Anytime something’s not working in our lives, there’s a message from the universe: “Elevate your game.” – Marianne Williamson
I alone have the right and responsibility of creating a life for myself that is as I envision it. No one can or will do it for me. – Me
So, I am talking to a friend the other day about many and varied things as women are wont to do, and we find ourselves talking about the institution of marriage and the interesting experiment that the human race has engaged in, namely putting a man and a woman in a house together, throwing in some kids and telling them to go ahead, lead a meaningful and happy life together. And don’t forget to love each other until the day you die.
Now I say experiment, although that is a little glib, because it is something that we humans have been working on for some time (a few thousand years or so), with somewhat mixed results. Over the millennia, we have had various versions of family structures – matriarchal, patriarchal, tribal, polygamous, extended, nuclear, monogamous, open, closed, heterosexual, homosexual, single parent, living together apart (LTA)…oh there are probably more, but you get the picture.
For as many different humans there are, there are as many different ways to have relationships and build family structures. I am totally cool with that, and appreciate the diversity that is the human race. What I do not appreciate is our wonderful variety being squeezed into one or two socially sanctioned family structures.
According to Gretchen Rubin‘s 4 different personality types I am without a doubt a Questioner (questions rules and accepts them only if sensible. They may choose to follow rules, or not, according to their judgment. Self-generated rules have special validity). I cannot do anything unless I know why I am doing it. As soon as I know why, I am docile and obedient (sort of). If I don’t know why, or if I do know why but that reason seems nonsensical or outdated, I am stubborn and recalcitrant beyond belief. It hurts me to do something that I don’t believe in or don’t understand.
So, currently (er, for the last 10 years or so), I have been questioning this idea of a man and a woman getting married, living together, raising a family and living happily ever after. I remember the first time it occurred to me that it could be done differently – I was in my early 20s and a friend was describing to me the living arrangements between her and her last partner. He was an artist and lived in small studio behind the main house, where she lived. They would have sleep overs and dinner dates – and every 12 months they would re-affirm their vows, and the conditions under which their vows were made. It seemed a romantic, exotic, yet sensible way to conduct a relationship.
Nearly 10 years ago we bought a house, or rather, we bought two tiny houses on one acre – the main house where we live is marginally bigger and in better condition than the other dwelling which we call the Cottage. Over the years the Cottage has been put to many uses – for the first couple of years we had tenants in there. After the last tenants disappeared leaving us with piles of garbage and all of their possessions that did not fit into their tiny car, we decided to keep it for ourselves, and set it up as a place for guests, and as our children got bigger, a rumpus room. Later, I converted a room into my yoga space.
The size of our house means that whatever one person is doing, everyone else is doing it as well. If the television is on, the only way to avoid it is to go into your bedroom, close the door and put headphones on, or go outside. This causes problems as you can probably imagine, especially considering I don’t much like the tv and would much rather read, write, do yoga or listen to music.
There are many other and varied problems and challenges with men and women sharing a house, some of which you may even experience in your own life:
- Different approaches to and priority levels of house cleaning.
- Arguments over media: television, music, movie taste, social media etc.
- One partner snoring (in our case, me).
- Different sleep habits.
- Different decoration ideas.
- Different ideas on appropriate manners…
- Different sexual appetites.
- Different social needs.
- Men being men and women being women and all that is implied from that!
Over the last few years I have been eyeing off the cottage as a way to increase space and the quality of our relationship – but not for me, for the Bear. I can’t move over there I think to myself. The children are too little, they need me at night still; it’s not fair that I should have to go, because the children would come with me and there is not enough room for us all, and the kitchen and bathroom are very basic and need work done on them. You should go, Bear. But he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t feel the the chafing, cramping claustrophobia that I do. Or if he does, he handles it better.
Or maybe it’s just that every Dragon* needs a cave. Who knows?
So as I was saying, I am talking to my friend the other day, and I hear myself (again) talking about the crapness that is men and women living together, and whose crap idea was it anyway etc…and I suddenly thought – when are you going to do something about this? Whose life is this anyway? When are you going to stop blaming other people for your life not being the way you want it, and do something about it? When are you going to grow a backbone and free yourself?
I don’t know if it is the 40 days of yoga, a carry on from the ‘living with integrity’ vibe of last year or a combination of the two, but I have developed a zero tolerance for my own bullshit, as well as that of others. I suddenly realised with blinding clarity that I don’t have to put up with unsatisfying situations any more – and if I do choose to do so, it is just that – my choice.
Now, my Bear and I love each other (as well as being in complete mystified frustration with each other), and we have made a commitment to each other and our family. We are building a life together, and it is a good one. But. Get this – we can do that any way we choose. We** do not have to conform to archaic social customs if they don’t work for us (don’t get me started on women changing their names when they get married I beg you!).
So, I am moving to the cottage. It’s not far – I can easily throw a stone from the main house and hit the cottage roof. I will still be found at the main house – kitchen, laundry, bathroom, phone etc. I will still cook, clean and wash like I normally do. But I will have a space that is mine, where I will sleep, listen to music, do yoga, study and read in peace. There’s room for the kids to sleep over if they want, and Bear as well. And there’s no TV.
It’s going to take a while to put into place, so I will tell you how I am going with it, and maybe post some photos :).
What do you think? What is your experience of men and women living together? Have you ever wondered if there is a better way? Have you tried something different with your living arrangements?
* I was born in the year of the fire dragon, 1976.