Is It Good to Go Out… Without Your Spouse?
If you’ve ever been asked, “Do you and your spouse go out a lot?” you might answer like one of the millions of parents who’d chuckle and say, “Yes, sure we do. But not together!” With young children at home, finding time and money to have a couples night out on the town, a weekend away, or a movie-going afternoon can be more complication and stress than it’s worth. But you don’t want to stay home all the time, so you trade-off on social events: one for me, one for you.
You might wonder, is that getting the best of both worlds or compromising your marriage for yourself? Fortunately, being alone is good for your marriage, within reason. New research shows that long-married happy couples often say their secret is, “we give each other space.” According to an unpublished study by Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, having enough space or privacy in a relationship is more important to a couple’s happiness than having a good sex life. This means that girls’ weekend away is a good thing. And that guy’s night out is a great idea.
Of course, this isn’t a rallying cry for spouses to say, “See! This proves that I should be able to do what I want when I want.” Instead, as a couples mediator, I bring the peaceful negotiation method to the table, which is, ask first, enjoy second. If you want to attend an event or make a social plan, talk to your mate before you commit. Offer to trade-off and encourage your mate to take a guilt-free night out for him/herself while you stay home with the kids. If your mate doesn’t latch on to the specific night you want out, then consider whether it’s because she/he thinks you don’t pull your weight when you are home. If that’s the case, fess up and follow-through on doing more at home in return for some nights off each month.
If your mate just isn’t thrilled with the idea of separate nights out, then it’s time for a hard-core “I love you so much” talk coupled with “time for myself is really important and helps me stay balanced and happy.” Be honest, be confident and be loving in this conversation. As I write about in Fight Less, Love More (which I’m excited to announce is now out in Paperback!), if space is what you need to center yourself, don’t let the issue go, just be willing to give to get.
Laurie Puhn is a Harvard-educated lawyer, couples mediator, and bestselling author of "Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship Without Blowing Up or Giving In," who frequently appears on CNN, "Good Morning America," and "The Early Show" to offer relationship advice. Visit her at www.fightlesslovemore.com.