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The Key Ingredient to a Healthy Relationship

photo: Tela Chhe on flickr

What does “Happily Ever After” mean to you?

Perhaps you think of a couple, holding hands and walking into the sunset. But what happens after they stroll out of the frame?

Do they keep holding hands? Do they remain in a rapturous, blissed-out state?

Or do they get into a fight about which way to go next?

Unlike a lot of other little girls, I never had fantasies about my dream wedding. I did have fantasies about a dream relationship, though. These were primarily informed by movies. Movies where the boy (or girl) got the girl (or boy) after an hour-and-a-half of wacky hijinks and predictable misunderstandings.

The movie always ended with a kiss. And the assumption that, now that they had found each other, everything would be just fine.


photo: epSos.de on flickr

Relationships, as we all know, can be challenging. And one thing any good relationship counselor will tell you is that communication is the cornerstone of a healthy and long-lasting relationship.

This has certainly been my experience.

It’s also been my experience that there’s a prerequisite to communication, another ingredient that must be in place for any post-sunset-encounter to work.

It’s called solitude.

Can you be alone? Do you like your own company? If not, it’s going to be difficult to be in a fulfilling relationship.

photo: Shardayyy on flickr

The first time I fell in love, I was amazed. Amazed that I’d fallen in love with a girl, for one. But also amazed that I had no idea what I was doing.

I was – and am – a nerd. Give me a book to read and a report to write, and I’m good! But throw me into a relationship and expect me to know how to navigate the subtleties of intimacy?

Not so much.

At the time, my self-esteem was about as big as one of my eyelashes. This didn’t make me the best relationship candidate. I gave away all my power. I got clingy and obsessive and totally bent out of shape.

photo: Sara Björk on flickr

I wondered what the heck was wrong with me. Why was I so good at tackling intellectual problems, but so horribly bad at intimacy with another person?

In an effort to answer this question, I did what any good nerd would do. I started reading.

I read books about relationships. Books about personal growth. Books about the power of emotions.

And while these books gave me a lot of valuable information about relationships, the process of reading gave me something even more valuable: I began to discover myself.

photo: Mo Riza on flickr

Up until that point, I’d been a product of the people around me. In order to get along with others, I became whomever they wanted me to be. Or whomever I thought they wanted me to be.

This method of self-expression was one of the reasons I was so horrible at relationships. I wasn’t bringing my true self to the party.

My growing spiritual practice played a major role in developing a healthy and vibrant relationship with myself.

Meditation, in particular, was an amazing way to tap into a vast realm within. Through meditation, I developed the ability to uncover thoughts and emotions that had previously been completely unconscious. Not only that, meditation allowed me the space to accept these thoughts and emotions without reactivity.

photo: Caleb Roenigk on flickr

And when the time came to tackle the treacherous waters of the Ocean of Intimacy once again, I was prepared.

I was able to communicate my viewpoint because I had one. I was able to let my emotions guide me because I had access to them. And I was able to bring my whole self to the relationship because my self-esteem had expanded beyond eyelash-size and now encompassed my entire being.

What an amazing experience!

Not that relationships suddenly became easy. But they became possible.

Without that connection to myself, I was just a baffled, bent-out-of-shape nerd.

These days, in my relationship with my wife Melissa, solitude is still an important component. I regularly take one day a week for myself. This time alone allows me access to ideas and emotions that can become buried in the busyness of life.

I love Melissa. She’s my favorite person in the world. But if I don’t take time away from her, I have nothing to give to our relationship.

photo: Georg Egloff

Not only that, I have nothing to give to any relationship. This solitude gig isn’t just good for intimate relationships, it’s good for healthy connections with everyone: kids, bosses, parents, friends.

And, of course, the Divine.

My time alone is an amazing and important way to access the Power and Presence that lives in and around everything.

Connecting with others is certainly one way to access this Power. But cultivating my own personal, intimate relationship with my Higher Power – through time alone with this Power – is the fuel behind every element of my life.

So while it’s true that communication is the cornerstone to a healthy relationship, solitude is the cornerstone of the cornerstone.

And if that doesn’t make sense to you, I suggest you spend some time alone and think about it!

photo: Bryan Tuttle on flickr

What’s your relationship to solitude? How does it serve you?

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12 Responses to The Key Ingredient to a Healthy Relationship

  1. Shem November 20, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    Thanks Z! Loved the cornerstone to the cornerstone. I think somehow we forget the equation

    2-1 can = a better saner 2 again.

    So thought I might share a little country song mantra I use in my relationship to remember when I’m not sure about taking the solitude part….(I chant it to myself and pretend my partner is saying this back to me:)

    “How can I miss you if you never go away?”


    • Z Egloff November 20, 2012 at 11:46 am #

      Howdy Shem,

      I like your math! I hadn’t heard of that particular equation before, but I understand the calculations.

