Marriage Without Velcro

My parents spent their marriage Velcro'd together. They never went anywhere without the other. As my mother put it, she didn't get married to be alone.

But what about happily married couples who seek a little space apart from each other? Does the Velcro model hold up today? What works to keep a marriage - or any relationship - fresh?

In our eight-year marriage, my husband and I have rarely been apart for more than a few nights. We enjoy one another's company, and neither of us travels for work.

Early in our marriage, I took a solo trip to Martha's Vineyard in mid-January. I stayed with two women who let me come and go as I pleased. I walked the beach in solitude and scribbled short stories by the wood stove. I shared only my meals. In that time, I reconnected with something powerful and independent in myself. Traditionally, women have been the ones to yield their separateness in favor of marital unity. While that's less common these days, remnants of that philosophy remain. Look at the arrangement of many homes: The husband has his own space - an office, a workshop, the garage - while the wife may have only a desk in the corner of a busy kitchen. If she's a mom, a private space is harder to come by. I have different expectations of marriage than did my parents. Unlike my mother, I don't feel threatened when my husband's interests diverge from mine. Few women of my generation look to their spouses to share every interest.

But the real achievement is to keep a sense of one's self amid the demands and joys of a relationship. Goethe wrote, "Talent develops in quiet, Character in the torrent of the world." Women and men, married or not, need space in which to be themselves, to reconnect with their talents and aspirations. A good relationship can hardly be built on better ground.

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