Coming and Going

Posted on April 9th, 2019

Relationship is the art of connection, the flow of energy moving directly between two people. Physical closeness makes this flow easier to notice, which is why we so enjoy being close to someone we love. Being home together, being in the same room, touching, hugging, and the closeness of sexuality are all forms of connection. This can flow easily, particularly in new relationships, but there are many ways our attempts at closeness in relationship become blocked.

One of the common places these blocks show up even for happy couples is with coming and going. Separating creates the potential for disconnection, and coming back together can be as fine an art as docking a rocket ship with a space station. 

Even the daily separations we experience when we spend the day apart can create difficulty in relationship. Whatever the day holds, it necessarily draws us away from the focus we have when we are together. This is why many couples have an informal ritual when they return home at the end of the day. This can be a brief hello followed by time apart in the house, changing clothes or taking a shower, catching up on emails or the news, making dinner, some or all of this before coming back together for at least part of the evening. Couples who haven’t set up a way to do this which works for them often find their time together distracted, contentious, or even non-existent.

The same principle of figuring out your own way to come back together is even more important when a couple spends several days apart, such as when one is traveling for business. The partner who is traveling leaves home behind—even in these days of face-timing—and returns home out of tune with the rhythms of the couple’s daily life. After a couple of solo days, the one who stays home starts to change things. Somebody who isn’t particularly neat can become very tidy (‘Oh, this is all my own mess.’). Someone who goes to bed early starts staying up later. These are normal changes—in the absence of our partner, we begin to live a life of our own.

Even though the reunion is not unexpected, when the two are face-to-face with each other, often neither of them is ready. The one who has been away can either get overwhelmed by the needs of their partner for relating, or they can return with a longing for connection which swamps the partner. The one who stayed home may be glad to see their partner but wary of the intrusion at the same time.

What works best in this situation is for both people to recognize that reentry can take hours or even a day or two. A brief ‘hello and how was your trip,’ followed by space for both to get used to being together is often a good idea. It’s the way a new cat is introduced into a household: the old cat is removed, to let the new cat sniff around, then the reverse is done. Only then are the two allowed to be around each other. Otherwise, the two cats are likely to fight. Which is exactly what happens too often to partners who don’t take the time to get used to each other again after a time apart.

When you learn how to manage this reentry process together, the happy reunion can turn out to be just that: a reconnection which renews your relationship.

Posted in Marriage and Couples

Please remember, this is a blog. It is not psychotherapy or treatment of any kind and is not a substitute for the individual treatment you can get from going to see a good therapist.