You know that couple—the ones who live together, eat together, exercise together, adopt the same hobbies and spend every waking (and sleeping, for that matter) moment together. Their codependency knows no bounds. It’s what Alex McCord and her husband Simon were criticized for on The Real Housewives of New York City (she brought him to a girls night out, for goodness sake). I know a couple who does all of that on top of working together—they pack the same lunch every day and commute to the office together, both of them working extra hours if one of them has to go in early or stay late. It’s nuts, and I couldn’t do it—and, frankly, after two years of this, I’m not sure how they do it without strangling each other. They must end up talking about the same things over and over again because they have no other frame of reference besides the one they’re experiencing together.
I think most couples go through a period of never wanting to leave each other’s sides. It’s only natural—you meet the person and you can’t freaking get enough of them. You want to spend every minute just soaking up their essence. I’ve had my share of togetherness—my boyfriend and I took a 17-day road trip camping up the coast of California and Oregon and miraculously, only got into one fight (when he spent six hours driving around to every possible entrance of Mt. Rainier—you’d think the signs clearly stating the park was closed would have given him a clue). Three years into this relationship, I don’t think we could make it though that same road trip without fighting because we’ve stopped being polite. In fact, I think I knew my boyfriend and I were finally settling in when we no longer did every single thing together. I no longer felt the need to try and feign interest in his love of social history books with single-word titles like Salt, Cod and Water. About the same time, he stopped indulging my irrational love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I think the hardest part of spending all of your time with the same person is stopping. Breaking out to do things on your own—take an art class, go biking, sit in a park and people-watch—can lead to hurt feelings. If you want to do everything else with your lover, why should this new thing be an exception? In extreme cases, I’ve seen this lead to suspicions of cheating, concern that the other person is pulling away to set the stage for a breakup and all sorts of ridiculous jealous feelings. In retrospect, that’s more of an indication that they weren’t very mature relationships to begin with, and probably would have lead to a breakup anyway.
It’s hard to see that you need to carve out a little time for yourself until you actually do it. This year I’ve gone on several trips without the boyfriend in tow, and what I’ve discovered is one of the most valuable things about having time apart is being able to come back together. Yeah, there’s the schmaltzy part of it—realizing how much you miss the person and refreshing yourself on why they’re the most wonderful thing in your life. But, honestly, it’s worth it just to finally have fresh stories to tell.