Time apart pays dividends in the time together

Columnist Steve Lange says a little space and some alone time can make everyone happier, healthier.

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When people seek me out for relationship advice — which is practically never — I always impress upon them the following:

Make time. For time apart.

I wish I could do more, here, to emphasize the dramatic pause I use between these two sentences when I speak them aloud.

A period alone doesn’t do it justice.

Lindy and I realized this “time for ourselves” lesson early in our own relationship.


I have always, for instance, locked the bathroom door when I’m in there. Even just to brush my teeth.

There’s a fine line, after all, between togetherness and needing to watch your significant other floss.

When Lindy had to take that first big work trip right after we were married — a week in San Diego — we went through the motions of new lovers, distraught at each other’s parting.

“Oh! My dearest, Stephen! Every minute we’re apart will feel like in eternity of emptiness in the part of my soul where my love for you lives!”

“Yes, sweet, sweet Lindy! I will spend the entire week lying in the fetal position hugging myself and pretending my arms are in fact your sweet, sweet arms!”

But, when Lindy was on her trip, she went to the San Diego Zoo with co-workers. Really enjoyed it. Took a whale watching excursion, which she still mentions today as one of her favorite vacations.

I slept on the couch every night and ate take-out barbecue. Every night!

We realized that, hey, we should make time! For time apart!


So it has gone, for the last 25 years.

Sure, we take family vacations together. We go hiking most weekends.

But, once a year or so, Lindy drives to Vermont to see her sister. Or Michigan to see her parents.

I take a weeklong motorcycle trip with my dad. I go to Michigan to race the Port Huron-Mackinac sailboat race with my brother.

Often, when I take these kinds of trips, people say things like, “Your wife doesn’t care if you just take off like that?”

Here’s something: This summer, when I dramatically reminded my wife that I was leaving the next morning on a solo, weeklong motorcycle trip — how I’d be “winging it by myself for a few thousand miles” — she said “Oh. That’s tomorrow? I thought that was next week. Have fun!”

Lindy and I don’t bother each other even for the little “hour or so getaways” we occasionally carve out for ourselves.

Lindy will sit in the van to listen to the last of an NPR story on the radio. By herself. In our driveway.


Most Sundays, I spend an hour wandering Menards in search of my “free with rebate” deals.

As I write this, I’m finishing up Week One of Living in the Basement by Myself.
Lindy and the kids have been sick, and staying upstairs. I’m trying to keep my distance.
They are sleeping, mostly. I hear them coughing occasionally.

Downstairs, I’m having fires in the fireplace. Playing pinball. Watching shows Lindy wouldn’t want to watch.

Like “Last Breath,” the documentary about an underwater diving expedition gone horribly wrong. “All Is Lost,” the movie about a solo ocean sailing trip gone horribly wrong. “The Beckoning Silence,” the documentary about a mountain climbing expedition gone horribly wrong.

Today is Sunday, so I’m heading out to wander Menards. Then picking up John Hardy’s for dinner. Then falling asleep on the couch watching "Mystery Science Theater 3000."

It’s been tough, being forced to stay away from each other in the same house.

It would be worse, though, if we weren’t used to it.

If we hadn’t previously made time ...

(Long pause.

Keep pausing.)

For time apart.

Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.

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