Back in the Nineties (yes, that’s 1990’s) Nan and I owned a sailboat that we had docked in Marina Del Rey. It was a wonderful weekend retreat for both of us. It was large enough to stand up in and easily cook meals and “live aboard”. Mind you, we are best friends and get along really well, but we didn’t fully understand what “too close” meant until we spent a week on the boat.
What it wasn’t big enough for was providing personal space.
If we really wanted alone time we would have to leave the boat and go somewhere else, but that was pretty impractical at night. We had a small TV and a music system onboard to entertain us. The problem was that if both of us weren’t in the same mood, one of us would end up annoyed or disappointed. Even if one person tried to shut himself away in the forward cabin the sound would leak pretty significantly. It was okay on the weekends, but it got old as the week wore on and we repeatedly got in each other’s way. Unneeded conflict increased.
In relationships, we need both togetherness and separateness. We need the ability to express our uniqueness as individuals as well as our oneness in marriage. And that means having a private space to get away to when we need it. Some of us are fortunate enough to have a dedicated room, a man-cave or a craft room, while others must do with a locked door on a shared space, such as a bedroom (some moms tell me the bathroom is their only sanctuary).
Can you find a space to get away to? It could even be a chair in the garden or side patio or a little used alcove in the house. For others it is a shop or space in the garage that can be rearranged. This away space is a spiritual place, a place to rest, reflect, renew and regroup. This is a place you take your feelings, emotions and dreams before you share them with others. This is where you spend time with God.
Lately Nan has been occupying my seldom used office. Until a year ago it was a center of business activity in the mornings. Now it mostly serves as a place to pay bills and do an occasional Skype session. Nan has found it perfect. For me, I use a guest bedroom in the basement next to our music room. It has the added advantage of being a great place to nap when needed.
Almost all of our rooms have bookshelves to keep journals and reading material handy. And there are no clocks in view. Perhaps that is not possible for everyone, but being too aware of the passing of time can get in the way of its purpose. Can you shut off electronic devices or do you need to get away to even use them?
We are quite aware that people have different felt needs for alone time and private space – some need more and some less. We should try to accommodate our partner, within reason. I probably have a greater need than Nan does, but it has not been a big problem between us.
So How about you? What are your space and time requirements? Have you already worked this out with partners or roommates? Can you ask (nicely) for what you need?