For many couples, the biggest buzzkill involves spending too much time together! In this episode of Sex With Dr. Jess, Sexologist and Relationship Expert Jessica O’Reilly recounts what it was like to start traveling for work and missing her husband. Being able to balance your time with your lover is an important part of a relationship; dates with your friends, personal time, and traveling for work are important not just for you, but your relationship.
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This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.
The Key To a Happy Relationship
Hello. My name is Jessica O’Reilly, and I am a sex and relationship expert, and my focus is sexual compatibility. Because sexual compatibility is essential essential to a lasting, happy relationship. I am here to help you become sexually compatible because compatibility is something you cultivate. It’s not something you find. You have to work for it. Today I want to talk about a common relationship habit that is ultimately destroying relationships. And I’m seeing this more and more with younger couples, but it’s a pattern that can be sustained for years, for decades and really chip away at the relationship. And this pattern, this bad habit involves spending too much time together because it will ruin your relationship. You need to spend more time apart if you want a lasting, happy, fulfilling relationship. The research shows that happy couples are able to strike a balance between quality time together and quality time apart and the couples that I work with who have been together for 25 or more years. The couples who actually still like each other even still want to have sex with each other after 25 years. They know that time apart matters. They know that scheduling so called date nights with friends with family on their own separately is just as important, maybe even more important. I think more important than scheduling date nights as a couple. Now, I could tell a lot of stories about clients who found their way back to one another or started having more sex after months of dry spells without sex. Once they finally started spending time apart, once they started engaging in separate hobbies, hanging out with different friends and ultimately having their own lives in addition to their couple’s lives. So I could tell you all of their stories. But today I think I’m going to talk about me, me and my marriage. I’ve been with my husband for 15 years, and it’s a good relationship. It has its ups and downs in and out of the bedroom. We laugh a lot, but we fight enough, too. We like each other and we irritate each other. We definitely admire each other, and then we want to run away from each other sometimes and just get away. I think it’s a balanced relationship with the good and the bad. And yes, this has been going on for about 15 years, but four years ago, something changed. Well, I changed. My job changed and I started traveling for work. At first it was just once a month or so, but then it became more frequent and it just forced us to spend time apart. Now I travel, say, three to four times a month. Sometimes I’m only away for a couple of days and then sometimes I’m away for a number of weeks, even a month. And I miss him. I don’t know if he misses me, but the time apart for us apart, the time we spent apart was so good for our relationship in so many ways. Number one, we started to miss each other when I’m away. I miss his warm body in bed, not just because I’m always cold, but I miss him. I miss the way this sound so silly, but I miss the way his breath smells so bad in the morning. I miss the way he sets his alarm too early and then hits the sleep button. And this always drove me crazy. But when we’re apart, I miss it. And four years ago, it was the first time I really learned to miss him. And it’s kind of a cool feeling. So that’s the first bit, you know what else? We no longer run out of exciting things to talk about. We always have so much to say, stories to tell because we don’t spend every waking moment together. Aside from this, we also, I think, have started to see sex a little bit differently after 15 years. It can certainly, I don’t want to say get boring, but it loses its luster. And now sex is more of a novelty because we don’t have one another every single night. We don’t lie naked in bed and take it for granted. When we’re together, we feel one another. I’m not saying that as soon as I get home, I want to jump his bones. Honestly, often after a business trip, I just want to sleep, but we want each other more. We want to touch. I think about him more because he’s not always in my face, driving me crazy. And another thing I noticed is that we see one another like I notice him more. It’s as though I forget just how damn good he looks because I don’t get to see his pretty face every single day. And I look at him yesterday. He was cooking, and he doesn’t do that often.
