"Let there be spaces in your togetherness.
And let the winds of heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls."~from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet
J and I began a conversation a couple weeks ago that has continued regarding our individual needs for space- how to share space, how to utilize, and how it fits within the context of our open relationship.
In both the Osho book I just finished (Love, Freedom, Aloneness) and in Esther Perel's Mating in Captivity, both authors emphasize the idea of letting separateness create desire for intimacy. Separateness and togetherness are seen as a force like a pendulum; both are good, and both are required for a relationship to develop healthfully.
We have friends who intentionally do not live together as a means to retain independence and autonomy from one another, while also keeping spice alive in their relationship. We have another friend whose grandma was a marriage and family therapist her whole life and always advocated for couples having separate bedrooms. We know others who are extremely comfortable with having lots of space to themselves- physical (in terms of living space) and geographic.
This brings up for me Kathy Labriola's autonomy and intimacy scale (from her book Love in Abundance). If you don't remember, the idea is that the scale ranges from 1-10, with those needing absolute autonomy identifying as a 1 and those needing total intimacy with a partner as a 10. Labriola maintains that people who identify as a 1 or 2 probably don't have primary partners, because they need so much independence that a primary relationship probably will not manifest. In addition, someone who identifies as a 9 or 10 probably does not have a primary partner because the partner will probably end up feeling smothered. She says that relationships are more sustainable when the two people involved are similar in number identification. I tend to identify as a 7 or 7.5 (if I can do half numbers!). J tends to identify as a 6 or 7. So we are pretty closely matched, but our differences definitely come out sometimes.
So, J and I have been talking about our future living situation. Right now, we are in a fairly small (at times feeling very cramped) apartment with one bed. We have both craved our own personal space at times. For J, an ideal future living space would include double master suites with identical comforts (same sized beds with same cozy comforters and sheets and pillows, TVs in both rooms, etc so that we both feel the spaces are equally inviting and comfortable) so that we could each claim a suite as our own. We could each decorate our room how we want, and feel like we had our own space to retreat into. For me, this sounds lovely during times when I am upset or just in funky mood and crave alone time. It also sounds like it would provide added spice to some of our shared sexual fantasies. It also would provide me a space to deepen any future relationship with a woman. For J, the purpose has significant symbolic value. He does not want our space to reflect control, and having his own space would signify that he controls his own romantic and sexual life. It would be important to him at some point to be able to have secondary partners or casual sexual partners over to spend the night.
Starting this conversation was difficult for me, because it brought up fears of our relationship turning into one like housemates might have. I want to still be able to sleep next to J and wake up next to him and feel intimacy in that way (I know that he enjoys that aspect too, but it is not as necessary for him- remember the intimacy-autonomy scale). But after having a more calm conversation about it and explaining those sentiments, we have seemed to reach some various ideas on how to maintain the elements of our shared living relationship that we both enjoy. One idea was to have a dedicated night a week where we do not sleep together so that it becomes more normalized, and then switching off whose bedroom we slept in the other nights. I explained that we have never practiced not sleeping together except when I have been upset, and so it feels pretty important to not sleep together when things feel happy and calm. It was also important for J to add that on nights when we might normally sleep together, for it still to feel comfortable and acceptable to ask for a night alone without me feeling upset about the request. In addition, it felt important to brainstorm alternative living situations, in the event that double master suites are not an option. One might be an apartment or house with two bedrooms of roughly the same size.
(It also feels important for me to say that this was a long conversation yesterday, and I have not been getting a lot of sleep and am a little sick, so I have probably forgotten some of the key things we talked about. If so, I will be sure to write an updated post!)
Overall, I feel on the same page with J about these ideas, and I am excited to see how we will craft our future living spaces to better reflect our individual needs and desires as a couple.