In order to get at the meat of this relationship question, it might pay to turn it around for a moment. Is there such a thing as an unhealthy time spent together? For most couples, the answer is yes. There is a distinct line between time spent beneficially and time which can actually cause bad feelings and discord. But where is that line, and how can one partner know if that line has indeed been crossed? This is where open communication becomes essential.
Time spent together as a couple should be beneficial to both. Couples just starting a new relationship may want to spend every spare minute together, which may sound unhealthy to outsiders but both are getting and receiving the intimacy they crave. As long as you and your partner feel this bond growing stronger, the linear time spent together should be viewed as healthy or unhealthy.
There’s a lot going on during those first few weeks or months of a romantic relationship, so society’s rules rarely apply. Don’t be afraid to spend as much time together as possible during the earliest stages of a promising relationship.
As the relationship begins to take shape, however, it may be a good time to examine the effect it’s having on your own personal life. Are you still meeting your other responsibilities-work, school, sleep? Are you maintaining your ties to family and friends? If you notice a definite and negative change in your daily routine, you may be spending too much time with your partner and not leaving enough time for yourself.
One of the hardest things to do in a new relationship is to manage your time together wisely, but that’s what needs to happen in order to maintain your own emotional and physical well-being. Whether it is a formal date or a casual visit, someone has to determine when it’s time to part ways. It may not always be a mutual decision, but a time boundary must be established early in the relationship.
Here are some things to consider when spending healthy time together:
- Work and school obligations. As exciting as it may be to spend all night talking on the phone with your new partner, both of you have places to be in the morning. Assume a fair amount of time for sleep and agree to wrap up late-night conversations by that time. There will be plenty of opportunities to catch up on the latest news, but your bosses and teachers may expect your full and undivided attention. Sleep deprivation, no matter how exciting the cause, will eventually take its toll on your body and mind.
- Family and friends. Everyone in a new relationship wants to find acceptance (or at least tolerance) among family and friends, and for the most part, they usually find it. Friends may want to spend quality time with the newly-formed couple and family members may want to scrutinize this new significant other. Time spent together may mean time spent with each other’s social and familial circles. If these new connections are mutually satisfying, then the time spent together is healthy. But sometimes people just don’t mesh well with certain other people. Spending an uncomfortable amount of time around your partner’s boorish or immature ‘best friend’ may lead to a build-up of resentment. Your partner may also feel uncomfortable around one of your more eccentric relatives. You need to know when to make a graceful exit from family and friends.
- Personal identity. Most healthy relationships are seen as a meshing of two individual personalities. It is important to spend enough time alone to pursue your own goals. If you feel yourself getting losing your own identity in a relationship, it may be a sign of unhealthy time spent together. Both partners should recognize that time spent apart can help the relationship grow, not cause it to wither from inattention. Shared hobbies and interests are great things on which to build a relationship, but a partner shouldn’t feel like his or her time has been wasted on the sidelines. It’s okay to miss an occasional game or convention or competition. Supporting your partner’s interests is healthy, but resenting your time spent in the bleachers is not.
- Partner’s comfort zone. Many of us can become oblivious to the feelings of those around us. We fail to read the obvious signs of discomfort or boredom or distraction. People may want to be polite, but at some point in the day they will become ‘peopled out’. It’s important to understand that a romantic partner may have had a difficult day at work or be under stress. A healthy amount of time spent together often means knowing when it might be better to leave. Sometimes a partner may want to talk about his or her problems, but sometimes he or she is really seeking solitude. If you have open communication, it might pay to ask your partner directly if he or she would rather be alone, rather than remain in their personal space too long and cause an unspoken tension.
There may come a point in your relationship where time spent together becomes more significant. You may not spend as much linear time together as you once did, but you’re more in tune with your partner’s needs. An early relationship may suffer from too much time spent together, but often a mature relationship suffers from a lack of time spent together. You need to find a good balance which strengthens the connection without sacrificing either partner’s sense of self.