Tuesday, December 22

The Need For Space

Amongst my many unrealistic expectations of marriage, one which gets a lot of attention from friends and rishta alike is how I won't require much space from the person I'll eventually marry. Or put in a more straightforward manner, how I would like to spend a good majority of my social and familial life with my other half. As well as being unrealistic it can even be harmful, since apparently all marriages and relationships need some space to remain healthy; almost as if spending too much time together would make you realise how rubbish your marriage actually is.

First of all I don't think space is as vital a component for a healthy marriage as many seem to make out. I know more than a few couples who will do as much as is practically possible together, and lament when they can't. In fact I'd say this need for space is a modern thing - in the old days it used to be about couple dating or dinner parties, while now its about joining "the boys" or "the girls" at the local shisha bar while the spouse takes care of the kids.

In my own various social groups I have friends (both male and female) who always leave their partners at home - as much as love them all for making the effort to spend time with the group I do find it a bit of a shame us being used as some kind of escape or distraction from their married life; I'd much rather they brought their other halves with them. And perhaps unreasonably I always find it a bit depressing seeing a bunch of girls or guys socialising around a shisha pipe when it's clear how much of an escape it is for them. On the other hand some bring their partners with them and I like how easily they're able to share; It's couples like these who show that space isn't necessarily a vital or inevitably realistic thing.

I do realise that practical realities exist and that each person in a relationship have their own responsibilities to fulfil at different times of the day - so just because I'm at work this doesn't mean I would expect my wife to suffer at home alone too. And even if a certain level of space is necessary I think it's more than covered by the time spent apart fulfilling these responsibilities - if you need space then why not just align it with the times you have to spend apart?

For my part I guess I've been brought and built to share my life in that way. So I'll take my dad with me and my mates to watch Avatar (even though he'll go home early because it's too cold to wait the two hours for the film to start), and regularly mix social circles instead of cherry picking friends for a particular occasion. I don't feel a need to insulate these respective aspects of my life and any space I need from my family (with whom I've been living with for the past 31 years) kinda comes naturally from us fulfilling our responsibilities, be that by going out to work or doing our own things within the home.

In a similar manner my interests have also been guided by whether or not they'll be something acceptable and even enjoyable by a future spouse. I avoided getting into football after hearing about so many women being made widows on a Sunday and I as much as I've been criticised for free mixing and not having exclusively-man-groups of friends one of the main reasons I've picked these groups is so that any wife can hang out with the same people. Most of my hobbies (cinema, volunteering, talks etc) are things which are enjoyed by men and women. This isn't to say that I'll be dictating everything we do together or the friends we keep, but more that if it was left to me than I'd want her to feel as comfortable as possible in my life; I'd hope that's mutual since I would want to be as accepted in her existing circles as she would be in mine.

And of course we shouldn't force people to do anything they don't really enjoy but then I figure this is less of an issue for those who believe that the company is more important the venue or activity and are open-minded enough to enjoy almost anything; I'd rather change my interests than do the things I do now alone.

Anecdotally I do see this as being more of a girl requirement than a guy one: increasingly I see (Muslim? Asian?) women reserving their right to have "girly time" in which to let their hair down. Perhaps it needs to be explicitly stated for women since it's a such a given for men, but then I've heard of how some wives say they have to force their husbands to go out and play with their guy mates without them. On the other hand there have been times when a bunch of us from a particular circle of friends tried to do the whole "guy thing". We failed terribly; something I feel had more to do with how much we appreciated the women in our group more than because we're a bunch of social inadequates.

So in conclusion this is more about being in sync and organising your day and interests around each other as a pair rather than intentionally aiming to do stuff alone in a vain attempt to hold on to the individuality you had in a past life. In this way this is something that goes back to what I said about co-dependency. But whatever the case it seems that I'm in the minority when it comes to thinking in this way, and I've always accepted and compromised upon the need for someone to have their alone time even if I don't require it in the same way.

That said, I must admit that a tiny alarm bell does ring each time a potential explicitly reserves the right to (exclusively) see her friends. I'm not against it per se, but it is something I don't think I'll fully understand especially if she'll be more than welcome to join me in the things I'd want to do - but it's more than that since I feel it'll be quite unlikely that I'd want to do much without her in the first place.