Breathing Spaces


My husband and I have just returned from a wonderful vacation to Alaska.  It was the trip of a life time full of spectacular scenery, amazing food and enough memories to reflect on for years to come. However, one of the most significant parts of my time away came with the breathing space that the train portion of the trip provided.  For some, the hours on the train may have seemed boring compared to the rest of the trip but I found it to be a wonderful respite from the hectic, activity packed segments of the week before. It allowed the two of us to browse through the pictures I had taken and to reminisce about all the amazing events that had already happened.  All in all it was a nice sabbatical from my regular life. And, most importantly it gave my spouse and me a chance to truly enjoy each others company; something my work life doesn’t always allow as much time for as we would like.

In my Dating Dementia book I have quoted Antonine de Saint-Exupery in reference to my definition of companionship. “Love does not exist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.”  Demanding work lives don’t always allow us to “look outward together” as we are often too busy looking in different directions towards different goals. We need time to do a little gazing together so we can reflect on how things are going for us, to reconnect as a couple, to remind ourselves of the joy that united us in the first place and to plan for the future or applaud ourselves for what we have accomplished as a team.

When we take the time to take a break, to briefly run away and to have those small sabbaticals we call vacations, we allow ourselves to have a little breathing space. And that vacation doesn’t have to be a week spent somewhere else. It could be an hour in the middle of or at the end of a day. It could also be five minutes with your eyes closed over lunch.  In musical composition this is called a rest. In fact, Claude Debussy wrote well when he penned “music is the space between the notes.” Without rests, music would just be noise. Could we not say the same for our lives?  Lives with out rests are just boring repetitions flowing from one day into another.  In agriculture this idea is reference to letting the earth go untilled every seventh year so the land can rest and regenerate as well as reduce the potential for infestation and disease; even if just through the rotation of crops. For individuals in academic professions this is referred to as a sabbatical; a time to rest and study. And in some religious traditions it is known as the Sabbath; a day of rest.  In fact, all of these words are derived from the Hebrew word Shabbat; to cease, to rest and to reflect.  The dictionary list of synonyms for sabbatical include the words holiday, intermission, recess, recreation, respite and rest; all of which conjure up visions of time away from the active, demanding and hard-working lives we tend to live.  When we build rest periods into our lives we create a break from the routines of daily life and this allows us to breathe new energy into ourselves, our relationships and even our jobs. It allows for time to be more creative as well.

Vacations aren’t just from jobs or for coupled people. I believe that dating relationships can also benefit from a little time away.  And taking a sabbatical from dating after a break up can also be of enormous benefit. Our culture often leads us to believe that we need to be in a relationship to be happy.  But, the truth is we need to learn to be happy ourselves before we can be truly happy in a relationship. We also need to learn how to entertain ourselves so we bring something to the relationship table when the opportunity presents itself. Remember, if you say you are bored you might just be boring to someone else as well.

When individuals begin dating they can get caught up in the emotional energy of a new relationship. It is quite common for an individual to spend 85% of their day thinking about this new person in their life. Often friends and family begin to take a back seat to the numerous dating activities that fill up a person’s calendar as the new couple try to cram in as much time together as possible. Unfortunately, this pulling away from family and friends can leave you cut off from people who could pick up on important information about this new “love of your life.” After all, Mother Nature’s love potion can cut you off from reality so you might miss those red flags.

By planning in some alone-time while dating you can test your own ability to find a healthy relationship balance, get a more realistic perspective about this new person, and stay connected with family, and friends, as well as personal passions and hobbies.  You won’t be at risk of losing touch with who you are individually.  And finally, you can test the relationship to see how you both manage time away from each other.

Whether you are recently separated or divorced, just starting to date, or have been dating a while, consider creating those breathing spaces. After all, once you have been in a relationship again and that love potion begins to diminish you will most likely go back to some of your usual routine and then you will need to inject new energy into that relationship by taking those little sabbaticals….. together.

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