      Your country song also hits the nail on the head.

      Covering the subject with both mathematics and country music is a sophisticated approach. I’m just sayin. 😉


  2. squirrel November 20, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    good morning, Z! happy tuesday! and happy thanksgiving eve eve!

    solitude is so precious to me. i also find that i can’t function in relationships unless i spend time alone. i have to take squirrel time regularly in order to interact with people, including my sweetheart. a lot of it, for me, has to do with being in other people’s energy – i can only handle so much “togetherness.” i’ve always been a hermit and i need my shell to stay sane. and that solitude helps me communicate my needs better. i’ve learned not to engage people when i’m upset with them. i take the time to breathe and know the truth of the situation, and if i need to, i’ll run it by my bestie, who is always willing to hear me and give me her opinion.

    thank you for the reminder today, z, as we begin one of the primary “togetherness” holidays!


    • Z Egloff November 20, 2012 at 11:49 am #

      Hello Squirrel!

      Awesome that you have such a strong and thriving relationship with solitude. It really is such a powerful tool for being with people, isn’t it? Like you, I can only handle other people’s energy for so long before I need to go spend some quality time with myself and my own energy.

      BTW, I like that you said “sweetheart.” Just sayin. 😉

      As for the Holidays, Let the Games Begin!!


  3. Karen November 20, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    I so agree with you and with the other comments, Z. I thrive on regular doses of solitude, and I feel I bring a lot more to my relationship with Mark as a result.

    However, I’ve noticed over the years that couples do vary in how much time away from each other is optimal. Some couples thrive on being together almost all the time (I think of the late Jerry & Esther Hicks). Unlike us, some couples are comfortable in each other’s presence almost all the time. There’s no one-size-fits-all.

    For Mark and me, starting our 10th year together now, it’s about either of us lining up with our own Inner Being by choosing thoughts that feel good. Then everything just seems to iron itself out with little effort on our part.

    • Z Egloff November 20, 2012 at 11:51 am #

      Hi Karen,

      I agree with you, there is no one right way to do this couple thing. For me, cultivating time alone has been an incredibly valuable tool. It is, as River said in her comment, about balance. For someone who spends tons of time alone, being willing to spend time with others may be the big stretch.

      Congratulations to you and Mark on 10 years together! And Happy Holidays!


  4. River November 20, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    I think that solitude thing is even more important when we have work that is in an office in our homes. Then its like 24/7 together time if we don’t *make* the apart time. I love coming together at our nightly dinner time and sharing what happened that was important in our days. We spend a lot more time together than most people do but I agree its the time apart that adds to the relationship.

    Just one proviso – too much time in isolation/solitude is just as bad as too much together time. So there is that B word again – Balance.

    • Z Egloff November 20, 2012 at 11:54 am #

      Hi River,

      Yes, Melissa and I both work out of our home. We are together all the time. Thus, a post about solitude! :)

      I agree with you that there has to be a balance. I used to be alone all the time, and that served its purpose. But at a certain point, in order to grow, I needed to be willing to stretch myself and grow in community as well as in solitude. Yes!

      Happy Day of Thanks!


  5. Tanya November 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    A key point I took from this, was that solitude is only half of the equation — doing something MEANINGFUL with the solitude and the empty space is the other half.

    Solitude doesn’t mean all that much if it’s filled with superficial nonsense, which is what I spend far too much time on. Thanks again for writing about something thought provoking and interesting.

    • Z Egloff November 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

      Hi Tanya,

      That’s a good point. I have a friend who started playing video games one afternoon. Next thing she knew, seven hours had gone by. So there’s that.

      Sometimes I spend my solitude doing absolutely nothing. Paradoxically enough, this can be the most refreshing thing of all.

      Good to hear from you! Happy Holidays!


  6. Donna December 4, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    Yes solitutde so important. Morning is my time and Late Night is my Hubby’s time and we both respect each other’s quiet time. To me my Quiet Time is as necessary as my coffee (yes I am an addict). Even then, it’s no guarantee I won’t go off the rails but it’s a good touchstone. Plus I have the opportunity to appreciate myself, acknowledge what is going on in my life and just Be with it all. Sometimes solutions come out but it’s really not about that… kind of… anyway I do go on…. :) the other thing I realized is that I think I am a nerd too. I thought nerds were more brilliant than me however it struck me… I too am a nerd!

    • Z Egloff December 5, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

      Hi Donna,

      That’s awesome that both you and your husband tkae the time to be alone and be in your own space. I also relate to what you say about the benefits of your alone time. Yes, revelations can come, but it’s also just about having that time – no matter what happens.

      And I love that you have taken the Most Important Step of realizing that you are a NERD! Yay!!!!! Welcome to the club. :) :) :)


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