My husband, David, does irritating things. Most of them are your typical, run-of-the-mill guy things, such as leaving his dirty dishes near the dishwasher, but never in the dishwasher, and throwing his stinky socks near the hamper, but never in the hamper. I’m sensing a pattern here, are you? (One thing he never does though is leave the toilet seat up. And for that, I am a lucky girl.)
Recently, after so many dirty dishes and one too many strewn about socks, I began sighing audibly and dipping into a “desperately seeking solitude” funk. As luck would have it, my husband was on his way out of town for a week.
I enjoy being alone. Solitude inspires me. It comforts me. It seduces me like a lover into a deeper relationship with myself. And being a hard core introvert, solitude is my spiritual charger. Another benefit of solitude? Only my very own dirty dishes to worry about.
With David away, I stacked up my reading material on the night table as a yummy, warm feeling brewed in my stomach. Oh, the fun I would have leafing through In Style and devouring every well-written article in Vanity Fair. I queued up my DVR, and salivated over the ten “Super Soul Sunday” episodes I had missed because David wanted to watch the Military History channel instead.
There would be no shoot ’em up war shows this week. Nope. My week would be filled with soul food and style tips.
All this joy on the first day of solitude got me thinking about committed couples who covet their solitude so much that they choose to live separately from one another. There was Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, who lived on opposite sides of Central Park. I’ve also heard that Tim Burton and Helene Bonham Carter live in separate, but neighboring, homes in England.
And then there’s my friend John.
John has been dating the same woman for years. She’s gorgeous, smart, sweet, and funny. All the qualities I would assume a man wants in a woman. Yet, these two have never co-habitated. Years, and I mean years, have gone by. Kids have grown. Hair lines have receded. But apparently hell has not frozen over, because John and his long time love have not combined households.
One night, after a few drinks and a little prodding, John explained that he and his significant other enjoy their arrangement. In fact, he insists, their relationship has flourished because they have maintained this separation of love and household.
He’s so convinced of the benefits of his arrangement that he sent me a recent article from the New York Times entitled, “Living Apart Together.” The article describes the living arrangements of several New York couples, either married or committed for a long time, who live separately. In his accompanying email, John wrote only this, “See, I’m not the only whack job out there.”
Apparently he’s not. Why hadn’t I thought of this?
When you live separately, you don’t get caught up in the silly, little squabbles of who last took out the trash or walked the dog. There’s no picking up someone else’s stinky socks or arguing over the remote. If you want to, you go away together, have hot vacation sex, and cuddle in the same bed. And when you’ve had enough, you return to your other lover (whose name is solitude) and do only your own laundry.
Sounds kind of nice, right?
By day four and a half of my week of solitude, I missed David terribly. I had read every one of my magazines. I plowed through only three episodes of Super Soul Sunday. (Apparently, there’s only so much soul food a person can digest.) And after a lonely bubble bath on night five, I climbed into bed, turned on the Military History channel, and watched my new favorite show, “Secrets of World War II.”
The day after David arrived home, I woke up at 6:30 in the morning to an empty bed. I wandered around the house looking for him and spotted him in the backyard giving our puppy a bath. From the smell that filled the house, it was apparent that the little fur ball had had a poop explosion in her crate and all over herself.
As I watched him sweetly talking to her while wearing only his boxer shorts and scrubbing her poop smeared fur, I knew exactly why I lived under the same roof with this man.
When the shit hit the fan (and it almost did) he didn’t complain about it. He acted compassionately. He responded from a place of peace and grace and love. And, he let me sleep through the entire thing. He showed me how to do more and complain less. What’s picking up a few smelly socks compared to cleaning up a puppy poop explosion?
Living under one roof may not be for everyone. But neither is a life of solitude. What I’ve learned from living under one roof with David is that in the midst of war (and dirty dishes) there is a beautiful, warm spot where you soften to each other’s needs and come out the other side a better person.
I’ve also learned that when you stop complaining about stinky socks and dirty dishes, you get more of these…
…and for that, I am a lucky girl.