Standing Together and Apart

Photo by anna-m. w. on

The importance of space in relationships is rather under appreciated. While communication is the glue that holds people together, it’s ally space helps keep the bond intact. Khalil Gibran in The Prophet (1923) writes about marriage saying, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.” Is this not true of every long term relationship, not merely marriage, but family and even friendships?

Even plants need space between in each in order to thrive. The pet shop demands that you buy one fish for every ten liters of water. Thus, when Gibran stresses, “Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,” it speaks at a not merely of connection at a philosophical plane, but also at a practical level. In order to grow, as a companion one must offer a degree of distance. Yet, I feel there is such little celebration or even insistence on this aspect.

I can think of several instances when couples have spoken to me about how much they love each other’s company, even doing mundane things like grocery shopping together. We have plenty of poetry and literature that applauds this theme. Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina (1878) writes: “She had no need to ask why he had come. She knew as certainly as if he had told her that he was here to be where she was”. I am not implying that togetherness is a negative. It is the aspect of constant persistent companionship that doesn’t permit room to breathe, which is problematic. There have been very few, next to none, occasions in which someone has narrated the pleasure of going away from their partner or independently pursuing an activity they singularly relish. I don’t imply this humorously, nor in sarcasm, my realization that once committed there is a social demand to appear to be joined at the hip, or constantly appear to be.

There is love in giving room, in letting the other person be. There is a certain joy in narrating experiences, which have been (deliberately) missed by the other. Building a story in order to share the high and lows of an event, choosing what to tell and what to leave out. A charm in permitting the other into an alone moment; that was pristinely yours to give. That window of opportunity is attractive, alluring, intimate, and more attractive, than thresholds crossed together.

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