Diary of a Marriage: I’ll Have Some Space, Please

Marriage Truth #463: You get sick of each other. And that's OK.

It’s inevitable, really. As much as you vow to love one another until the very end of time, to cherish each other for all of eternity, to have and hold each other ‘til death, there will come a time when you just want your spouse to go away.

For me, this time came about three months into marriage and cohabitation. I’d never realized how much I value alone time, something that is naturally lacking in a small-ish townhome with one TV (a purposeful decision on our part so we wouldn’t fall into the trap my parents have slid into after more than three decades of marriage — my mom upstairs in bed watching Antiques Roadshow, my dad downstairs on the couch watching golf). Separate TVs, I argued pre-marriage, is a small step away from one of us living in a guesthouse.

Then, after 91 days of constant togetherness — waking up next to each other, brushing our teeth at our side-by-side vanities, coming home to each other after work, eating dinner together, watching TV next to each other, going to sleep together — I began to second-guess our whole intimacy plot. Maybe my parents had it right all along.

It’s not just the togetherness that comes with living together that irked me, though. It’s that J. simply likes spending time with me — a lot of time. I chalk it up to him being an only child: After years of entertaining himself, he’s super-eager to have someone who’s always around. I’d wake up late on Saturday mornings to find that he’d stuffed all of his solo activities in before noon — gym, tennis, errands, haircut — so that he’d be home, ready to spend time together, when I woke up.  I’d flop on the couch, prepared to watch a bit of mindless TV and flip through magazines, and he’d be next to me, ready to talk, to plan our day, to be together.

I was flattered at first, but that quickly turned into a mild feeling of suffocation. I was hesitant to tell J. that I needed some breathing room. It was so endearing that he failed to get sick of me (and slightly concerning: Was something wrong with me that I needed space?). After all, doesn’t every woman complain that her significant other isn’t attentive enough, doesn’t want to spend time with her, tunes her out? Was I letting down my entire gender by asking my super-attentive husband to back off? And what if he backed off too much? I wanted him to want to spend time with me, just not all of the time.

When I told my editor about this week’s blog topic, she launched into a story of her own, which made me feel like less of a coldhearted loner-freak. She’d recently planned a blissfully solitary night during which she’d clear her DVR, catch up on her laundry, organize her closet, return phone calls, have a glass of wine. And then her boyfriend called: His plans had been canceled; he was free to get together. We both grimaced. “Ah well,” she told me. “I was just kind of looking forward to being by myself.”

I finally ‘fessed up to J., explaining that not only do I not mind that he has a life of his own, I actually like being alone, quiet, just me. He’s since backed off, and we’re both better at recognizing when the other needs space (I now know to avoid him when his team loses; he understands that I need to decompress for a bit when I get home from work). And at those times when I’m starting to feel suffocated, I know what to say: “Babe, I love you. I will love you for the next million years. Now, please go away.”

So, tell us — what about you? Do you revel in having some alone time every now and then? Have you ever had to deal with issues of space with your spouse or spouse-to-be? Tell us how you did it in the comments!

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