It’s a new phenomenon. My husband cooking. After 15 years, we’re ordering these boxes of food where it actually comes with all the ingredients, cut up and instructions to make all these different, quite decent meals. So he’s cooking anyhow and he was hot, I guess so he took his sweater off and had just kind of his undershirt his tank top on. And I’m like, oh, my God, this man is so good looking. What woman wouldn’t want to be sitting here watching him Cook in this tank top. And I don’t think I looked at him like that until we started spending more time apart. So it has all of these benefits. And, you know, I also find that I am a better person when I balance time with him and time on my own. When I’m on my own. When I’m traveling, I’m forced to do things little things that he usually does for me. And I think I’ve kind of been spoiled. Admittedly, he’s the better one in the relationship. I’m the expert that he’s the one who actually does the things that I say you’re supposed to do. But, you know, one example is he never lets me carry a bag if there are twelve bags of groceries in the trunk, somehow he carries them all. I tease them. I call him the one trip Wonder, because he brings them all from the garage into the kitchen. And it’s a silly little thing, and it’s very thoughtful, and I guess I like it, but I’ve gotten spoiled, and sometimes I think it’s good for me to be away and have to do these little things on my own. And maybe it sounds insignificant to you, but it’s actually really rewarding doubly rewarding because I stopped taking these small things for granted, right? I’m so used to him doing it that I probably don’t even thank him. And I should. So that’s one side. But the second part is that I get this tiny sense of empowerment from remembering that I can do lots of things on my own. And this is really just a minor example, the grocery bags. But being on my own lets me kind of assert and establish and harness my independence. And after 15 years in a relationship, it’s good for me. I think I need that it helps me to, I think, feel better about myself. So aside from having to carry my own grocery bags, I also find that this is really important. The time apart from my husband forces me to do more now. It may be in part because when we are apart, I’m also traveling and I’m in exciting places, but I think there’s more to it. This is what I think being apart from my partner lets me tap into a different side of myself, sort of like the old single side of me that I don’t remember. And I find that single people, people who don’t have partners tend to do more. They tend to get out more. They accept more invitations, they try new things. They join groups they go to meetups, they push their comfort zones because they don’t have a partner in crime at home who will kind of let them make excuses and protect them when they feel uncomfortable. Couple people, on the other hand, like me, especially those in happy relationships where their partner supports them nearly unconditionally, like I know my husband does for me, but I think this stops me from putting myself out there. Sometimes I’ll bail on plans. I plan for safety and comfort rather than challenge and risk. And I’m certainly generalizing. There are exceptions, but we all know these couples who create a little safety bubble in their relationship a safe zone. They stay in, they don’t go out. They have to check every plan, every move, every bowel movement, kidding with their partner. It’s too much anyhow.
When I’m apart from my partner, I take on a different persona. I’m like, I’m single, Jess. I’m not single. I’m like looking to mingle. I’m not out at the bars trying to pick up. Well, I am out at the bars, but I’m not trying to pick up, but I do things I plan to see, things I explore. I try new things in my spare time because I travel a lot for speeches. I have the night off sometimes, so I play pickup sports. I go and play like Ultimate Frisbee or football with these complete strangers in cities all across North America, and I meet new people. It’s cool. It’s the type of thing. Honestly, I’d probably do more of if I was single. And in some ways, I think being married, it gives me an excuse to hold myself back. So I think, yeah, it brings out the single side in you that’s more adventurous and time apart also means that we don’t get on one another’s nerves and argue about little petty things. I’ll admit that traveling for work as often as I do creates a really unique set of challenges, which maybe I’ll talk about another time, but we definitely have cut back on the stupid fights because we’re a part now. Not entirely. We haven’t eliminated them. We’re human. Well, I’m human. I’m probably the one who starts the stupid site more than he does. But I see less of it now that we spend more time apart and we make use of our quality time together, I think a little bit more effectively. And one more thing finally, spending time apart means that we have more time spent with other important people in our lives. Family, friends, even coworkers. And these social bonds are important, too, especially as you get older, your friend’s perception of your relationship actually predicts your relationships success. That’s crazy. Right? So listen to your friends. Spend time with them. What they think actually matters. Now, if you’re in a relationship already and you know that you’re spending too much time together or you’re creating these bad habits in terms of creating a bubble and ditching your friends and refusing to push your comfort zone the way you did when you were single. I’m going to offer some tips on how to talk to your partner and how to approach the possibility of spending a little bit more time apart. So I mean, one option is you become a sexologist and you travel the world like I do, and then you won’t see your partner. I’m kidding. Don’t do that. Your parents will kill me. Nobody wants their kid to be a sexologist. But for real, one really easy way to spend time apart is to just sign up for a course or a team or a class, something that you’re interested in that maybe your partner isn’t so interested in. Maybe it’s like a soccer skills course or archery, Thai, cooking, makeup, contouring, acrobatics, circus skills, juggling anything. Do something that forces you to carve out time away from your partner if you pay for a class every Tuesday at 07:00 p.m.. Chances are you’re going to show up to it, so go do it. You’ll meet other people. You’ll probably go out for a drink after.
