A Relationship Sabbatical Can Save Your Marriage – Here’s How

It may seem counter-intuitive, but time apart is really the best way to stay together. Here’s how a relationship sabbatical reignites attraction, restores magic, and helps avoid silly fights.

My partner and I flirted from afar for close on ten years before getting it together. (It’s a long story that requires whiskey, so not suitable material for Care2.com.) However, a lesson we learned some six or seven years into the relationship does bear sharing here.

Given that we thought we’d never be together, when it did finally happen we naively assumed we wouldn’t have to work at the relationship. We thought love alone would take us the distance. Of course, we didn’t say that in as many words, but looking back that’s clearly what we were thinking.

Things went swimmingly until we found ourselves heading for the notorious seven-year anniversary, when all of a sudden life wasn’t quite as rosy on the homefront. Fortunately, a chance job offer in another province provided some much-needed time apart, allowing us to objectively take stock of where we were at.

Up until that point we’d been living the cliched life of the newly in love. We were always together. As a fairly hardcore introvert, this was not good for my state of mental health. And although far more outgoing by nature, the in-your-face-ness of our relationship began weighing on my partner, too.

The difference in us —both as a couple and individually— following that first relationship sabbatical was profound and we immediately made a pact to spend more time apart. We also realised that there were myriad benefits to be had from embarking on regular relationship sabbaticals.

What Is a Relationship Sabbatical?

relationship sabbatical

According to Merriam-Webster, a sabbatical is a period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to rest, travel, do research, etc. What I’m proposing with a relationship sabbatical is similar in concept.

Unlike the kind of break Ross and Rachel were on, a relationship sabbatical isn’t about figuring out if you actually want to be together. It’s simply about taking the time to recharge your batteries as an individual.

Your relationship sabbatical can vary in length from a night apart to a couple of days to even longer. It all depends on the time and financial resources you have at your disposal. It’s also about being open to whatever life throws at you. Rather than viewing a situation as negative, look for the possibilities it brings.

Take the job offer that led my partner and I live to live in separate cities for half a year. Sure, we could have seen it as a hardship, but instead we chose to use the opportunity to rediscover ourselves.

Negotiating the Terms of Your Relationship Sabbatical

relationship sabbatical

When it comes to time together and time apart, husbands and wives often have different ideas about how much time should be dedicated to the couple and the individual. Women generally want more couple time, while men prefer more time alone.

It also depends on your personality type. As an introvert, I thrive best when I have frequent chunks of ‘me time’ whereas my partner can get by on much less. It’s up to you as a couple to find middle-ground. For us, it’s a minimum of a weekend apart every three months. You’ll have to figure out what your sweet spot is.

What About Finances and Family Commitments?

relationship sabbatical

Don’t let your circumstances stop you from taking a relationship sabbatical. If money is tight, you could offer to house sit for a friend or colleague the next time they go out of town. Alternatively, keep an eye out for off-season specials and make a point of booking your getaway in advance.

Leaving your kids for something as seemingly frivolous as a weekend away by yourself may not sit well with you, but parents need to take time for themselves. It lowers stress levels, strengthens the family unit and teaches children to be independent. And because you’re taking turns to stay home, your kids also get to enjoy time alone with just one parent.

Time Apart Is The Best Way To Stay Together

relationship sabbatical

While it might seem counter-intuitive, time apart is really the best way to stay together. Time alone allows you to decompress in a way that might not be possible when you’re with your spouse. I enjoy eating pizza and watching Downton Abbey. For my partner, it’s red wine and every Vin Diesel movie ever. There’s no way we can do that together, nor would we want to.

It also reignites attraction, restores magic and helps you avoid silly fights. But one of the biggest benefits is that it reminds you that you’re a person outside of your relationship. When you spend a lot of time with someone you run the risk of becoming co-dependent, which is sweet for the first five minutes but quickly wears thin.

Go on Regular Artist Dates

artist date

In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about the benefits of weekly artist dates as a way to replenish your creative well. She’s approaching this from an artist’s point of view, but making ‘me time’ a regular habit can serve our relationships just as well.

While deeply rewarding on many levels, relationships are also hard work. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. It’s fun work, after all. But work it is, and occasionally you need to take time out to focus purely on you.

A combination of weekly slots of ‘me time’ and regular sabbaticals has helped us thrive us a couple. Had we done these things from the get-go, our relationship would not have teetered so close to disaster.

Whether you’ve just started dating or have been together for decades, time apart is imperative for you to grow as individuals and as a couple. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy putting on stretchy pants, ordering pizza and hanging out on the couch with a good book?

Related at Care2

Photo credit: Thinkstock

38 comments

Brian D
Brian Dyesterday

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Kathryn I
Kathryn Iyesterday

Makes sense! Thanks for sharing!

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Jenny G
Jenny G8 days ago

Sometimes we tend to take our spouse for granted. Some time away from each other might fix this.

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tanzy t
tanzy t8 days ago

So much more grateful of each other when you do this.

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Leo C
Leo C10 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Janis K
Janis K11 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Elizabeth M
.12 days ago

Many thanks.

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Brenda S
Brenda S13 days ago

I am Single and looking for someone for a serious relationship that will lead to marriage

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s14 days ago

Very good advice and one which i follow. It works. Thank you

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Chad Anderson
Chad A15 days ago

I have to spend an amount of time apart from my partner because of our different work and family commitments. This means I usually visit my family abroad without her for about a month while she makes one or two similar trips without me. While it does not always feel ideal, it does keep us focused and valuing out time together.

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