fight lessIf you’ve ever been asked, “Do you and your spouse go out a lot?” you might answer like the millions of parents who’d chuckle and say, “Yes, sure we do. Just not together.” With young children at home, finding time and money to have a couples’ night out on the town, a weekend away, or a movie-going afternoon can be more complication and stress than it’s worth. But you don’t want to stay home all the time, so you trade-off on social events: one for me, one for you.  

Alone time is good

If you’re wondering whether the trade-off is somehow compromising your marriage, don’t worry. Being alone is good for your marriage, within reason. New research shows that long-married happy couples often say their secret is: “We give each other space.” According to an unpublished study by Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, having enough space or privacy in a relationship is more important to a couple’s happiness than having a good sex life. This means that girls’ weekend away is a good thing. And that guys' night out is a great idea, too.

Just ask—>


Ask first, enjoy second 

Of course, this isn’t a rallying cry for spouses to say, “See! This proves that I should be able to do what I want when I want.” Instead, as a couples mediator, I bring the peaceful negotiation method to the table. Ask first, enjoy second. If you want to attend an event or make a social plan, talk to your mate before you commit. Offer to trade-off and encourage your mate to take a guilt-free night out for him or herself while you stay home with the kids. If your mate doesn’t latch on to the specific night you want out, then consider whether it’s because she or he thinks you don’t pull your weight when you are home. If that’s the case, talk about it and follow-through on doing more at home in return for some nights off each month.

Agree on limits 

If your mate just isn’t thrilled with the idea of separate nights out, it’s time for a hard-core “I love you so much” talk coupled with “time for myself is really important and helps me stay balanced and happy” talk. Be honest, be confident, and be loving in this conversation. But don’t ignore jealousy issues. If she thinks, “I don’t like the idea of his being out with the guys late night getting drunk,” or he thinks, “She doesn’t need to go out to a bar and be hit on by single guys,” you’ve got to open up about what you actually do in your time away from home—and you have to be willing to compromise. For instance, if your mate is bothered that you would go to a bar with single girlfriends, you could agree to have dinner with those particular friends and head home afterward. If your mate is upset by the idea that you’d go out with friends (single or married) and come stumbling home at 2 am, agree to control your drinking on your nights out and give yourself a reasonable curfew. Remember, too, that having time to yourself doesn’t have to mean that you attend a social event. You could take a Saturday to shop, see a ballgame, go to the gym or go to lunch, alone.

Being married doesn’t mean your spouse controls your every move, but it does mean you let your choices be influenced by how they affect your mate, insecurities and all. If space is what you need to center yourself, don’t let the issue go, just be willing to give to get.

laurie puhnFLLM cover

Laurie Puhn is a Harvard-educated lawyer, couples mediator, and bestselling author of Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship Without Blowing Up or Giving In, who frequently appears on CNN, Good Morning America, and The Early Show to offer relationship advice. Visit her website.


Do you often feel you need your own space? Does it cause disputes?