Finding a Healthy Balance between Intimacy and Independence in Marriage
It can be extremely difficult to find a healthy balance between intimacy and independence in marriage, but some say finding this balance is important to consider if you desire a long lasting and healthy marriage. There’s a classic conflict between introverted and extroverted people, especially in marriage, and most partners fall into different places on the spectrum when it comes to the amount of connection they need to thrive. If one partner feels the need for more alone time than the other, conflict can arise. If you’ve ever felt tension or guilt in your marriage about your desire to have independence, Dr. John Gottman has some insights on creating a healthy balance that you can read below.
The first time apart is a rite of passage for most newly married couples. We recently experienced it ourselves when Constantino left town for a short business trip. He was sad to be away from home and talked about how much he’d miss David. David, on the other hand, was relishing the idea of a night alone, but was feeling guilty for looking forward to it. We’re new to this marriage thing, and still working out the tricky balance between intimacy and independence.
Both of us are introverts. We love our friends and community dearly, but nothing is more restful to us than an evening at home alone. These moments together are when we’re best at building our Love Maps.
However, we like to call Constantino a “duovert,” meaning he’s an introvert who is able to recharge not only when he’s by himself but also when he’s alone with just his husband. To Constantino, David is rest.
Conversely, David is more of a classic introvert: he likes to be completely alone in order to recharge. As someone who has trouble connecting with his emotions, David needs an absence of external stimuli to be able to identify his feelings and assess his internal well-being; otherwise, he becomes disconnected from himself. Even though many of our wants overlap, there are variations in our needs for time together and time alone, and sometimes it becomes a source of stress in our relationship.
In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman points out that one partner often ignores the other not out of malice but because of their respective needs for intimacy and independence. “Marriage is something of a dance,” Gottman says. “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.” The potential for conflict arises when spouses fall on different points of the spectrum in terms of their needs. Some people desire more frequent connection, while others crave more independence.