Alone at Last

AS WINSTON CHURCHILL SAID to his beloved Clementine, “We are going to have a successful marriage, my dear, provided we never see one another before lunch.” Those who would remain together should schedule time apart.

Though sometimes lovers seem unable to get enough of one another, or constantly long to be in each other’s arms, they do themselves a favor by taking a break. Time off from one another’s company works wonders for relationships both new and old.

Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Early-stage couples are famous for being nearly inseparable. Crowbars can rarely pry them apart, and goo-goo eyes seem forever locked on the other’s adoring gaze. Their affectionate but possessive actions play out the hope for perfect union that torments all lovers. Paradoxically, however, a little time apart actually helps cement romantic feelings. It does so mostly by illuminating what those feelings are, both to yourself and to your honey who, don’t forget, is likely going through the same thing. At it’s most sublime, love is mutual hell.

When the stuff sloshing though your veins is the chemistry of genuine romance, you will unavoidably start realizing, during even the briefest spells of absence, how much you enjoy your dearest’s company. Their every absence makes you think on their presence. Though it might be only a few days since you last were together, the feeling grows increasingly clear: You miss the beloved. Contrary to what you might expect, however, what you miss isn’t sex so much as the simple fact of the other’s presence: Their physical company, the sound of their voice, their wit, or the smell of their hair. When this realization hits, you have passed another hurdle and are on the path to a solid relationship.

A central paradox of love is that the ultimate union that all lovers hope for is impossible to achieve in real life because it is the longing to unite with another, not its actual achievement, that drives romance. If we succeeded, there would be no “other”; the goal we strive for would vanish.

Still, we try, following our instincts like salmon swimming up stream. Happily, our efforts get rewarded. Lovers can achieve moments of merger, though the sweet joy of that exalted state is necessarily brief. But its pleasure makes us want it again. In enduring relationships it recurs often enough to bestow deep satisfaction.
Established couples understand the back and forth dynamic of we-and-me quite well. They alternate between taking the beloved and leaving them alone, being together and spending time apart. Above all, successful lovers understand the need to maintain their own personality, and know they have an emotional relationship that doesn’t require the other’s constant presence to maintain. They have trust instead of uncertainty.

Being certain of what we’ve got, we can let the other go off with fishing buddies, visit relatives, or have hobbies that don’t include us. We can do likewise, without anyone feeling hurt or abandoned, because coming back together means we are returning home.

Home is more than a place. It is a feeling of not just comfort, but security. Security grows not from physical relationships, but from emotional ones.

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