Stay together – and healthy

By Barton Goldsmith

Statistics proving that people who live with others live longer than those who are alone have been around for several decades. More recent research has discovered that living in isolation may be more destructive to physical well-being than smoking cigarettes.

This doesn’t mean that if you are happily enjoying the single life you’re going to die prematurely, but it might make you think about life and love a little differently. Those who have survived unharmonious relationships may well find it easier to take care only of themselves and perhaps their children or pets.

Dealing with another person’s problems can be exhausting, especially if that individual also gives you a hard time in the process. But if you enjoy sharing your life and bed with someone but also require your space, you need to get creative and discover some of the many ways to maintain your individuality and sanity while having a close relationship with another adult. Many couples not living together take “nights off”, where they have established safe boundaries that allow them to have their own time without making their partner insecure.

Usually a phone call before the night off, followed by a catch-up conversation is enough to maintain a good connection. If the person you love withdraws frequently and you have to go hunting for him or her, it could be time for a deep conversation about the reason.

This kind of action can make you feel abandoned, and that will take away from the depth of your love. If you isolate as a means of getting back at someone, you are also hurting yourself. This passive-aggressive behaviour may feel right in the moment, but after a little time has passed, you will feel lonely because you never shared what it was that hurt you in the first place. And if you don’t talk about what bothers you, it will never stop.

Those who sequester themselves may also be dealing with depression and/or anxiety. Somehow there’s an illusion that being alone makes it all better. Not everyone who chooses to be alone has a mood disorder, but if you’re also a little blue, you should get yourself checked out by a professional. Being disconnected from the rest of the human race may make you feel safe or empowered, but it’s only temporary.

We are social beings, and life is much more meaningful when you have someone to share it with.

* Dr Barton Goldsmith is a Californian marriage and family therapist and the author of Emotional Fitness for Couples.
– AP
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