Although the wedding vow that “two-shall-become-one” isn’t literal, marriage still means merging two lives. From scheduling to finances, what you do now affects your spouse and vice versa. It takes adjustments on every level and it can grow tiresome and inconvenient to have to consult another person over every decision, large or small.
It can be stifling not to be able to do spontaneous activities due to scheduling or personality conflicts with your spouse. Having to check with another person first (or worse, having to “ask permission”) gives marriage the ‘old ball-and-chain’ reputation. Most married couples are apart during work hours and look forward to returning home to be with each other again. But there are times when it is helpful and healthy to have some personal time and personal space in your marriage during your non-working hours, too.
Personal space can help you…
…allow you to de-stress without dumping your emotions on your spouse.
…maintain your personal identity. You’ll feel fulfilled when you are happy being you and not only the other roles you play in your life. Playing only roles (like mommy, wife, daughter, friend, volunteer) can lead to burn-out and disconnection with your true self. Be you. It’s what attracted him to you in the first place.
…help you appreciate each other more. Absence makes the heart grow fonder but you can’t miss each other if you’re always together.
...be more tolerant about the differences between you two. Let’s face it, over time little annoyances can snowball into huge aggravations. Time outs can help put your emotions into perspective and let you see your marital priorities more clearly.
Ways to create space in your marriage
1. Find a hobby, art or other individual activity greatly enhances a marital relationship as long as it doesn’t consume too much of a spouse’s time and attention.
2. Create small nooks in your house or garden to where you can retreat without any intrusions. For some, it can be a man’s garage or a spa bathroom. Put up a sign when you don’t want to be disturbed. Ask each other to respect that sign without feeling excluded or suspicious. You aren’t hiding anything. You just enjoy some personal space. A lot of husbands and wives might feel rejected to know that there is some part of their spouse’s life that is “off-limits” to them. Don’t make it taboo. They’re allowed in and can linger now and then. But for the most part, it is just personal space. And remember not to stay by yourself for extended lengths of time! Otherwise, your mate will see that it is an escape—from her—and may decide to give you a LOT of personal space for good.
3. Develop routines that don’t include each other. I relish a long walk all by myself. It’s like a walking meditation in silence when I can feel nature’s abundant energy. It’s important for me to go alone and not take even the dogs. They enjoy walks during a different part of the day with me.
4. Emotional space matters, too. Try not to pressure each other into doing what you don’t want to do or go where you don’t want to go. And it’s okay not to divulge or demand to know each others'every thought. Chances are, no one is hiding secrets or gestating life-changing ideas. Just everyday ol’ thoughts that people like to keep to themselves.
Personal space is essential for well-being. It doesn't require a full-time physical legal (or informal) separation. Sometimes, marriages in crisis often need to create only a little bit of personal space to regain balance and perspective.