A beautiful sunset, an ice cream, running against the wind - there are things in our world that we genuinely love. And while we look forward to these experiences and appreciate them, we know that they can sometimes become too much of a good thing.
The same is true of people too. It does not matter how much we enjoy someone’s company: If we spend too much time with them, we can find ourselves amid a conflict with them more easily. This became crystal clear during the COVID-19 pandemic when we stayed inside with the same people day after day.
How can we sensitively address these problems? How do we keep intimacy alive in the face of stifling togetherness?
Trouble in paradise
At first, spending more time with our loved ones seems like a dream come true. Many of us feel that we don’t have enough quality time opportunities, so being constantly together can sound like the staycation we’ve always wanted.
With time we often become aware that prolonged time together can actually burden the relationship in some unexpected ways:
- Arguments about ‘nothing.’ Excessive time together can result in inexplicable feelings of resentment, leading to quarrels about petty things and triggering random outbursts.
- Feeling bored or unstimulated. We are wired to hate monotony, and with constant togetherness, we may get tired of our loved ones and no longer find them interesting.
- Fixating on a negative aspect of the person with whom we live. Prolonged exposure inevitably brings discoveries about a person’s personality, habits, or mindset that can lead to difficult, unresolved feelings.
The delicate art of togetherness
Togetherness is a balancing act. To be with someone in a healthy way, we have to maintain harmony between involvement and space.
Too much involvement, and we grow resentful. The other person becomes too predictable, and we notice minor idiosyncrasies that may fill us with annoyance and rage.
Too much space, and we grow distant and unloving. We no longer feel in touch with the other person’s lived experience. We give off an uncaring vibe, and the other person gets the impression that they no longer matter to us.
Togetherness is like a magnifying glass: it works best at the proper distance. And when we find that distance, everything appears in perfect clarity.
The importance of self-differentiation
Self-differentiation starts with being aware of our own feelings, expectations, and needs. We can then figure out what parts of ourselves belong to ourselves and what parts belong to the relationship. In order to relate to someone else successfully, we need to know what we expect out of the relationship.
Tips for Self-Differentiation for improved togetherness
- Schedule time for yourselves. No matter what your living and work situations are, you should be able to spend some time during the day by yourself, doing activities that you enjoy.
- Schedule time for routine activities. These will not only provide structure to your day but give a consistent time to interact with your loved one.
- Be honest about your feelings. The proximity will bring new aspects about your loved one to light. A constructive conversation, carried with curiosity and respect, may allow you to clarify your expectations, set up boundaries, and come to a mutual understanding.
- Broaden your support system. Although you may be living with your loved ones, you don’t have to have them be the only source of advice, conversation, or activities partner. Connect with other people and benefit from interactions with them.
Staying together all day with your loved ones can present real challenges to the relationship. But if you navigate it right, you can use it as an opportunity to develop yourself and your relationship into its fullest positive potential.
For more guidance on loving your time together, feel free to reach out.