These are good things, and it’s an easy way. You don’t have to go to your partner and say, hey, I need me time. You just say, hey, I really want to take this sketching class. So Tuesday nights I’m going to be out from seven to ten or so. And if you’re having trouble carving out time apart from your partner, try adding just annex a little extra time to something that you already do separately. Maybe you already go to yoga on your own or you play softball. Just add another hour or two to those outings so you can look for existing small openings. You obviously do some things separately. You work, you shop, you run errands. I hope you don’t go to Home Depot every Saturday together. You don’t both need to be at Home Depot, please, but expand these opportunities into more quality time apart. Another option you can plan a friend’s, getaway and travel without your partner. I love this. Traveling separately is really the perfect option for time apart. When you’re away from home, you get a chance to be another version of yourself. As I was mentioning, you get to reinvent yourself, you tend to be more adventurous. You tend to stay up late, sleep in, break your regular habits. It’s good for you. And I know not everyone can afford to travel separately, but there are, of course, alternatives. Maybe you just stay with a friend for the weekend. Staycation works, too, as long as you’re doing some of these things separately. Another option. I mentioned that you can join a team or sign up for a class, but you can also encourage your partner to do the same. Encourage them to do something that they’re passionate about in my marriage. I know my husband likes hockey. Sometimes he needs a little push, so I encourage him to go play hockey. Get out of my house, man on a Monday night. Give me the night alone. And you obviously have to be straightforward with your partner about this whole thing. But also, you want to choose your language carefully. You want to be sensitive and sweeping. Statements like, I just need more space, can understandably, set off alarm bells for your partner and leave them feeling vulnerable and vulnerable. Feelings are okay, but they may not know how to express their vulnerability, so try to use specific language like, oh, you know, I want to have an afternoon with my friends this week. Or I’d love to get away with my sister for a weekend because I miss spending time with her. So it’s not just about spending time apart. It’s about building bonds, these important social bonds with other people. And when you talk to your partner about this, you want to be sure that you reinforce your commitment to the relationship. Yeah, you want to be honest, but you also want to let them know that spending time with them is just as important. You want to say, yeah, I love hanging out with you. Maybe we should make a plan for Saturday. Maybe we can go to this Gallery opening. So you’re planning time apart. But you’re also planning time together. You’re not just hanging out. You want to make quality time together a priority as well. You don’t want to spend all your time together parenting or doing chores or shopping or working. So just like you plan time separately, you also plan together. And it’s really important to note that it’s normal to have discrepancies and desire for how much time you spend together in a part just like you do with sex, food, sleep. You’re going to have these discrepancies. All right. But what’s important is that you talk about it. All right. You don’t want to avoid conflict. Disagreement is good for the relationship.
Now you have these, I guess, seven or eight strategies to move into a space where you feel comfortable spending time apart. And if you do want to spend more time apart because remember all of its benefits, right? You’ll start to miss one another. And this reminds you of when you first met and helps you to reignite some of the spark you have more to talk about and become more exciting to one another. You’ll start to notice one another physically, even more. You’ll find you fight less about the little things you will appreciate sex as more of a novelty, and you’ll probably have more of it. You have the opportunity to tap into another side of yourself. Your own version of single jazz. You’ll do more self development on your own. You’ll find that you appreciate the time you have together more and you’ll see improvements in other relationships with friends and family. If you want to reap these benefits, you’ve got to do something about it. So do it. Now. Schedule after work, drinks with a friend this week without checking with your partner. Do it. Message a friend now. If your partner gets upset or feels slighted, it’s okay. All right. It gives you an opportunity to talk about how you really want to spend time together, but how you also want to see your friends because it’s good for you. And maybe you have parenting responsibilities. You have to split. Sure, you have to talk about those, but splurge for a babysitter if you need it or take turns going out with your friends, let your partner know that it makes you happy. You’re going to remind them and be clear that you like being with them. In fact, maybe you even want more quality time with them. Do something other than Netflix and chill, but let them know you want a few hours after work with a friend. Do it. Go ahead. Text a friend now, or maybe accept an invitation you would normally decline. You need this time apart can save your relationship time apart means that the time you spend together will be richer, more meaningful, and honestly, probably more intimate and sexual. So do it. Let me know how it goes and share your tips too. I really love to hear from you. So text that friend or make a plan this week just to be on your own or separate and yes, let me know how it goes. I want to hear from you. You have been listening to Sex with Dr. Jazz. Today’s show was brought to you by Vigor Man by Greenish It’s a Halal Kosher Veggie Certified Gluten and dairy Free supplement approved to support the physiological and psychological components of male sexual health. So thank you to bigger Man and to the rest of you. Tune in next week. We’ll be looking again at the latest sex and relationship research and how you can apply it to live happily Ever after.