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Is Separation Necessary For a Healthy Relationship?

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Is Separation Necessary For a Healthy Relationship?


Father’s day is a reminder of the good and the bad of separation in relationships.

When I was eight, my parents split up. My dad had met another woman and he moved out of our house. It destroyed me. I spent weeks at a time at my dad’s really depressing apartment when I wasn’t at our regular house with my mom. His apartment was stark and not poorly set up. He needed a wife. I felt sorry for him, but I also had a confused sort of anger stirring around inside of me.

That period in my life was as sad as I’ve ever been. It’s one thing to have a bad day, or times when things aren’t going right. It’s another to have someone completely disappear from your life. In those days, my mom would cry in front of me and wonder why things were the way they were.

They say actors can cry on command by thinking of really sad things. If I were an actor, I could cry on command any time I think of the time I carpooled with some family friends en route to meeting my mom and sisters at the beach after I stayed with my dad. I remember waving by to my dad out the back window, feeling emptier with each second because this time I had him all to myself was ending. I stared out that back window and waved and waved and did not take my eyes off my dad until he was just a speck in the distance—and he didn’t stop waving even then. This visual is what can make me cry any time I need to.

Eventually my parents got back together—something, I’m told, that is a very rare occurrence. Now, they are grandparents and their marriage is happy. Aside from having to re-assure my dad that I’m not mad at him still, I get along with them both really well.

Is it possible that this separation was necessary to ensure their happiness in the long run? The more I look at functioning relationships and marriages, the more separation I see within them.

After my parents got back together, I noticed that they each had their sections of the house that they were rulers of. My mom ruled the Living/Christmas room: that beautiful room in every house that no one ever goes into except 2-3 weeks a year. My dad ruled the basement and the garage. He still goes down into the basement to hit the tennis ball at the wall over and over. He has a karaoke rig (complete with his horrible Engelbert Humperdink background karaoke music) down there, a TV and junk as far as the eye can see. But it’s his junk and he moves it around, “classifies” it as he says, and saves/organizes it.



Any time you need a random object:

Hey, where can I find a right-handed orange rubber glove with faux fur lining for this Halloween costume?”

Usually his answer is: Try the basement”...and it is usually the right answer.

My mom won’t go into the basement because it “depresses” her, but the basement is his “me” space. It allows him to keep his individuality in the marriage.

My older sister’s husband has his domain: the shed. With two little girls to raise, I’m told that sometimes he just goes and sits in the shed. My sister never goes near the shed. It’s such a guy thing—this domain area. My uncle was telling me about his visit to see my sister’s family and he remarked:

Rich, you gotta see that shed. It’s amazing.”

My uncle definitely wants his own shed.

Of course none of the women in my uncle’s family noticed the shed.



My parent’s separation exposed the power of marriage. My dad’s apartment was nothing without my mom. Together, they make a great house. But, separation on a smaller scale is necessary to maintain their individuality, independence...and sanity. So, whether it’s a karaoke rig in the basement or a decompression shed, separation seems to be an important part of ensuring togetherness in relationships.

So, do you find that you keep a better balance when you allow for separation within your relationship? Do your parents have rooms that they donate to one another for “individual expression”? Or, for those of you that are married, do you give your spouse a room or rooms to have their “me” time and have dominion over? Or do any of you feel that low-scale separation can only have a negative effect on a relationship?

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