(listen to the audio version)
I want to thank my husband, Robin, for teaching me the most valuable lesson I’ve ever learned about the need for space in relationships.
Like all valuable lessons, I learned this one the hard way.
When he moved out of our shared bedroom after a particularly horrendous fight that neither of us are proud of, I thought we were over. I howled in pain at the idea of a sexless marriage spent in separate rooms. I believed we had failed at everything I was told should come easily.
Until I realized that we had succeeded beyond measure.
Though it might seem odd to those whose eyes have not blinked open in awe of their aloneness, we have only recently in history carried the belief that our primary romantic relationships should complete us. (Don’t believe me? Maybe this will convince you.)
Indeed, this notion that one person can be everything to us is not our nature, but nurture. Which explains some things, like divorce rates, infidelity, and the benefits of making space in a relationship.
In the words of Ester Perel, “For most of history, the soulmate meant God.” Put differently, we once sought to bed down with the comfort of the divine, but now we place that sacredness at the feet of an imperfect human.
I am blessed to say that I have been loved deeply by several beautiful humans, which is another way to say that I am familiar with our race’s shortcomings in this area, including my own.
While receiving all this love from different people might have allowed me to drop the idea that there is a “one,” a bit of this conditioning has stuck to my shoes like old gum – that the one I’m with should be with me all the time.
I confess that before my husband moved to our guest room, I believed that my partner should share all my desires and act according to them. These include, of course, erotic desires, but also sleep schedules, cuddle patterns, color of sheets, cleanliness, and respect for my private space when I want the door closed.
As I found when I fell from it, that bar is far too high for anyone to reach.
The one thing left to do was to sink into the only relationship that can possibly fill that god-shaped hole.
When I say that I felt lonely in the days that followed my husband’s departure from my bed, I mean that my heart was ripped from my chest and tossed into the cold ocean. But, as I’ve said, the only cure for a broken heart is living with a broken heart. So I lived with it.
As the days turned to weeks and then to months, I found that something new grew in place of my belief that I could be everything for him and he for me. I found instead the roots of a whole and holy relationship with myself.
My training in using the erotic as a tool for healing led me to turn my bedroom into my personal temple. I dressed up and danced in front of my mirrors. I seduced myself through the exploration of self-pleasure. I lit candles and wrote some of the most beautiful prose that has ever come from my hands. All the while, I prayed for a breakthrough that would allow me to finally see a relationship through the rockiest of times.
My prayers were answered. Not by him moving back in, but by me discovering a deep current of self-love, the likes of which I had never found when seeking it from another.
As I was falling in love with myself in my private room, my husband and I ebbed and flowed. We spent about a year figuring out how to be separate while together, how to share a home and co parent with a foundation of respect. We even discovered a pretty outstanding current of erotic connection that made up for the loss of intimacy in other areas. It was liveable. I even began to prefer this way to the old way.
But the story doesn’t end there. Just when I realized how much I loved myself, just when I saw how valuable I was regardless of anyone’s attention – that was the point when he and I finally turned to each other and threw some kindling on the coals that were still burning between us.
Reader, we fell in love again. More deeply. More securely. More graciously. But we kept our separate spaces. As we do to this day.
I have never been one who does things because I should. This means I have to get accustomed to outside eyes looking at me with questions. But from the perspective of my body, this is what I want.
In my relationships, I am held and I hold. I am cared for and I care for. I am seen and I see.
In my room alone, I recharge. I reconnect. I decompress from the work of a woman whose guts are spilled out all over the internet. I find a relationship to my body and my power. And when it feels right, I invite him to join me in what once was our marital bed.
All of this is about alignment to my truest north. It’s about composting the misguided ideas that we should partner and give up everything we are outside of that embrace. It’s about reclaiming myself as a whole human who knows how to love so deeply she can easily lose herself to it.
But I name my ability to love that deeply not as a fault, but a superpower. Because it brought me here.
The more I claim for myself the ways I want to love, the better I rest at night. For me, I’ll be resting peacefully, alone in my bed, knowing that keeping a room of my own is the best way to build a love affair with the divine soulmate within.
Want more on how to have better relationships? Dive into the story of the one who formed the foundation for your relationships: your mom. Get on the waitlist for BodyStory: Mother to rewrite the story of where you came from so you can redefine where you’re going.