By Shauna Springer, Ph.D.
A number of my recent blog posts have been on the cautionary side (e.g. things to be aware of when considering marriage to anyone). This week, I’d like to intentionally take a break from this cautionary theme to talk about the possibility that for many married individuals, periods of solitary travel can increase marital satisfaction.
Despite being happily coupled with my husband for the last 15 years, I have always craved what I think of as Walden Pond interludes—that is, lengths of time when I can meet life on my own terms, often in solitude, and sometimes in various new social settings. At various times in my life, I have strongly identified with Henry Thoreau, who once said, “To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”*
My husband and I find expression of love in both our attachment to, and detachment from, each other. For instance, we have intentionally incorporated Walden Pond interludes as a regular rhythm of our life together. The support of my need for moments of complete autonomy is one of the most precious gifts my husband gives me within the context of our marriage. As author May Sarton reflected, “Perhaps the greatest gift we can give to another human being is detachment. Attachment, even that which imagines it is selfless, always lays some burden on the other person. How to learn to love in such a light, airy way that there is no burden?”**
To illustrate the life-giving quality of these gifts of solitude, I’d like to briefly tell you about a few of our Walden Pond interludes. When I finished my Ph.D., I took a two-week walking tour through the hill towns of Tuscany to unwind from graduate school and prepare for the next chapter in my life. I found a touring company that moved my luggage from inn to inn, leaving me free to walk from town to town with only a day pack filled with a few thick slices of bread, a wedge of good pecorino cheese, a bottle of water, some maps, and a journal. I had no cell phone and was glad of it.
For that two-week period, I lived entirely at my own whim, off the grid, pursuing whatever interesting adventures I might discover along the way. After a few days of unwinding, my mind began to explode with new ideas and insights. I wrote more than 100 pages in my journal, and to this day, I am still renewed when I remember this golden solitary interlude in my life.
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