At risk of morphing into your partner? Time apart can cure

HOW much time is too much time together?

We all know those couples whose conversation, mannerisms and even clothes start to spookily mirror one another's.

If you ever end up at a dinner party with this kind of couple, just treat them as one unit. They'll finish each other's sentences anyway and you won't be able to tell their matching sweaters apart.

But if you want to avoid a Siamese twin-like dynamic with your own partner, consider breaking up your together time with time apart.

After all, everyone wants a healthy, sexy relationship that involves respect for each other's space and doesn't make their friends feel nauseous.

Maybe in the honeymoon phase there's no such thing as too much time together.

It's fresh, it's new and it involves a lot of sex you can't do alone.

But, as the relationship wears on, 24-hour intimacy can weary even the most romantic.

The answer: hobbies.

To be most effective, a hobby should involve the company of others of the same gender.

There's a kind of solidarity in all the girls getting together and escaping domestic servitude while the boys will probably welcome the chance to talk about bloke things and hang out over a cold beer.

A hobby that stays with one gender is less threatening to the other partner, especially if it starts to creep into all of Saturday, Sunday and twice during the week.

Few people, for example, would be thrilled about their partner taking up tango dancing with a hot Spaniard, learning to cook with a Nigella look-alike or taking surf lessons with young, hot, hard-bodied proponents of the sport.

Tupperware and macrame are so yesterday but what about knitting (back in vogue), pole dancing or blogging for her?

The advantage of pole dancing: it has a bring-home skill set. Yes, yes, I know its proponents say it's primarily for fitness. But, let's face it; you can adapt some of the moves.

For him, anything that involves balls and/or sticks - football, baseball, golf - is good.

The ideal male hobby should involve camaraderie and point scoring, followed by liquid refreshment.

Time apart re-invigorates a relationship, particularly as people get older, because it doubles the experiences you bring to the dynamic.

And, at the very least, you have a funny story or two to tell over the TV dinner.

You also introduce new people into your circle of friends, thereby reducing the boredom factor; and learning any new skill after a certain age can help prevent senile dementia.

Remember, familiarity breeds contempt and it can also breed divorce.

Helen Hawkes is a qualified counsellor and happiness coach. Go to The Feelgood Factor at