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“I Love You, but I want a break from you for the Next Six Weeks”: The compelling Case for a ‘Marriage Sabbatical’

new trend of marriage sabbatical

In a society where traditional notions of marriage are being redefined, the concept of a “marriage sabbatical” has emerged as an unconventional yet intriguing idea. Journalist Celia Walden’s recent account of her six-week break from marriage has sparked discussions around the need for couples to take a temporary hiatus, allowing space for personal growth, reflection, and a renewed appreciation for each other.

The origin of the term

The term “marriage sabbatical” was coined by Cheryl Jarvis in her 1999 book, “The Marriage Sabbatical: the Journey that Brings You Home.” Initially conceived as an opportunity for women to pursue personal dreams and aspirations, it has evolved to reflect changing dynamics within relationships. The idea challenges the traditional narrative that prioritizes constant togetherness in marriage.

While historical models, such as wives leaving town for the summer, may have contributed to the Seven Year Itch phenomenon, the contemporary interpretation of a marriage sabbatical is about self-discovery rather than escapades. It acknowledges the individual dreams and goals that may be temporarily set aside within the confines of a partnership.

Jarvis emphasizes that the concept was initially connected to women’s aspirations that went beyond the limitations of their hometowns. However, evolving societal norms and a shift in gender dynamics suggest that sabbaticals can be equally relevant for both men and women. The challenge lies in overcoming traditional expectations and granting oneself permission to pursue personal growth.

A time for solitude

In the past, the term faced controversy, with critics perceiving it as a threat to family values. However, Jarvis’s interviews with women on sabbatical revealed that their motivations were far from seeking extramarital affairs. Instead, the goal was often to have a period of solitude and self-discovery.

Today, marriage dynamics have changed with couples marrying later and experiencing a desire for more time alone. The financial power balance has shifted as well, with both partners having unique aspirations and dreams that may clash within the confines of constant togetherness. The hormonal angle is also considered, with men and women experiencing changes in testosterone and estrogen levels as they age. These changes can affect desires for adventure and home life, contributing to the need for space and individual pursuits.

The concept of a marriage sabbatical challenges societal expectations that suggest constant harmony or divorce as the only options. It allows couples to acknowledge the natural ebb and flow of relationships, recognizing that periods of togetherness, disharmony, and repair are part of the intricate fabric of marriage.

While the idea of a sabbatical might be perceived as a luxury primarily available to the affluent, its acknowledgment opens up discussions about the real rhythm of marriage. By recognizing that sometimes individuals may need space rather than viewing it as a failure, couples can navigate the complexities of marriage with more understanding and acceptance of each other’s evolving needs.

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