By America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts.

We have witnessed time and time again marriages in which one or both partners failed to understand the importance of being alone, not only for themselves, but for their spouse as well. When we first introduce this concept to others, the reaction is usually one of surprise. Many couples are of the mistaken notion that they are to be constantly attentive to their spouse. While their intentions are good, their desire to be attentive causes them to, in fact, interfere with the quality of their communicative relationship with their mate. The desire for too much closeness can inadvertently drive a wedge between husband and wife. Isn’t that ironic?

In all probability, many couples believe that quantity of time together is the most important characteristic of their relationship. Instead, the law of diminishing returns comes into play here. The economists would explain it something like this. Let’s say you buy a case of your favorite cola and decide to drink it in one setting. The first cola tastes great. Perhaps the first two or three taste good. But after about four or five, the quality of taste begins to diminish. If you were to drink the whole case in one setting, you would like each cola less and less until you reached a point where you began to absolutely hate your favorite cola. The law of diminishing returns seems to appropriately describe many marriages doesn’t it? More is not always better. Give your spouse some privacy . . . the opportunity to be alone. Expect the same opportunity for yourself. Don’t allow communication in your marriage to fall victim to the law of diminishing returns.

In our interviews, we have been continuously reminded of the importance of privacy and aloneness to the success of a marriage. The recognition and practice of the absolute need for privacy and aloneness is, in our judgment after analyzing thousands of interviews, a fundamental predisposition of successful marriages. The amount of time available to satisfy these two needs varies from one marriage to another and from one spouse to another. But one thing is clear, all marriages will stand the test of time only if these duel needs are recognized and respected. How do you and your spouse improve the quality of communication based on this notion?

Each individual has a different level of need that can change at different stages in their life. Understanding and recognizing the level of need can be quite difficult at times, especially for a person with a low level of need for privacy and aloneness. Being alone to your thoughts provides for you a periodic psychological renewal. A few moments alone to your thoughts each day frees the spirit and cleanses the soul. Do not deny yourself these moments together with yourself. You know what we are talking about don’t you? Remember, to recognize that your spouse also has these same needs.

Just as important is assuring yourself and your spouse that it is natural to have this need and that everyone has this need. In other words, feeling guilty about needing and wanting alone time is not appropriate or healthy. Recognize the need and embrace it.

If you and your spouse allow each other time for privacy and aloneness, think of the possibilities. The quality of communication can only be enhanced between the two of you after refreshing your mind and spirit with alone time. Did you ever notice how hard it is to talk and listen to someone else when your mind is overflowing with thoughts about work, home, children, and the like? No matter how hard you try, you listen but you do not really hear. And you want to know why? It is because you have denied yourself those moments of belonging only to yourself. What kind of real communication goes on between the two people in a marriage within this context? We believe the evidence is clear—not much!

Isn’t it interesting that at the root of successful communication with your mate is no communication at all? You’ll have to admit, this is an interesting notion with considerable merit. While we were quite taken with the idea in our early interviews with successful couples, it was not until some of their stories and examples so poignantly illustrated the concept that we fully grasped the importance of the need for privacy and aloneness to respect. Sometimes we try so hard to be great communicators that we end up with results opposite of our intentions. Because of our social nature, we have been misled into believing that we must always socialize. You only have to consider this for a moment to see the fallacy in this kind of thinking.

If we were pressed, we would probably admit that privacy and aloneness have been at the top of our list of needs many times in our marriage. We live such hectic lives at work that the time to be alone with our own thoughts is paramount to our engaging in any meaningful communication with each other. The recognition and respect for these dual needs are fundamental to successful communication in a marriage. If we are unable to communicate, nothing else matters.

You have to belong to yourself before you can belong to others. Do not miss the opportunity. As the song goes “Even lovers need a holiday . . . time away . . . from each other!”

Simple Things Matter in love and marriage. Love well!

By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz

For more tips to enhance your relationship get the Doctor’s best-selling and multiple-award winning book Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage (Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2010) Available wherever books are sold.
Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book
Winner of the 2009 Mom’s Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book
2009 Nautilus Book Awards Winner for Relationships

Note: The preceding article is based on the book, Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage by the award winning authors, Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz (Published by Jossey/Bass Wiley).

Author's Bio: 

As America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts and award-winning authors, Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz help international audiences answer questions about love, marriage and relationships. With over 30 years of research on love and successful marriage across six continents of the world and their own 46-year marriage, the Doctors know what makes relationships work.

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