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Being Independent and Together
Doing things together and not doing things together may be the perfect balance.

By Kaia Lai
It's important to do your own thing sometimes.

Most people who are involved in a long-term relationship realize that the reason their partnership has lasted so long is because they have put in the necessary work to keep it going. And as if it isn’t hard enough to keep your marriage on an even keel, sometimes a couple may also have to work against various myths that have been passed down and are still believed. Yet, these are myths and they are not true! One such concept is that when you have been with someone for a long time, you grow apart.

Some Reality
Let me first share some research with you. Dr. John Gottman is renowned in studying how couples get along. In one of his studies, it was found that 69 percent of the time couples are not compatible with one another. If you think you misread the last sentence, you did not—couples are not compatible 69 percent of the time!

Quite amazing, isn’t it? After all, you’ve grown up to believe that "birds of a feather, flock together." As a matter of fact, many dating services employ this premise to match you up with a potential mate.

But apparently sharing similarities with your partner will not serve as the glue that binds the two of you together. In fact, you can have very different interests and still get along; still have a long-lasting, satisfying, joyful relationship. It isn’t shared interests that will ensure that you will remain together 10, 20, or 30 years from now. Rather, based on other studies Gottman has done, it’s a mutual respect for one another and working at your relationship that allows couples to enjoy a long-lasting relationship.

Seeing It a Different Way
Let’s talk about how you can make your differences work for you. If one of you takes pleasure in doing crossword puzzles, but the other one prefers to read, you can still be sharing time together; you each do your preferred hobby at the same time in the same room.

It’s always a positive sign to your spouse if you show a willingness to learn or be involved in what he or she likes. So, consider joining your significant other in their preferred activity—at least once in a while. Who knows, you might even find you enjoy it.

Often, one of the downsides to a long-standing relationship is that it has a tendency to get stale. A good way to relieve that is to add novelty. There are two ways to resolve this concern. One is to do a new and different activity together; it can even be as simple as going to a new restaurant or trying a different ethnic food.

You can also breathe freshness into your relationship by not doing everything together. Afterwards you have an opportunity to come back and share your experiences with each other. Also, when each partner has some personal space, it will allow for some breathing room and independence, both of which will increase personal growth.

As the years unfold, you will evolve as individuals and your relationship will also be changing. As this phenomenon occurs, and as there are challenges, you each must adjust and readjust to the unexpected ups and downs in your marriage. But consider the alternative, which is to merely stay stagnant.

So, it is not merely a by-product of time going by that will determine if a couple grows apart. When this "disconnect" takes place it indicates that the two people were not working with the shifts that came along the way—both as individuals and as a team. Know that it is possible to have a wonderful marriage that can last for the long haul if you’re willing to put in the effort to get the results!

Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is the author of "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" and co-author of "Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last." You can sign up for her free monthly newsletter with relationship tips at www.ChoiceRelationships.com

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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