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.


  1. It just sounds really odd when someone wants to go out of their way to “reserve friends” etc.

    Wanting time alone isn’t really something I personally would want to schedule into my life; there will always be the time of month for time alone!

  2. You're reflections are quite sweet and unusual :)

    However, although it's fun hypothesising about marriage, I don't think one really knows until they marry, although we may have some insight.

    My guesswork about marriage is that 'space' is always being negotiated, and it varies throughout the marriage. There'll be phases apart and phases where one cannot bear to be away from their beloved.

  3. Ghazal,

    I think you're right. I also think any real requirement for space gets fulfilled in the daily goings on in life. It's when some, as San notes, explicitly reserve it, usually at the cost of their partner, that gets me down.

    And of course this is only what I imagine and want. It might not be what I need, but regardless of that I think it's important to at least understand and be on the same page.

  4. I find myself going more towards this mentality in the past 5years. Although I agree with Ghazals point too.

    Frankly speaking I think most ppl can't think straight and most of the things they do or ideas they have are based on the crap they watch and read.

    What you've written makes perfect sense to me but most peoples concept of marriage these days is skewed from the base up. Everything is a battle for space, control, authority etc.

    For guys like us... I think we basically have a holistic attitude towards life that doesn't make sense to people that compartmentalise everything.

    It's hard to find a girl that gets it.

    It goes two ways either you're lucky and meet a girpl that GETS it or is at least open to reprogramming. Or you settle for a nice but dim. That's three ways.

  5. Mash,

    I think a lot of it is defensive; so in this case some people expect their future spouses to want this space (watching football, going to the pub etc etc) and so they gear themselves up to do the same even if they don't want to. Whatever the reason, I find it a shame (if only 'cos it means there's less for us).

    >It goes two ways either you're lucky and meet a girpl that GETS it or is at least open to reprogramming. Or you settle for a nice but dim. That's three ways.

    It seems all those guys we called copouts for going back home were the smart ones who knew how to deal with this issue.

  6. A beautiful excerpt from Kahil Gibran's The Prophet, which is related to this post:

    "Then Almitra spoke again and said, And what of Marriage, master?
    And he answered saying:

    You were born together and together you shall be for evermore.
    You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
    Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
    But let there be spaces in your togetherness.
    And let the winds of heavens dance between you.

    Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
    Let it be a moving sea between the shores of your souls
    Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
    Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

  7. Fab post. I agree with all you say.
    It's taking me long enough to find 'The One'. I don't see why I would possibly want to spend any exclusive time, away from them, unless it's a purdahfied gathering, and to bring my partner would be offensive.

  8. HW,

    In my opinion the popularity of women's only events and segregation is increasing with this apparent need for space and independence, so the two kinda go hand in hand. They're almost like an Islamic (and so infallible) justification.

    It's interesting how there aren't many "Men only" events of the same kind. But again, maybe there just isn't an explicit need for one since it occurs in other places.

  9. Forget segregation, lets talk about fun. IS a Mendi really fun with men and women?

    Women only Mendhi's are uber fun. Mix mendhi's, not so much. (I have witnessed so far...)

    Also disagree with:
    "women's only events and segregation is increasing with this apparent need for space and independence, so the two kinda go hand in hand".
    How did you come to that conclusion? It is not so apparent to me. Women only events occur cos the fun factor is more not because of independence and space. Or maybe I'm missing the point..?

  10. >Forget segregation, lets talk about fun. IS a Mendi really fun with men and women?

    Absolutely, yes. And I don't say that as a pervert, but as someone who doesn't find only talking about politics, sport and religion on a sofa for hours very enjoyable. Maybe if we were of a different background we'd be smoking, drinking and watching porn or something instead, but the guys I usually hang with aren't really interested in any of those things.

    >How did you come to that conclusion? It is not so apparent to me. Women only events occur cos the fun factor is more not because of independence and space. Or maybe I'm missing the point..?

    Well it wasn't a conclusion, it was more the observation of a correlation. There's no doubt that segregation is enjoyed by women - that's why they're happening more. But the real question is why (in this case) they enjoy themselves more without than with their guy partners/families; and that's the paradigm shift I'm talking about.

    Maybe they're allowed to do more stuff or behave in a certain way (whether socially or Islamically) but even if that's the case, I just find it a bit of a shame as well as being wrought with inconsistency. It also appears to afflict Muslim communities more than others and I find the disparity pretty interesting too: I don't think many guys would get away with holding a men-only event since it would be deemed repressive and sexist. Not that I'd ever claim that such an event would ever be fun anyway.

  11. >>>IS a Mendi really fun with men and women?

    Hell yeah! I'm a woman and find partying much more fun when both parties mix. I'm not saying women only parties aren't good, but from my experience of segregated parties .. they tend to be boring.

  12. Anonymous21:31

    depends on your intentions. If as muslim women you want to let your hair down and talk girly, you wouldn't want it to be mixed. If you are wanting to check out the talent you wouldnt mind it being mixed.

  13. Anonymous10:30

    -You would prefer that your wife came out with you to mixed gatherings and danced in front of men at mendhis than her attending women only events?
    -Personally I think too much mixed socialising of married couples can be a bad thing - it can lead to constant comparisons and dissatisfaction. 'Why can't my wife be a witty conversationalist like so and so's wife etc?'
    -Women (in hijab especially) can literally let their hair down at women's only events.
    -Back in the day extended families played a major role in a couple's life - couples weren't spending every evening and weekeneds with each other. Nowadays its not unusual for a couple to be living alone together in a different city from their families and kids are being delayed till later. So couples are spending more time together than ever before and somehow this seems to be correlated with more marital dischord. Nowadays you can't blame it on the in-laws because they're often not around.
    -Not get involved with football because you're considering future wife? Thats a bit extreme? If she values your interests she wont mind if you watch it or maybe she'll get involved and watch it herself. Maybe she'll use the time to see her parents or catch up on the weeks chores. Unless you feel that couples should cook and clean together too?