The other day I was talking to a friend. He is someone with an artistic mind. He loves to paint, read, write and travel. He also loves to spend his time with his family and friends and at times by himself too. On this day when I spoke to him he seemed to be gloomy in his demeanour. With a bit of my prompting, he shared the following. Recently he had taken a solo trip for two days. He wanted to write on a specific subject and he thought it was essential for him to be alone for two days to collect his thoughts and be relaxed without any responsibilities. Upon his return he ended up having an argument with his wife as she finds it difficult to accept his involvement in activities such as writing and travelling. She can only see it as his time away from his family. As she does not share these similar interests with him, it is getting more and more difficult for him to do something that he likes, as the expectation is that everything should be orchestrated as a family or in the interest of the family members.
Was I surprised? Well, I guess I have seen enough instances either as an issue from a wife’s perspective or as an issue from husband’s perspective. When two individuals come together to start a life together, both of them adjust to the needs of another. Then as kids come in, the relationship spins to a different level. Both partners usually sacrifice many of their interests and activities, and adjust to each other’s needs even more to raise the family. This slowly strengthens the expectation of doing everything as a family. When eventually one partner pursues an activity or an interest of her/his own, these are all seen as “time away” from the family and questions are raised as to why you are doing this or what benefits it gives you. The question is, when love is expressed between two partners without bearing an element of individual respect which allows them having a little space in the relationship, can we still call it true love, or is it an expression of mere possessiveness coming out of jealousy and fear?
A long term US study of marriage called the Early Years Marriage Project, has been following the same 373 married couples for over 25 years and the researcher Orbuch reports “When partners have their own set of interests, friends, and time for self, that makes them happier and less bored,” . “Time alone also gives partners time to process their thoughts, pursue hobbies and relax without responsibilities to others.” It seems that when we give space in a relationship it freshens up the relationship as well as preserves and strengthens an individual’s sense and identity while still being together as a couple .
In one of his novels, notable author Bennyamin compares family as a petty shop on the street corner. He says this is not a place that gives you everything, and for many other things we have to look for other shops. What he meant was that there is no point in expecting that our partner is there to fulfil all of our needs. For some interests like a discussion on literature, writing or even may be cooking we may need other good friends or may need to be alone. Bennyamin pointed out that our expectation that every need of ours should be fulfilled by our partner and demands for the same are slowly destroying many of the marriages. He said once the relationship raises to a level where each party is comfortable in letting the other fulfil some of his/her interests from another group of friends or family members or on his/her own the relationship will raise to another meaningful level.
Yet why it is painful for many of us to give this space to each other in a relationship? Studies show this as lack of self-esteem which may come from childhood experiences. If the child was raised in a insecure attachment environment, the child in his/her adult life gets anxious about loosing his/her partner when he/she lets the partner pursues an activity by himself or herself. The other reason can be, partners who have nothing much to do on their own always depend on their partner to fill their time, to fill their need.
At some stage in our life our children also may become a partner to another person and what role model are we to them? Don’t they need to learn to respect their partner and give a space to them? For that, I think they should have their own interests, activities or hobbies they can pursue. To know how to play an instrument, or sport activities or to have an interest in painting reading or cooking can help them to occupy themselves in such a way that they don’t feel abandoned or left alone when their partner pursues an activity or an interest of their own.
Let us accept the fact that our need to have little time for ourselves has nothing to do with our relationship or how much we love our partner. Let us learn to respect each other and learn to give this space to each other rather than to suffocate each other. Let us understand that “giving space and time is the best recipe for a long term relationship to work “