I’ve never actually lived with someone, though I’ve written on the topic several times. For whatever reason, the two times in my adult life I’ve had a gap in between leases, I’ve been lucky enough to be dating men who offer their apartments. Both times, I went into the situation attempting to view it as a mini-vacation with someone I care about…minus still having to work 9-6.
And yet, though each relationship is vastly different and the arrival of the “homeless” period arrived in varying points of the dating duration, at the end of both of my staycations with Mr. Idea and Mr. Possibility, I’ve found myself arriving at the same conclusion:
Baby, I need space.
Don’t get me wrong – Mr. Possibility is truly wonderful. I won’t go into the history (if you’d like, you’re welcome to research yourself, is not impossible to find) but in the last few months we’ve made significant progress. We’ve developed into a functioning couple that has yet to have a knock-out, drag-down fight, and we’re respectful of one another’s needs. There is intensity and fire, but I’d also consider him one of my closest friends – which to me, is more important than butterflies and channeling Prince Charminglike similarities.
But he does things to get on my nerves. In fact, he does several.
He’s not the tidiest person I’ve known, though most men are not (with the exception of his roommate who keeps a remarkably clean abode). He has his own set of mood swings and preferences of how he choses to carry his day-to-day life, and how he likes his apartment to be organized. His idea of grocery shopping is getting what’s on sale, even it is two-for-one ketchup, regardless if he needs ketchup or not. He doesn’t rinse the sink after he shaves and when he needs to work, he spreads his things as wide as the living room will allow him, and if I dare touch a paper, I swear I may lose a finger.
These are not bad things and they do not change the way I feel about him because I’m no different.
I have a tendency to shed, leaving him with strands of reminders of me on his shirts, his briefcase, and his coat. I will use the same cup all day long, refilling it with orange juice, then pouring the last little bit out, and repeating. I want to sleep in on the weekends until at least ten and he is programmed to wake at eight, no matter what day it is. I packed ten pairs of shoes for a three-week stay, and they’re strung about his room unorganized, even though I’ve made several attempts to keep them straight. In an effort to be helpful, I shrunk some of his shirts when I did the wash, and when I decided to bake cookies, I forgot to check the cleanliness of the oven and set off not one, but two smoke detectors.
It’s not just the quirks either though – it’s sleeping under the same roof, eating the same dinners, having actual discussions about domestic tasks and purchases, and not only watching TV on a Friday night together, but going out together the next Friday. It’s constantly being connected to the hip and feeling like you’ve lost some part of yourself, even if you’ve gained the coveted key to your guy’s place. And that kind of closeness, though intimate and ultimately what marriage may very well look like, can bring a girl to her knees – or to a bar in Union Square, frantically telling her friends how badly she needs space.
Usually requesting space brings anxiety and fear into the relationship, almost as a signal that it is nearing the end or facing rocky waters. Such is not the case with Mr. Possibility because emotional room isn’t what’s on the table. Rather, it’s just literal space.
Keys that belong to me. A closet to fill with my belongings, freeing them from a suitcase and one mini-drawer. A bed to collapse on that I paid for, that I can choose to make or leave messy because it’s mine and I don’t have to share unless I extend an invitation. An area to sit and write endlessly, without being interrupted, without the sound of a television blaring in the background, or debates about going out or staying in.
A space to be alone.
In the past, I never could wrap my head around my friends claiming “space” was a good thing – but now I see their point. A couple can spend too much time together. You can be around one another far too much. Shared interests, friends, and pursuits help bring you together, but if you overdo them, it can be what tears you apart. Without demanding and sticking to an individual regimen that gives you what you need outside of the relationship, even a duo that barely argues will feel smothered and bothered. And from there it only leads downhill – heated arguments over silly things, miscommunication under stress, less sex and play, and at the very worse, breaking up just to find an hour to exhale in privacy.
So maybe I’ll give space a break. Sometimes it is the remedy that doesn’t separate you, but ultimately bring you closer. But not too close for comfort.