A phenomenon Jon and I have discussed previously, to no great conclusion, was revived by the recent idle drivel coming from the mouth of the UK’s own minor version of Bernie Sanders.
The short form of the matter is that, however much men will joke about “well, it beats being home with the gf/wife”, an increasing number of men actually act on it. They will go drinking right after work, take on overtime, or even go and do an unpleasant job for a friend or relative, relishing the time away from home. And we were stumped. But a little more discussion, insight and thought has led us to a fairly satisfactory answer: he doesn’t want to go home because he has no space there.
Humans may be social animals, but we are also private animals. As fairly reclusive introverts, Jon and I know this more than anyone. And we can see that even the most outgoing of extroverts from time to time withdraws into themselves the same way we need to do on a regular basis. Humans need time and space to think, to be quiet, to work on solo projects and to unwind. For introverts its about recharging, for extroverts it seems more about reminiscing and planning, for ambiverts its a bit of both.
And for most of our lives, we get that time and space. From around seven or eight years old, the point where we begin to see ourselves as a unit of society and socialize more sacrificially, passively and/or empathically, we are granted a right to time and space. We get to walk off on our own, have our own possessions to keep us busy away from everyone else, maybe even our own room if money and culture allow. This is Retreat with a capital R. And we need it. As we grow older, this boundary becomes more defined, even with friends and family. We learn to tell people we want some quiet time, that we’re tired, that we wanted to read a book or watch a show. And we learn that when others say similar things, they also need their space.
For some reason, though, many decide to throw this harmony out of the window when it comes to looking for a mate. My only guess is that it’s based on the same mechanism whereby people will lose weight, learn game, or even join a cult to find a partner. We simply put temporary effort into changing ourselves because we know, consciously or subconsciously, that being better means mixing our genes with better ones.
Some also temporarily give these people their personal space. They don’t have their own room any more. They don’t even have their own bed. They don’t have any space in the house where they can be left alone. They don’t have any time where it is appropriate to say “I just want to read a book right now”. Because they are convinced that they need to hand their whole lives to the other person in order for a relationship to work.
But the problem comes in with that “temporary” clause up there. Just as with spontaneous weight loss, a bit of game or joining a cult, unless your changes genuinely become a core part of you, this effort will melt away as the relationship cements. You will grow tired. You will have days where you don’t want to talk at all, or where you just want to sit down and regather your thoughts after work. You will want your time and space back. And so will your partner.
But in this sort of relationship, nobody makes the first move to letting that happen. All of a sudden, the person they loved and wanted to spend every second with becomes a chain around their ankles. They won’t shut up, they keep walking in on them gaming/reading/listening to music/indulging a hobby, they start pushing to do more things together to “relight the spark”. They both resent this constant presence and paradoxical distance.
And that is why he doesn’t want to come home. Because she is there. She is always there. It isn’t his home. There is no peace, no quiet, no time and space for him. There is no Refuge.
Of course, you needn’t spend any time apart to prevent this situation from developing. Jon and I easily spend every free minute together. He doesn’t have to go to the pub after work and I don’t need a girls’ night out to recover and get some social space. But you have to learn to be alone together sometimes. You have to be quiet, and restful, and minding your own business sometimes. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but a little peace and quiet goes a long way.
TTFN and Happy Hunting!
What are your observations on couples who can’t spend time together? What are the ways you and your partner meet the need for Refuge? Have you tried being alone together?