Quit taking your partner's need for personal space so personally
From a 30-minute down time break when you get home to separate bedrooms and vacations and everything in between, how much personal space is enough? Well, it all depends.
She says, “My husband just went into his garage again and is ignoring me! What is he mad about? He spends more time there than he does with me!”
He says, “I just need some time to putz in my garage with my machines, watch a golf tournament, smoke a cigar and relax. I’m not ignoring her and who said I’m mad. The more she complains, the more I want to retreat.”
Legendary Paul McCartney and his wife Linda only spent ten nights apart in the span of their 29-year marriage. And those ten days were when Paul was busted for possession of marijuana and spent them in a Japanese jail cell. Glued at the hip or strategically respecting their needs for space, Paul and Linda were an admirable example of understanding each other’s personal space needs. Most modern couples, however, probably cannot or don’t even want to boast about, if that is the word, the same desire of the logistical ability to be together every waking moment every single day and night of their relationship.
Clearly, understanding and respecting each other’s needs for personal space is another major key to a healthy relationship.
What kind of separate situations might actually be good for couples?
Separate space – One frequent complaint I hear from couples I work with is the lack of personal space. Be it a workshop or artist studio, a quiet corner for meditating and reading, personal space is vital to the well-being of most of us. Frequently, when couples come to me resentful and frustrated by a communication breakdown, it turns out that part of the solution is a matter of logistics and boundaries around time and space. The need for personal time and space is exactly what it means – a personal desire that when honored and fulfilled rewards us with renewed energy, creativity and love. Retreating to one’s own space is not necessarily an escape from another person but rather a resourceful, enriching and calming moment of peace for most of us.
Separate bedrooms -- Whether or not separate bedrooms help or hinder a relationship is up to each couple. When a snoring fest, twitching, flailing limbs and debates over whether to keep a window open or closed at night get in the way of a satisfying restorative night’s sleep, indeed separate bedrooms may be the solution. One can imagine all kinds of sexy, playful and seductive ways of romping between the sheets in one place or another. And who says that the bedroom is the only room in the house reserved for romance?
On the other hand, when sleeping apart is the result of a total communication breakdown and routine habits of retreating from fear and pride, as in the movie, Hope Springs, then there is a obviously a much deeper problem around intimacy, desire and communication that needs to be addressed. I wonder how many couples disintegrate when the need to be right and stubbornness blinds us and gets in the way of love and heart-felt communication. No one says vulnerability is easy at first, but it sure does open up the communication paths again!
Separate vacations – When I was married and living in France, my husband and I took separate vacations along with our family vacations and also carved out time to be together just the two of us. When I would visit my family in Los Angeles, I jealously and ferociously kept a full week just for me, my family, my mom and my girlfriends, without my husband and kids who were happy to see me happy. There is nothing like total freedom when no one is waiting for you compared to having your partner wait outside a store in the mall, arms crossed and people watching with you feeling like you have to rush because patience does have its limits. When he would arrive the following week, I was ready to spend time with him on a “real vacation” having gotten all the family and girlfriend catching up, necessary shopping and girl stuff out of the way. Likewise, when he would take his annual week to go ski trekking with friends, I got to have all that time to myself to creatively organize my schedule just around me. Our motto at those times was, “I’m happy to see you go have fun and I can’t wait to celebrate when you come back!” And celebrate we did!
What would your relationship be like if you viewed separation as something you built in and cherished as a source of renewal instead of assuming there were ulterior motives?
What are some of the ways you've built personal space into your relationship?