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