“Always leave an air of mystery,” my mother once told a grade school version of myself in the middle of lecturing me about the opposite sex. Since then, the thought has been ingrained in my mind, even more present when I first started to date. Naturally, I had to probe deeper. After all, this piece of advice was coming from a woman who still chooses to have separate bathrooms from her husband. It seemed to be working for them.
This got me thinking: how much distance do we really need from our partners? Surely spending every waking moment with them and sharing to them every detail of our lives would drive us crazy. In an attempt to gain more insight on the topic, I interviewed a married couple, a couple within the same circle of friends and a couple in a long-distance relationship.
“I’ve always believed that maintaining my personal identity is very important,” shares Rissa*, who has been married to her husband for more than 20 years. While the two are together practically all the time and consider the other to be their best friend, the two encourage each other spend time with friends every once in a while: “It’s very important for spouses to have personal time for themselves, just to recharge.” She adds that after spending time either alone or with friends, she always comes back home inspired to share stories with her family.
When it comes to finances, Rissa’s husband initially wanted everything to be transparent: “It was my husband who decided that I handle our finances—he trusts me that much. He gave me all his earnings but then I decided to open a separate account for him. He works hard so I understand that he also has to enjoy the fruits of his labor. We don’t really question each other when it comes to spending for our own personal things.”
Nigel and Jessica, both in their early 20s, have officially been together for three months, but the two have been in the same circle of friends for more than five years. Because of work, the two see each other roughly once or twice a week—something Nigel says is “healthy” because they both agree that having alone time is essential.
“I think that everyone should have their own hobby that they do separate from their partner. They don’t really have an obligation to tell their partner anything that won’t affect their relationship,” he says. “For me, a relationship with low levels of trust is a relationship that will not work. We’re not strict with each other and the only thing I really make sure of is that we treat each other with respect.”
For a couple who is in a long-distance relationship, things will obviously pan out differently. Carl and Erin, who have been together nearly 5 years, are recently adjusting to this set up. Dates for them now mean Facetime a few times a week, which can get tricky to plan because of the time difference. When I question them about whether or not they still share the little details of their lives, Erin tells me this: “Because we know a lot of couples who have parted ways because of an LDR, we were actually very particular about that before I moved [to Canada]. We felt that withholding any seemingly insignificant detail of our day would just make the distance all the more evident.”
Carl, a med student, points out how they are both learning from their relationship: “The easiest part about an LDR is having more time for our work or studies. But of course there are those bouts of sadness because we’re away from each other.” To combat this, they believe in communicating to the other as if they were still there: “I think what’s most important in expressing one’s trust in another in a relationship is being able to communicate ourselves to the other as freely as we can. To let someone know that they’re a really big part of your short, precious time here on earth is already an expression of trust.”
“The distance doesn’t seem as far when you have a few weeks a year to look forward to,” Erin adds.
For the three couples, it seems as if one thing is the most evident: trust in the other. While it isn’t always easy to stay away from someone you love, a big part of what makes a relationship work is still staying your own individual self, and allowing your partner to do the same as well. Many of us might have experienced being in a relationship that makes us feel ugly inside—suspicious, jealous, insecure—leading to a terrible need for the other (or, in other cases, to control the actions of the other). In a healthy relationship where your partner assures you that you can trust them, it is likely that you wouldn’t mind the occasional space. After all, we all know how the cliché saying goes: absence–or distance, in this case–makes the heart grow fonder. The amount of distance simply differs depending on the couple.
As seen on MEGA Magazine February 2018.