Saturday, July 29, 2006

Small musing...

“Perhaps the ultimate indignity is loneliness without privacy.”
-Alden Nowlan, “Scratchings,” Between Tears and Laughter

I used to wish, towards the end of a long and mostly happy marriage, that I could walk into the kitchen and make a cup of coffee without feeling compelled to yell out, “I’m making coffee, do you want some?”

I used to fantasize about being alone – not that I wanted to do anything special or covert. I only wanted to gulp the silence down. To not be aware of the presence of anyone else. To wordlessly make a single cup of coffee.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the passive aggressive resistance that is peculiar to long relationships. “God give us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change…”

Many marriages (not to mention family relationships and close friendships) are, at least in part, one long stretch of détente. One long stretch of learning to accept the things we cannot change in ourselves and the people we share our lives with – and learning to understand that they are struggling with the same acceptance of us.

X’s husband will not finish the picky details of a house renovation, although she’s asked him time after time. Although he has the tools, the skills, although it wouldn’t take much effort. My ex never gives notice when he needs a small favor…something typed or mended. He doesn’t return phone calls and used to leave me floundering on the line, trying to make an excuse to save someone’s feelings. Z fusses and worries every small decision to death. I am a control freak with budgets and cannot bear an unmade bed. Eventually, I will always say the unthinkable out loud.

All this chaffing and rubbing between us…

Resistance to the drip, drip, drip of another person’s demands. A wayward streak in all of us says, no matter how much we love another person, you aren’t the boss of me. It’s that part that craves a measure of solitude, freedom of movement, change. It’s the part that recently caused a long-married friend to wail, “I love the guy but I need my own room.

In me, it’s a slightly larger part than the fear of being alone.

And I guess that’s what really decides it. Whether we stay in a marriage or not. Not whether we are lonely inside a relationship, because everyone is sometimes, but whether we can bear to be lonely without privacy. Whether the person with us can recognize loneliness and be secure enough to give us privacy.


herhimnbryn said...

Oh lj! The coffee thing. I do it all the time. The Bear will make me a coffee( he makes perfect coffee), but usually will shout out just as he's finished making his own!
The room of one's own thing. We met and married relatively late. Both loved living alone. We moved from a 3 bedroom house to a tiny house with one bedroom and no spare rooms. This year I am getting a room of my own, a studio in the garden under the gum trees. The Bear is building it for me as a birthday gift! He knows and understands...As I've said before Solitude is lovely, so long as you can talk to someone about it afterwards!
Great post. I shouted out "Yes" and startled the dog!

beadbabe49 said...

totally agree! the long term marriages I know about (and have) are all about respecting each other's space and husband will not (after 35 years) go into my purse for anything and although I do all the bills, I do not ever open his mail...small things, but the type of respect that leads me to keep deciding that being here in relationship with him is what I want...

zhoen said...

The rot creeps in so easily. So sad.

chuck said...

Older marriages that work seem to be based on mutual respect for each other's privacy, a value placed on the independent life of your partner, a sense of play, some shared interest or interests, some shared values, and a few "dialectical antagonisms" to keep the relationship fresh (though no antagonisms that reach "feud stage"). If you don't enjoy challenges, don't get married.

Isn't marriage, with all it entails- joys and disappointments- a huge challenge?

As far as I know, no one succeeds at marriage: we simply give it a try.

Staying in marriage is not success; ending marriage is not failure.

It is all experiential "grist for the mill".

And to those who experience some life bliss inside OR outside of "the wedding bond": QUE BUENO!

LJ said...

Really great comments. Often I find the comments more interesting than the entry (we're talking my own blog here).
H- That's one of my best friend's favorite sayings...about solitude being lovely if you can talk to someone about it later. And it's true.

BB - The few happy marriages I know of all have these rules about personal privacy...about courtesy and respect, really.
My ex and I did too...and I had a studio and he had a music room, on different floors. We were married for over 20 years. In our case, I believe I needed change much more than him...or recognized the need more.

Z - Yeah. It is sad. And so subtle that you often don't notice it fully until it's too far gone to fix...
I doubt I'll ever live with anyone again. Because I find I give myself up, inch by inch - and/or the other person does. Personally, I don't trust myself not to repeat the pattern again. Yet, anyway.

C- I agree completely with, "staying in marriage is not success; ending marriage is not failure." I see my own divorce as a difficult change that both of us needed to make. And the "difficult" part came, at least partly, from the common notion that this type of change constitutes "failure." It's a notion you can well do without when both people are already going through major emotional and practical adjustments.
Thanks all.

phlegmfatale said...

omg, whether we can bear to be lonely without privacy? This statement SO pegs it! Sadly.

LJ said...

PF...I've always loved that line by Alden Nowlan. It rings so true that it aches. And another aspect of that sentiment,is the quote from the beginning of the film "Crash" where the detective says,
"It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something."

Teri said...

Thanks for your insight, as always. I often fight with myself; part of me wants to be left alone, another part needs to make sure everyone else is alright before I take something for myself - time, money, pleasure, whatever.

Great discussion generated by this one!

LJ said...

Yep, Teri. That's about the size and shape of the fight for a lot of us...
and it's hard to find the balance between caring for and about others and extending that same care and respect to ourselves - and allowing ourselves the room we'd gladly grant to our loved ones.
I enjoyed the discussion, too.