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Friday, March 17, 2017

Solitude in a Relationship

Written by  Janan Broadbent, Ph.D.

Do you see solitude and relationships as compatible or mutually exclusive concepts? Over the years, I’ve known a number of people whose partnerships broke up due to disagreements, death, or entanglements with others. Some immediately sought another connection. By immediately, I mean in the next week, if not the next day. Those were people who just could not imagine life without a partner, and “needed” someone there for their emotional (and perhaps social or financial) support. Those connections had a faulty basis: If need is why you seek a person, you set yourself up for dependence – which in turn, fosters resentment sooner or later. Those negative feelings may come from the one who is needy, recognizing that there is that kind of need, or it may come from the one who is providing the support, who then feels the burden.

This is not to mean that there is no dependence in a relationship. One may support the other financially while the other takes on the responsibility of running the daily chores, arranging the social life, keeping the checkbook, or most of the parenting. In that case, there is interdependence that balances the work of a partnership. Let’s remember that healthy and solid relationships do not materialize out of thin air. It takes work on one’s self and on the connection.

Maintaining balance takes on additional pressure when we consider the LGBTQ world. Marriage equality did not totally end those stresses, in the micro or macro spheres. Now in 2017, we are running into additional obstacles, and some freedoms and rights are being reversed. I find it especially odious that young people, specifically trans kids, have to deal not only with bullying but also with what is a basic human right. What do you think is the lesson they learn from the shenanigans in the Congress and state legislatures? Having to deal with the internal issues is hard enough; they also have to tackle the outside forces. My hope is that they have supportive and understanding parents who help them with this journey.

Whatever one’s sexual or gender orientation, some people want more solitude than others. Don’t interpret that as wanting time away from you. Rather, it is time to sort through one’s own thoughts, to make better sense of the world, to heal from past or present hurts or conflicts. And basically, to do the work of being a better partner. If you have peace within yourself, you are in a good position to care for and to convey your love to another. Likewise they would be better able to communicate with you and create that sphere of joy that comes from connecting with other human beings.

Social media and our connection to it have made for a hyper-connected world. However, when people sit at a dinner table and everyone is looking at their phones, what do we call that? Is that time to self as it is a solitary activity?

Remember, solitude and togetherness make for a strong relationship. Teach children and young people it is healthy to take time for themselves. Provide and give some air and sunshine to others, then find joy in discovering your counterparts.

Send comments/questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on Twitter @DrJananB.

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