Making you timeToo often people will give up a favourite hobby, sport or pastime in the beginning of a relationship in order to devote more time and energy to making the relationship work. But, what happens down the road when one or both partners realise that they are terribly out of balance and not taking time for themselves? Relationship stress, miscommunication, or resentment and emotional pain can result.

It is healthy to have different interests. In fact, giving up our own interests and the little things that we do to nurture ourselves when a relationship starts will eventually lead to resentment.

It's important for both partners to value quality relaxation time. There is absolutely no need to feel guilty about spending time alone. Independence is good for both men and women, no matter how close they may be in the relationship. Typically, when one partner actively takes some alone time, their partner is encouraged to do the same.

How our differences complement each other

Just as men and women have different needs in a relationship, they also have different reasons for needing time to themselves. Too much togetherness usually results in partners expecting too much from each other. Women may tend to smother their partners, while men may seem cold and uncaring. It is healthy for each partner to take time out to explore his or her individual interests.

What men need

Men need to periodically pull away. Remember that men are like rubber bands. It is his natural cycle to get close, pull away, and get close again. It is important for men to fulfil their need for independence. Men automatically alternate between needing intimacy and autonomy. Give a man his space and he will be a better, more attentive, partner. When a man gets too close and doesn't pull away, he often experiences increased moodiness, irritability, passivity and defensiveness.

Also, when a man is in his 'cave', he wants to be left alone. He is working out his problems and frustrations by either doing something alone, like reading the paper or watching TV, or doing something active with his male friends.

Most men are happy when their partner does something fun for herself at these times. It means that she is not sitting around waiting for him to come out of the 'cave'. He will come out ready to talk and be intimate again, and she will have curbed her frustrations by being good to herself and having some fun.

What women need

It is good for a woman's self esteem to take care of herself. She can get wrapped up in taking care of her family and forget how much she needs to nurture herself. Particularly when a man is off in his cave, she can enjoy the time alone to go shopping, work in the garden, go to a class at the gym, or simply languish in the simple pleasure of soaking in a hot bath with a glass of wine.

It is especially important for a woman to cultivate relationships with other women. Women need to talk about what's happening in their lives. On Venus, this is an important part of relationship building. Since this is not the case on Mars, it is wonderful for a woman to get together with her girlfriends so that they can talk about, and listen to, each other's problems, without judgment or offering unsolicited advice.

Couples can even plan these separate times apart. For instance, Tuesday could be his night with the boys, and Thursday her night for dinner and a movie with her girlfriends. Both partners will not only appreciate the time to do the things that make them feel good, but will come back feeling renewed and excited to be in such a healthy, well-balanced relationship.

Until next time,

Dr John Gray

To find out more about improving your understanding of the opposite sex and your relationships, get a copy of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus from or your local bookstore. A Mars Venus coach can also help you to learn the skills that will set you on the path to better relationships. So call now on 1300 135 153 if you would like to speak to one of my coaches.