Dear Tzippora,

I have been struggling with this issue for quite some time, and I am hoping you can help me gain some perspective. My husband works, while I stay home with the kids. By the time he comes home, and the kids have gone to bed, I am just exhausted, and looking forward to time on my own. After being with the kids all day, I don't want to talk to anyone by that point. I like to just relax with a book. But my husband, who has been working all day, wants us to spend time as a couple. He thinks it is better for our relationship if we spend the evening together, and is insulted by my desire to just chill out on my own. What's your opinion? Is it healthier for husbands and wives to spend the evening together, or can they just do their own thing?

All talked out

Dear All talked out,

Husbands and wives everywhere will relate to your question, which touches on one of the essential balancing acts of married life. Sometimes a husband comes home from work craving solitude while his wife hungers for connection. Sometimes, as in your case, a wife is drained from a day spent taking care of her children's needs and now requires some time on her own. Every person has his own internal scales for balancing personal space versus togetherness, and therefore the exact balance of individual needs versus couple needs is unique to each married couple. The question is how can you take the space you need for yourself without causing your husband to feel rejected?

It is important to explain to your husband that your desire to chill out with a book is not about not wanting to be with him; it is about you, and your need to replenish yourself before the next day. Mothering small children can be an emotionally draining experience as well as a physically exhausting one.

Yet it seems like your husband comes home expecting and craving contact. Especially if his job does not provide much camaraderie or personal interactions, this may be his only chance to connect with another human being all day. I would encourage you therefore to move away from the question of who is right to focus on the issue of how to make sure you both get your needs met during the time you share together.

For starters, when he comes home, welcome him warmly. Perhaps you can serve him some food or a drink, and sit with him while he eats even if you have already eaten with the kids. Take some time to discuss his day and yours. Then after a reasonable amount of time, announce that you will be going into the lounge to read, and invite him to join you in the lounge with a book or newspaper of his own. Letting him know that you want him in the room with you even if you won't be talking together will transform a solitary activity into a shared one.

Assure your husband that he is free to pursue his own interests in the evening. Perhaps he would be interested to join a study group in the synagogue, or to go to the gym. The more fulfilled he feels, the more readily he will accept your need to be alone. Encourage him to explore different options for himself.

Make it clear to him that your relationship is a priority to you. Once a week, take a night off from solitary pursuits and make it a date night. Find an activity outside the house that you both enjoy. Take a walk, go out to dinner, or go bowling. Whatever you do, use this time to connect as a couple. Keep the focus on you, and away from the kids, and the household responsibilities.

And as for the other nights, enjoy your reading.