“Let there be spaces in your togetherness.
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love.”
Modern relationships and the importance of space
The durability of the modern marriage rests on the space that the couple gives each other. Unlike the cloying relationship that was idolised in yesteryears, in today’s world, granting space within the relationship symbolises a healthy union. The erstwhile concept of a happy marriage was all about sharing everything, your life, your time, even hobbies. Women could not imagine spending time on their own or opting for an evening out with their friends, leaving the spouse on his own. Now, it is all about the kind of freedom and space that one gives the partner. Space is crucial in the survival of a relationship.
The realisation that each individual has the need for privacy and space has come to stay. Whether children, spouses or friends, granting of some private space has become mandatory. In any relationship, one has to keep in mind that one is dealing with an individual who is a different entity and s/he may not share your viewpoint on everything. Allowing people to disagree and function with some elbowroom makes the relationship vibrant and healthy.
Allowing people to disagree and function with some elbowroom makes the relationship vibrant and healthy.
When close-knit means too close for comfort
Sunanda Seth, a 29-year-old marketing executive, feels that the joint family system can suffocate people. “I lived with my in-laws for about two years after marriage and it was a claustrophobic experience. There was no space for my thoughts or individuality in our home. I was just a puppet dancing to everyone’s tune. Once I moved out, I began to breathe freely.”
Not just the in-laws, even an over-possessive spouse or a prying one can asphyxiate the relationship.
Says psychiatrist Rashmi Chauhan, “It is vital for the marriage partners to feel a sense of freedom and individual security in the relationship. It is so easy to smother the marriage that most people do not even realise where they went wrong.”
Related reading: 8 ways to keep romance alive when living in a joint family
Giving each other freedom
For Nitish Arora, a healthy marriage is all about understanding the needs of the partner. A cloying wife is not his idea of an ideal mate. “I dislike the idea of having my wife on my back all the time. Men don’t need creepers and vines, they need a self-sufficient woman. I need to have the freedom to go my way, sometimes. I need to spend time with my friends without feeling guilty about leaving my wife at home. She has to understand this need for space. I think an ideal relationship is all about living together without restricting each other. This doesn’t apply to me alone. My wife has the freedom to choose her friends and spend time with them. ”
His wife Suniti seems to agree. “I understand that he needs to spend time with the boys. Just as I like to go out for movies with my friends or do some shopping, he needs his friends, too. I don’t think marriage means spending all the 24 hours together. It would become so boring and monotonous if we were to do so. I think we would get on each other’s nerves.”
Related reading: Making time for your friends helps improve your relationship
How much space is too much space?
Even in the most intimate of relationships, partners have to give each other space. But what is the extent of the space? Does it mean living one’s life according to one’s own rules, without a care for the other? How much is too much?
“Well, I would not like my husband to spend all his spare time doing things that don’t include me. I would like to be a part of his plans,” says Amrita, a boutique owner and entrepreneur. “It is so convenient to talk about private space when one wants to keep away from the spouse. How do I know if he is not seeing a girl? In any case, how much spare time does a person have these days? Within those limited hours, is it possible to dole out time for the spouse, friends, children, relatives and other hobbies?”
Her point seems to be justified. All this talk about private space can sometimes provide enough excuse to keep away from the family or escape its responsibility. And then there are the common problems and errands like babies, household chores, which take up a lot of time. It could become a very convenient thing to shirk all responsibilities under the guise of wanting personal freedom and space.
Box: A woman’s view
For a woman, the assertion for freedom is a not a very old phenomenon. For centuries, she was programmed to live a claustrophobic existence. Forget about personal space, she had no freedom of movement, not even where her own body was concerned. She lived with her head bowed, under a purdah, a silent dummy. Her domain was restricted to the kitchen and the zenana. Slowly and gradually, she began moving out of her domain and entered the drawing rooms.
And then she began working, moving out of the four walls, out into the open. Marriage did not mean just bondage; it took on a new meaning. The bondage turned into bonds of equality, freedom, joy and expression. She began to understand the meaning of individuality. She learnt that she was a free entity, one with a mind of her own. And that she could voice her opinions. From there it became a matter of time to achieve personal space. The new woman has arrived. She needs space, she needs elbow room and she has the power to make a choice. It was all about empowerment and equality.
Box: A man’s view
He was powerful, he was the provider and so he could do what he wanted. He was used to being obeyed. There was no question of the women in life making decisions or asking for private space. They were there to serve and to live the life ordained by man. He liked to be in control. One day the women began to clamour for more. They started demanding to be heard, to be given some elbowroom and freedom.
He felt gracious and benevolent as he let her have a lungful of free air, to breathe. Condescendingly, he granted her a little space within the home, but she trespassed and demanded more. And soon the dynamic relationship had begun to change. The equations were getting upset but he knew he could bind her no longer in the small frame that had been her boundary for long. Marriage became a game of equals, a relationship that required working on.
From bondage to bond
The parameters are changing. The well being of a marital relationship depends on mutual trust, faith, respect and space. Confining boundaries are giving way to open spaces that allow personal likes, dislikes, preferences and time for oneself. Relationships have come a long way.
In today’s world, taking separate holidays is as much in vogue as doing own things.
“I love going aboard with my friends. It is one time when I can let my hair down without bothering about my looks. I can romp around the beach without stressing about my cellulite and worrying what my husband will think about me,” says Pooja, a copywriter in an advertising company.
“I really don’t mind her going on her own or with friends because I like to have my share of fun, too. Taking her with me would mean feeling guilty about staring at the bathing beauties on the beach,” laughs Arun, her husband. “Live and let live is my motto.”
Good and harmonious marriages are not bondages; they are relationships that bind people together. Lasting bonds don’t strangle couples; they remain comfortably slack to keep them together.