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


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?

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