Tag Archives: spending time together

“Stop nagging me about watching the game!”

“Sweetness” Walter Payton by Mimi Stuart ©

While some sacrifices need to be made in any relationship, giving up what you truly enjoy will only lead to resentment. It won’t enhance the passion and vitality between the two of you.

Make sure you find a balance between spending quality time together and pursuing your own passions. Your relationship will flourish if each person supports the other in pursuing their interests, while also making an effort to come together to enjoy each other on a regular basis.

Yet don’t expect you or your partner to behave perfectly. If your partner becomes controlling, be civil while expressing how important your own interests are to you. For example,

“Please don’t ask me to give up something that I truly enjoy. I’d like to watch the game without feeling guilty about it. But I really want to do something with you later when the game’s over.”

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Related article: “Were you out on the golf course again? I’ve been here alone all afternoon.”

Pursuing passions or partnership?
““You should spend more time with me instead of going fishing!””

"Long Drive" — Jim Furyk by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Long Drive” — Jim Furyk by Mimi Stuart ©

Should you push your partner to stop pursuing their passions?

People often push their partner to stop pursuing their interests in favor of spending more time together as a couple. The pursuing partner may genuinely want to spend more time together or he or she may be reacting to feelings of jealousy or insecurity. Feelings of insecurity in particular will cause someone to try to control the other person and become possessive.

Some partners find it uncomfortable to deal with their partner’s insecurities. So they prefer to accommodate them. Often it is their own anxiety in face of a partner who is upset that they cannot tolerate. As a result, when their partner pressures them to give up their interests, they give in quickly in order to avoid conflict.

Long-term problems of appeasement

When your partner appeases you, you may feel temporary relief. However, ongoing appeasement will create long-term problems. The result of repressing one’s own desires can result in a gradual deadening of the soul, growing resentment, boredom, and a loss of passion within the relationship.

When your partner continuously appeases you at the expense of their own interests, they will lose some of their passion for life and for you. Moreover, as appeasement becomes the norm, you will both feel increasingly burdened by an obligation to appease each other. As a result, one or both of you will become more and more vulnerable to the other person’s manipulation.

Long-term intimacy and accommodation

True intimacy evolves when you don’t manipulate your partner to accommodate your needs and desires. Long-term passionate intimacy requires that two people have a strong enough sense of self that each can spend time separately pursuing their own individual interests.

To sustain a long-term passionate relationship, you need to balance two primary drives — the desire for togetherness and the desire for autonomy. While everyone has a different ideal balance point, it is clear that the extremes of too much togetherness or too much independence each generate their own problems.

If you really love someone, you do not want that person to stop pursuing their passions and interests. Nor should you want to make that person feel guilty for pursuing them. It’s not much fun spending time with someone who feels stifled and held back. The very reason you love a person has a lot to do with their vitality and individual interests. So it is both wise and loving to encourage them to continue to pursue their interests.

Empower yourself

When you feel threatened by your partner spending time apart from you, rather than controlling your partner, find a way to empower yourself and the relationship.

1. Desire the best for your partner.

You will have a better relationship if your partner is happy. It reflects well on you and you will be more attracted to your partner if your partner is passionate about life rather than unhappy about it.

2. Be curious about your partner’s interests.

You don’t want to become a couple that has nothing to talk about. Don’t feel resentment about your partner’s fishing, golfing, or reading. Instead, ask about their interests, their progress, and other details. Find genuine joy in what they appreciate about their pursuits and passions.

3. Pursue something you enjoy.

Start pursuing your own passions. If you don’t have any, try out different activities, sports, or hobbies, or take some classes. The experience of trying new things will make your life richer. When you keep your life engaged, you enhance your life, which also makes you more interesting to be with. Taking on challenges builds a healthy confidence and joie de vivre. Even failed pursuits make for great stories. All of this will lead you to a more interesting and passionate relationship.

4. Make your time together more enjoyable.

Plan activities together that your partner will want to participate in. Spending some time together is important. Rather than spending that time complaining about your partner’s passions, think about pursuits that you can do together that may be interesting or pleasant for both of you. Talk to your partner about what your interests and passions are.

While it is important to spend some time together, couples keep their relationships alive when they do not spend all their time together. When you encourage your partner to pursue their passions, they will be grateful to be with someone who is truly loving.

Loving someone means respecting their autonomy and wanting them to be truly happy.

Alison Poulsen, PhD

“You like going surfing more than you like me!”

"L'Amour dans l'eau" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“L’Amour dans l’eau” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

So… what I really meant was…

“Let’s spend some time together. I know you love surfing and I don’t want to take that away from you. But I would love to spend a little quality time with you. How about going out to dinner or having a picnic at the beach tonight?”

It’s easy to manipulate someone into spending more time with you, but you won’t enjoy your time together using guilt and complaints to coerce him or her to do so. You want your partner to be fully present and appreciate spending time with you. So entice your partner with a positive suggestion. Remember that it’s an opportunity to spend time together not a burden. You will be more effective if you show compassion while reminding him how important it is for you to enjoy time together.

Balancing individual pursuits and togetherness

It’s important to balance spending time together with pursuing your passions. Brain research shows that desire and passion for your partner fades if you spend all your time together. However, if you spend too little time together, you risk drifting apart and losing your energetic linkage. The ideal balance differs from person to person. To avoid ongoing disappointment and frustration, it’s best to find out what that balance is for each of you before making a long-term commitment.

