In Sex and the City 2, everyone’s former favourite single girl Carrie feels like she’s overdosing on husband Big’s passions for takeout and television. Two years after happily ever after, Carrie is straining against the everyday rituals of marriage.
All of us know that feeling. I dragged the husband for the film and I felt his eyes on me every time I laughed extra loudly (it must have been the beer) at Big’s reluctance to get off the couch even as Carrie was desperate to dress shiny and shimmy with strangers.
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One day Carrie announces she’s going to her old apartment to lock herself up and write without distractions. When they meet again after the mini-break they’re both happy to see each other, the sex is good and Big has a Eureka moment. I think we should take two days off from our marriage every week, he tells Carrie.
Most of us define the amount of space we need in a relationship from the word go. We start with a handicap, of course, because space is not a concept with which we grew up. Even physical space comes at a premium (our buildings cling to each other; people will always read over your shoulder; and press against you in a queue) and personal space…hmm, explain again why you need to be alone?
When techie-turned-film student Shripriya married, the couple were already in their 30s and her husband negotiated an annual solo vacation for himself. “Of course I have veto rights on the locations he picks,” she says. In the past, she’s exercised that right for Prague, Cambodia and parts of Italy, places they eventually visited/will visit together. “His list grows shorter every year,” she laughs, explaining that he’s free to go with friends too, but again, she gets a say in the pals he picks. “He does touristy things, reads, doesn’t have to deal with the reality of life for a few days (a week at the most) and I’m totally cool with it,” she says.
Mind the gap: Are you a space invader?
Ruchi, 28, needs to get away at least three or four times a year and one of those trips has got to be with herself. “I catch up on my reading or photography. Travelling alone clears my mind, it allows me to converse less and think more. It’s my time out, I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she says, adding that for this trip she usually picks a place that doesn’t have a cellphone signal. This couple’s other space frontiers include separate bathrooms and separate suitcases. After four years together, they’ve worked out all the details. He loves playing cricket on Saturdays so she does her own thing; every time she wants the house to herself for a girls’ night in, he makes alternative plans.
Like with most things in a relationship, there are no rights or wrongs, just what works for you. The husband and I have dramatically different everyday likes and dislikes but we usually end up swinging one way or the other, depending on our respective moods. So I’ve watched more animation in the 10 years I’ve been married than ever before, and he’s learned the lyrics of some 1950s Hindi film songs and can eat a (small) bowl of spinach without pulling a face.
Yet neither of us would be eager to repeat that three-year phase when we worked in the same office. While it was fun to lunch together every day, we both reported to the same boss and office conversations often spilled over into the bedroom. For a while there, life was only work, work and more work.
When Hemant, 43, and his spouse decided to work together people guaranteed a disaster. But 11 years later, they seem to be doing okay. “Here’s my number but since we work together we holiday separately :). My wife Geeta is in the US,” he wrote in an email.
The couple currently run their own design studio out of an 800 sq. ft, 10-person office. They have quite a few systems in place to make their life easier, such as clear work responsibilities, no Internet at home, a work-free weekend and no shouting at each other in the office. At home, the TV stays out of the bedroom so she can read in peace while he hangs out in the den. He says working together has helped both of them master the art of detecting the other’s all-important I-need-space signal.
As for the husband and me, I wondered if indeed we were too clingy when a friend’s two-year-old daughter started calling both of us Samaya, a reference to the fact that she always hears our names as SamarPriya.
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