At the risk of stating the obvious a bit too acutely, the other day it dawned on me that we don’t all see relationships in the same manner.
It was a visual realization. I was staring at a ven diagram and realized that for some, romantic relationships are like a ven diagram. There is me, and there is you, and there is this overlap, the relationship. My personal space and your personal space is this potentially vast arena we begin to carve into when we begin to overlap, like an eclipse, into that intersection, and if I say I want more personal space, I am, by default, giving you more as well. By definition, we have a discreet intersection, and the rest is personal, not interpersonal.
On some level, it might be true to say that everyone sees a relationship this way, if they have the vaguest sense of self, with the size of the intersection, and the nuances of the overlap being the area of dissent…how big should that overlap be? What goes in us vs me? Does our overlap include the house, the home, kids, sex, finances? When we grow, change, what bucket does that go in?
Perhaps that is the end of the argument.
But I think it is possible that many look at relationships, true, long term and encompassing relationships they inhabit, like a planet, like a bubble. They expect to get a bit absorbed, and that is the very definition of "all in". And when you share space, when there is only one room, taking space requires the other person to inhabit less, and make room for your needs, while they sublimate their own, or find a way to want that thing too. In order to consider any other way they begin to move outside the relationship, creating a valve, or perhaps a fire exit.
This is a very difficult but important distinction. Are we sharing a room or the whole house? Is the room we share a bit of you and me in that house, or an uncomfortable middle ground that resembles each of us, just a bit. Is it that dining room that never gets used, or the bedroom with all our personal stuff? Are we all in, mixing and matching like a kaleidoscope of colors, or are we playing tetris, shoving a piece in, re arranging the pieces so the whole thing fits, lest we drop a whole row and lose our colors.
So many mixed metaphors.
One meaningful reality: what a shared life is, what it encompasses, is the most important conversation you will ever have with your partner. It is the essence of your contract, the understanding of your intersection. It defines the essence of compromise, and even clarifies how transparent we need be when occupying space.
And either way, how you occupy that shared space has the potential to be a continuous battle without clear boundaries, as we shrink and contort to make room for our dreams. and our demons.