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Even the best relationships could use a breather every now and then

By Judith Mukiri Mwobobia | June 22nd 2021

“Let us never be apart. I want to be where you are. Always,” he said, looking into her eyes expectantly while clutching the gleaming shackles. “Really honey, handcuffs?” she asked, looking up at him quizzically. She was of mind to run out the door and never come back, but the earnest expression on his face would crack her.

He wore a huge grin, looking mighty pleased with himself. In his heart of hearts, he believed that he was proposing the most romantic thing in the world. On Valentine’s Day no less. At least that is how I imagine the conversation between Alexandr Kudlay and Viktoria Pustovitova went on that fine day.

The Ukranian couple may very well be the latest entrants into the Guinness World Book of Records. For what, you ask. Apparently, they have broken the world record for the most time a couple has ever spent together… chained together.

Story goes that Alexandr, in a moment of overwhelming romantic feelings, came up with the genius idea to cuff himself to his girlfriend. And not by walking down the aisle and a beautiful gold band like many couples do. No. He wanted to be everywhere she was. Day and night. She resisted at first, but eventually caved in. The plan was that the physical closeness would save their relationship because they would bond and rekindle that spark that had begun waning between them.

Long story short, they lasted 123 days. In May this year, they called in a bolt cutter. Their relationship was done too. It is said that as soon as the metal pieces came apart, Viktoria yelled "Hooray! I'm finally free." And I can bet that she's not getting into another relationship soon.

Someone should have told them that the handcuffs were a bad idea; that lack of space or privacy has been proven to be one of the biggest killers of relationships. In 1990, a study called the Early Years of Marriage Project was launched.

The researchers followed 373 couples over a period of 25 years. By the time the study ended, 46 per cent of the couples had divorced. The study that was concluded in 2015 had some interesting insights.

According to the researchers, what is more important than a good sex life was the need for space and privacy. Some 29 per cent of the spouses in the study said they didn’t have any time for themselves in the relationship. More wives than husbands reported this. And it was cited as one of the reasons for unhappiness in their marriages.  

They would describe the relationship as suffocating, something the psychologists said was all too common in many relationships. Thing is, when two people, two completely separate entities come into a union like a marriage, it would be unrealistic and rather problematic to expect that they would meld completely as though one. This, the experts explained, is why space should be provided to each partner to grow. What does this mean?

Simply told, they were saying that if you want your marriage to thrive, back off and stop suffocating your spouse. You do not have to be together every spare time you have. Yes, quality time together is essential, but the time and space to do things alone or separately will ultimately make your relationship a stronger one. How? Two adages come to mind: Absence makes the heart grow fonder and familiarity breeds contempt.

Giving each other space will make the other person miss you and realise just how great a presence you are in their life. Of course if you aren’t a thoughtful or good spouse, they may just realise that their lives are so much better without you and kick you to the curb. Additionally, being away from each other means there is less opportunity for silly arguments. Wonder why many marriages broke down during the lockdown preceeding the onset of the pandemic?

Also, growing as individuals is important for one’s happiness. Being someone’s spouse or even a parent shouldn’t be all that defines you. Allowing that will lead to eventually losing yourself.

When all your worth is tied down to being a husband, wife or a parent, things are bound to get tough down the road. What happens when your spouse gets a job that takes him/her away for long stretches of time? Who do you become when your children grow up and you cease being the centre of their lives? Find time for personal goals and interests. But whatever you do, please don’t do what Viktoria and Alexandr did.


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