Time Together, Time Apart: How Couples Can Find a Healthy Balance

Feeling close to your spouse or partner is often the result of spending time together, doing things you both enjoy. Partners who make it a point to reserve time for each other find that their shared experiences give them a common frame of reference and increase the positive, loving feelings they have for one another.

The amount of time you and your partner spend together is important, of course – but it’s more about how you spend that time. For shared activities to support the health of your relationship, they need to pass a few tests.


How can you tell if you’re using your time together to full advantage? For starters, the activities should lead you and your partner to interact in a positive way. Even chores around the house or yard can fill the bill if you are engaged and supportive of one another while you’re working.

Secondly, joint activities have to be enjoyable to both of you. Most couples have at least one or two similar interests, so you should be able to come up with things you can do together. If you don’t have shared interests, you can take turns participating in each other’s activities. Keep in mind, though, that fairness and balance matter. Both of you should have an equal vote in choosing activities, and roughly equal time should be devoted to each partner’s interests.

Commitment is also important. If you agree to take part in your spouse’s favorite activity – hiking, for example – you must do it willingly and show genuine interest. This is the art of presenting yourself as involved, even though you may not be as enthusiastic as your partner, for the simple reason you want to make him or her happy.

If you act bored or irritated, you will not only diminish your partner’s enjoyment, but you may find that s/he acts surly and uncooperative when it’s time to do the things you care about.


Marriages also benefit when spouses have time for themselves. Personal time helps us maintain our individual identities and gives us a sense of control over our lives. “Alone time” can actually help keep relationships fresh and reduce conflicts over time.

How much personal time do you need for the health of your relationship? No two couples will answer that question the same way. What’s most important is that you discuss and agree on how much solo time you need. When handled correctly, each of you will feel you’re getting your fair share.

Even if couples spend very little time together or very little time apart, the relationship will be healthy if the balance suits both of them. If the partners disagree on how much together and alone time they should have, this can lead to serious conflict. For some, too much time together feels suffocating – while for others, too much time apart makes them feel insecure and lonely.


In heterosexual relationships, husbands and wives may have different views on how much time should be spent together and apart. In many couples, the wife tends to want more couple time, usually because she sees it as crucial to her marriage and making sure there’s solidarity as a couple. Her husband, on the other hand, may tend to prefer more time on his own.

That’s not to say men don’t want to spend time with their wives. Rather, it may stem from the fact that men tend to have more and better quality leisure time than women. Men are often good at compartmentalizing, so issues they’re dealing with in one part of their lives don’t affect the other parts. They may find it easier to put work and home duties aside and enjoy themselves fully when they’re relaxing. Also, many husbands still expect their wives to handle the majority of home and family tasks – meaning that there is less pressure for them to sacrifice personal time to handle those tasks.

Women who carry the lion’s share of home and family duties may not get enough leisure time on their own. Concerns about family, social and home obligations may be on their minds even when they’re supposed to be taking time off. While some can balance their various roles, some may find themselves unable to turn their sense of duty off. As a result, their personal time may feel more fragmented and much less enjoyable. Because of all their responsibilities, many women don’t feel as entitled to free time as do men. They may feel guilty taking time for themselves, which makes leisure time a source of stress instead of the well-deserved break they need.

Taking restorative breaks is crucial for any marriage. Partners may want to encourage each other to take a mini-vacation from their roles. For example, husbands may give their wives a regular break from home and family duties, taking on 100% of the chores while the wife steps away to recharge her batteries. This works well if both partners keep in mind that a break is in everybody’s best interests. When one partner’s stress is reduced, both partners will see a healthy boost in the relationship.


Balance and compromise are crucial when it comes to deciding how you and your spouse will use your time. A mix of time with friends and family, time together as a couple, and separate time for each partner add to the quality of your relationship. If you don’t feel that balance exists right now, you need to have an honest conversation about what’s missing and how to arrive at a better plan.

Focus your discussion on the practical aspects of time allocation as well as the reasons for the imbalance. For example, if your spouse avoids joint activities with you, find out if it’s the activities themselves or some other reason. Agree to listen without judging each other or getting defensive. While you may not like the answers, you will learn something about your relationship – and this is the first step in working out solutions.


As an expert therapist who has worked with hundreds of married and committed couples in the Las Vegas area, I can help you work through the issues that surround time together and time apart. Working as a team, we can create a foundation for greater understanding about what each of you needs to feel healthy and whole.

To schedule a conversation in my offices, get in touch with me today.



Psychology Today