In any relationship, there will be periods of time where things get out of balance. Candid discussions about this balance are key to avoiding becoming too onesided. Yet such discussions are most effective when each person shows compassion for the other person’s desires and needs while discussing his or her own wishes.

Responding to your partner

While you do not want to develop a pattern of being manipulated by the use of guilt or complaints, it is important to have empathy for your partner’s position and to respond to him or her without getting angry, defensive, or become compliant. You can be compassionate without being controlled.

Have a conversation with your partner and take into consideration your partner’s desires. Find out how he or she envisions spending more time together. Consider whether you are neglecting your partner. If so, discuss with him or her when you could spend more time together and plan to do so. You might also suggest that more positive communication would be more inviting, and perhaps to leave comparisons between your love of surfing and the relationship aside.

Responding to controlling behavior

If the complaint is unwarranted, you might just say, “I love surfing. I hope you want me to do something that makes me happy. I want the same for you.”

When someone is generally controlling and feels threatened easily because of his or her own insecurities, it’s best not to become emotionally reactive. You shouldn’t become hostile, churlish, or apologetic. Instead, keep your cool, and perhaps say, “I love you, but surfing is great exercise, feeds my soul, keeps me balanced and connects me with nature. Loving someone means supporting their passions not restricting them.”

Not buying into his or her emotional heat is key. Keep calm and reasonable yet do not allow yourself to be controlled by his or her fears. If you do, you are walking down the path of emotional fusion toward resentment. Consideration in a relationship is necessary but you shouldn’t start giving up reasonable things that you love to do and you shouldn’t want your partner to do the same.

When people are not differentiated, they lack emotional separation. As a result control and manipulation increase, which leads to greater conflict or over-accommodation at the cost of one’s own desires going underground. Both are unhealthy for the long-term enjoyment of a relationship.

Successful relationships require improving your ability to balance consideration for your partner with respect for your own desires. Consideration engenders the warmth of togetherness, while individual pursuits foster growth and passion. Seeking the right balance for both partners requires an ongoing effort that is well worth it.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Ten Keys to a Great Relationship: ‘The magic is gone.’”

Watch “How to avoid becoming a Doormat.”

Read “I’m always walking on eggshells. I don’t want to upset my partner.”

Read “Pursuing passions or partnership? ‘You should spend time with me instead of going fishing!’”

“I end up arguing with him because he’s usually too busy working to talk.”

"First Encounter" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“First Encounter” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Arguing to get a person’s attention

It’s natural to want emotional contact with your partner or friend. If you find it difficult to get his attention, you might start feeling ignored. To break through his indifference, you might say something meant to get his attention. The easiest way to get someone’s attention is provoking him by saying something surprising or antagonistic.

If you say, “Hey, I just wanted to talk,” your partner will probably nonchalantly say, “I’m busy right now.” But if you say, “We haven’t done anything fun together in three years!” or “My old boyfriend invited me to have a drink,” you are more than likely to get your partner’s attention. The problem is this might not be the best way to get his attention.

Arguing does serve a purpose. Conflict is a painful way to balance two human drives—the desires for emotional contact and autonomy. Arguing compels someone to respond emotionally while promoting self assertion. Yet arguing is not the most satisfying or effective form of human discourse.

Balancing autonomy and connection

If you find yourself frequently wanting another person’s attention, here are some things to consider. There should be a balance between quality time spent together and the pursuit of separate activities, whether work, passions, friends or other interests. The ideal balance is different for every couple, and for each individual within a relationship. A balance is something that has to be negotiated between the partners, negotiated in an open, frank, and reasonable way. Sometimes two individuals have such difference needs that there can be no balance that makes both partners happy. In general, however, a loving relationship thrives when the individuals have separate thoughts, emotions, and interests, and there is a consistent effort to enjoy each others’ company on a regular basis.

So ask yourself whether you are being too needy. Make sure that you are not simply wanting an unreasonable amount of attention, in which case you should perhaps find some other activities to fill some of your time.

How to talk to your partner

If the two of you are truly spending very little time together, it may be time to have a reasonable talk with your partner and find a way for the relationship to be nurtured. It’s important that you are calm and emotionally separate when you speak. When you are emotionally separate from another person, you don’t need to become angry to get that person’s attention. You don’t need dramatic expressions of self-assertion to express your desire to spend more time together. You can do so with some gravity but without becoming manipulative, hostile or needy.

First you can tell your partner that it’s important for you to talk about your needs in the relationship and ask when he has 10 minutes to do so. Don’t engage in guilt trips, manipulate or whine. Show no resentment. Confidence and a positive attitude can be irresistible and show that you have the self-respect to engage on a mature level. Be confident, uplifting and matter of fact. Demonstrate that you support his passions, but emphasize that the relationship is important to you and that there is a necessity for balance and for nourishing that relationship. Ask if he is willing to spend more enjoyable time together on a regular basis. Then ask him what he’s willing to do to keep the relationship strong. If he cannot find the time, then you will know where you and the relationship stand.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Mind reading: ‘You just don’t like spending time with me!’”

Read “Spending Time Together as a Couple.”

Read “Pursuing passions or partnership? ‘You should spend time with me instead of going fishing!’”