There has been much coverage in the media of late on the value of taking a sabbatical from your relationship. The reasoning behind taking a sabbatical is that it provides a breathing space to reflect on your life, what your relationship means to you, ponder the good and the bad, really consider what it is you want. But are there other ways of reaching that same level of insight and awareness? Do you really need to take a sabbatical from your relationship to discover if it's still for you?
Let's look at four C's that might influence your need to take a sabbatical from your relationship:
- An ability to communicate; many couples struggle over communications. They lead exceptionally busy lives, have many demands on their time. By the time they reach home there is often much that still needs to be done by way of chores, cooking, the demands of growing children. Taking time to converse properly with a partner can seem a massive effort when all you want to do is sink into a relaxing bath or enjoy a glass of wine and watch TV. Many couples end up effectively house-sharing, where their main communication is 'we're out of cereal' or 'can you pick up the dry-cleaning'.
A sabbatical can provide an appealing escape from everyday life and its demands. It can mean that when you do meet up you schedule that time exclusively for your relationship, do pleasant things together, have adult conversations like you did way back at the start of your relationship, discuss each other's days, your thoughts and feelings.
In your day-to-day life consider how you demonstrate the way you feel about your partner through your words and actions. Many people have successful relationships because they plan to include 'us' time in their lives. They delegate some of the mundane tasks in order to have space in their lives for each other. Would it be feasible to have a cleaner once a week, have your grocery shopping delivered, send out the ironing, give the children some tasks?
What about having one evening a week where you freshen up, dress nicely and sit and eat dinner together with distractions like the television or phones switched off? Think of something that could work for you that provides an opportunity to focus on your relationship and support better communications.
- A preparedness to compromise; many of us have relatives, friends, hobbies, jobs that our partner might not 'get', might regard as more of a nuisance than a pleasure. These external demands can place a strain on a relationship, especially if there is an undercurrent of pressure and tension over the amount of time these interests consume. There might be a resultant feeling of not being respected or understood which could ultimately escalate into a need for a sabbatical in order to consider how the relationship is working out.
Consider ways that time can be found to accommodate the things that each of you regard as important. Could you both pursue family/friend/work/hobby related interests separately and then meet up afterwards? Having separate interests can add interest and conversation to a relationship.There's no reason why you have to do everything together. If there are times when it's required to bring along a partner remember that compromise is about occasionally doing things you don't want to do in order to show support for your partner.
- Look to co-operate; work together, even if there are things you disagree about in private, behind closed doors. Build a solid relationship and discover that your relationship works better when you act together as a team. Presenting a united front allows both of you to feel supported, strong, with a good friend and ally by your side. Loyalty can be an important part of this commitment. It means that whatever you both think in private you co-operate and work together for the greater good.
Co-operation also means that when one of you is overloaded the other steps in to provide extra help and support. There are times when one of you will be extra-supportive and other times when the roles may be reversed but no one keeps a tally, that's the way it works, it's about give and take.
- Remember to connect; remaining aware of the various demands on your relationship allows you to discuss how you feel about those demands. Having a strong connection means being honest with each other about how you feel, even if there's no apparent solution in sight. There may be issues with an impossible workload, a relative who's seriously ill, a friend who's going through a bad time and you or your partner has to be involved.
Discuss how you feel, reassure each other that they're your top priority but that you need some latitude during this time. Demonstrate your love and try to allow regular quality time to meet and talk, to have a little fun, and enjoy a pleasant interlude together.
By treating your relationship as important, not taking each other for granted and maintaining an attitude of respect and openness you may find that your relationship remains consistently good. Then there may be no need to take a sabbatical from your relationship.