Thursday, August 7, 2014

TWO FOR ONE

If you’ve read any of my blog posts, it should be clear: I would love another crack at becoming a member of the Couple Club. But over these past nine years of being single, I’ve established many habits of independence that I can’t imagine giving up if ever Tweedledee wants to join my Tweedledum. I don’t want one of those codependent relationships. Been there, left that.

A friend of mine truly lives the life I strive for. She’s an artist, vegetarian, teacher, Earth mother and a gifted travel writer. She’s married but retains her given family name along with a gentle “Ms.” {She’s not in-your-face about anything.) One of the things I admire about Ana is that she and Matt take every fifth year off from teaching so they can explore the world. That hasn’t changed, even after they had Becca. It’s a way of life. What intrigues me so much about their travels is that they spend months apart. When Ana explored India, Matt went to Morocco. She climbed Kilimanjaro while he trekked through the Alps. Later, they met up in Guatemala. Their travels exemplify their relationship—they have maintained their individuality while deepening their bond.

Spending months apart may seem extreme. It works for them. I’m not sure I’d want to go that far. I’d like to have a partner with me as I take in Machu Picchu or Kathmandu. But I think spending dinner apart is perfectly healthy.

Yes, dinner. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

But whenever I come to L.A., I get two for one meals. Ellie and Tom. Benny and Ted. Susan and Tim. I truly enjoy the company of Ellie, Benny and Susan’s husbands. Nice guys, thank goodness. And they seem to enjoy time with me. Conversation flows well enough. But I’m a one-on-one guy. There is nothing more intimate than a two-person conversation. Back in the old days, there were plenty of group outings with Ellie, with Benny and with Susan, but these relationships deepened and became lifelong friendships through the one on ones. The performance element gave way to probing questions and a disclosure of vulnerabilities.

I miss those moments. Sometimes three really is a crowd. Just once a year, it would be nice to go out and not have to accept the package deal. These are couples that have been together 40, 15 and 25 years. Have they lost all individuality? Is it unthinkable for one to heat up a can of tomato soup alone at home while the other catches up with an old friend? Alone time is healthy—when it doesn’t drag on for nine years.

Or why not catch up with your own old friend? Someone you know from work or from the Before era. Go on a walk with the dog, if you must. Yes, strengthen your Alpha status with Fido. Ensure you’re the one he greets more robustly. (That always feels good.)

Once a year. Call it Independence Day. The three of us can get together for the next meal. I’m always game for another dining out experience. The options in L.A. seem limitless.

A little time away from the spouse, every now and then. Dinner. Or make it lunch. Just coffee? Anything wrong with that?     

4 comments:

Rick Modien said...

Nope. Nothing wrong with that at all. Couldn't agree more.

I think it gets to the point, when you're part of a couple, that you do so much together, it's assumed you always will.

But that's not to say you shouldn't have your alone time too. I know I really appreciate mine. Makes me like to be around Chris all the more.

When Chris and I first met, I told him I would need time to myself. Well, turns out I need a lot less of it than I thought I would. But, when I get it, it's great.

Rural Gay said...

I'm always clear in the beginning of a relationship about how much alone time I need. Even though I explain it, I have to repeat it a few times to address the hurt feelings and misinterpretations. Alone time for me is essential. With that space, I am fresher to contribute more to the relationship.

However, it's not just time to self. Continuing to socialize apart is important as well. There are friendships that began before the relationship or that arose during, but still as a one-on-one dynamic. Yes, it is important to have close friends get to know one's partner, but I think time must also continue to be invested to help the one-on-one friendship grow--without the partner also coming along. That's what I miss nowadays.

oskyldig said...

Being the 3rd, 5th, 7th wheel everyday I can concur with this. What really bothers me is when I make plans with one of my friends, and it's meant to be a 1-on-1 and I even say that, and partner shows up and comes along.

One of my girlfriends admitted that her fiancé was jealous. I was kind of flabbergasted by this, but given that every time I'm over at their place he tries to show me his bedroom, again and again, and is filled with endless flirtation on his part.

It's just kind of annoying on all fronts.

Rural Gay said...

Thank you, oskyldig, for relating to this. It feels like some of these friendships get stuck without real heart-to-heart conversations, the kind that only happen one-on-one. I should be flattered that my friends' partners all like me--Susan's partner said today that he didn't ever want me to move out of their house where I'm staying this summer--but I could deal with them liking me less...and giving us a little space. (No jealousy issues, I think. I'm harmless.)