Keys to Maintaining a Healthy Marriage

By Wendy Knecht

"How can I miss you if you don’t ever leave?” I am not sure what country western song these lyrics came from, but the ring of truth is universal. Let’s face it. A little bit of absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder, or at least one would hope that is the case.

As an international flight attendant, my life was all about coming and going — sometimes for a week or ten days at a time. It was hard to find that special someone, and I always thought it was my crazy lifestyle. But after meeting my husband at the innocent age of 45, I realize now that all of that coming and going, which was second nature to me, is also what is helping to keep our now 11-year marriage alive and exciting.

At the beginning of our marriage, before I hung up my wings, I was on a leave of absence from the airlines, but working a lot at QVC, in Philadelphia, hawking my designs and other company’s products as well. Meanwhile, my new husband was back in Los Angeles, going into his office daily, doing his doctor stuff, as he always did. Whenever I would ask him on the phone “What are you doing?” his snarky response was always, “Waiting for you to come home.” Yes, this did invoke guilt, even if he meant it jokingly. I knew he wasn’t exactly pining away for me, but I knew he wasn’t putting out much energy to make plans with his friends, as I would have been doing had I been the one at home.

Any absence seems like too much when a relationship is new, and the reunion is always full of sparks. When I went back to flying for a while before I quit, the away time seemed to be too much to bear for both of us. One of the reasons I quit is that I would just rather have been doing my traveling when I chose to, and I had too many other entrepreneurial interests that I wanted to spend my time on.

After I quit flying, we had tons of together time, which was fabulous. As time went by, as in any relationship, the newness and excitement wore away a bit, which is completely normal. So much can be said for just feeling comfortable and secure. It’s a wonderful feeling of knowing that your significant other is always there for you, and the comfort level makes you feel pretty smug. For me, it also made me a little nervous…

As much as I loved (and still love) spending time with my husband, I did realize that too much togetherness may not be the best thing for our marriage. For me, my many years of singledom had blessed me with many friends from many walks of life. My husband had friends too, lots of them. But men seem to be a little different, and it seems that unless a man is a real “guy’s guy,” they just don’t seem to put the energy out to cultivate friendships and get together like women do. I realized that it would be important for him to have significant friendships, and I encouraged him to develop these friendships. I used to laugh when someone would invite him to a baseball or hockey game, and he would call me to see ask permission. So sweet, but seriously? “Go and enjoy, of course, you don’t have to ask,” I always replied.

Finally, he’s seen the light, too. He has his hiking group on Saturday mornings, his poker group every other Tuesday, and loves his fishing and skiing expeditions out of town with the boys. I totally enjoy having my girl’s weekends away, traveling for business, or just taking a few days off and going to New York, alone. It’s good for our marriage and serves to make us both more interesting to each other. And when you go away, they really do miss you.

Yes, we take plenty of long weekends and incredible vacations together. But cultivating separate interests and having our time apart is what keeps our relationship fresh and exciting. Personally, I love the yin and the yang of having time apart coupled with intense time together. The time apart keeps the spark and mystery alive in our marriage, and a little longing adds a lot of appreciation.