many variations of relationships – long distance relationships that are nonetheless “committed,” new relationships, where you’re still trying each other on for size (while “falling”), and there are marriages and remarriages – with and without children. So many other variations as well.

      Paul is on his second marriage, and nearing retirement. He’s learned a great deal, yet note that he and his wife still approach things differently. I’m guessing that their commitment and respect and communication help everything. Lindsey is dipping a toe back in the dating waters. Great time to ask herself these questions – and keep them in mind. Kristen just had #3 – and in my opinion, is very wise to recognize that there is the Wife, the Husband, there are the parents, and there is the couple. I’m guessing that in her relationship, both parents understand the importance of that last – The Couple.

      I am not personally familiar with the dynamics of remarriage, though I am familiar with the dynamics of loving post-divorce, and with children. Very, very tricky. And very hard not to fall into old patterns (and division of labor). But you may have just provided the most important key in my book. You said it – communication.

      You want help, you need help, and if your husband is receptive to listening and discussion, it seems to me you’re ahead of the game. Raise the issue, and before it turns into resentment. You can certainly position that you’re tired, that you want more couple time, that sharing in more of the domestic duties will give you both higher quality togetherness.

      As for more possible solutions? And how they may shift and evolve as we continue to learn about our partners and our relationships? I hope more readers will share their thoughts – and what’s “too much” togetherness for them, or “not enough,” or possibly – the right and wrong kind.

  6. says

    My boyfriend of three years and I did the long distance thing for a while. And it worked. Barely. We apparently are one of those couples that need to be near each other. And so we have made the necessary changes to make that happen. We go to different schools, have different friends, and spend a lot of time apart. But we also make it a priority to spend a lot of time together. We help each other with projects and we spend almost every night together. For a lot of people I know, this seems like way too much, but for us it is the perfect fix. I am thinking that different people do need different levels of intimacy. Some people can’t stand to be apart while others need space. I like my alone time but I think I like the time I spend with others a bit more. And I don’t mind working on my writing when the boy is around.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Welcome, Jennifer. So glad you stopped by to comment.

      Long distance can be so tough. I know a few of my regular readers who comment here have lived through that (and continue to). My hat is off to you for being able to see it through and maintain a strong and loving relationship.

      I think you hit on something that is very important – the that the tendency toward time together or time apart be compatible. It sounds like you and your boyfriend share the same desire and comfort with time together. That makes it just right for you. And those who need more space, ideally, will find each other. Where it gets trickier of course, is when you mix up the demands of work with strange schedules, kids and their schedules, or two people with differing desires for time together. That’s when clear (and tender?) communication helps, and compromise – for both parties. Not so easy!

      So glad you joined the conversation. Hope you’ll visit often! :)
      I hope

  7. says

    Of course the answer to everything is “it depends,” as you point out. However, I think finding ways to be more comfortable with ourselves, and particularly our pain (i.e. history of hurt, abandonment, betrayal) can free us from neurotic defenses (i.e. idealizing new partners until we see flaws and devalue them, thus pushing them away or running away).

    Relationship, in the beginning particularly, requires a tolerance for uncertainty. When we really feel love, we can be brave and take more risks; when we feel safe we can roll with things and enjoy what is without pushing for certainty, commitment, etc.

    When it comes to time, perhaps being able to read the other and attune with them will make them feel safer, and in turn allow them to attune with us? It’s hard not to be scared if we’ve been hurt, yet our fear tends to mask our humor, our creativity, our sensuality, our playful trust and our authentic best Selves. Likewise those who seem to cling a bit too much, or run away a bit too easily, might be lovely if we were to understand their behavior and not take it personally.

    Belle cannot get away from Beast fast enough, yet she can dance all night with him once he’s become his old self (although Beast does seem sexier).

  8. says

    I have to admit, I’m a bit on the fence about this, but that’s probably because of I have the unique perspective of being married to my best friend, and the only man I’ve ever really dated. My initial thought though as I read is how much we’ve become a “definition” society, we feel as though we need to follow a set of rules for everything: the right amount of time to be with and away from our partner, the rules for parenting, the right career trajectory. We’ve become so group-minded that we forget how individual so much of this stuff should be. Our relationship goes through fits and spurts, and right now with young children, much of our free time is spent a part because one or the other must always be with the children. It makes intimacy more challenging, but we both recognize that this too will pass. The key is developing breadth and trust in a relationship so that, no matter what the circumstances, you can stay true to each other.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Beautifully said, Christine. Our definition society – and the need for individuals to find what suits them, even as it evolves with changing stages.


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