'Stand together yet not too near together.'
- Kahlil Gibran
This month we will explore the next item on the Twelve Intimacy Questionnaire: Space Intimacy.
Allowing space apart from each other in order to have outside interests, support and hobbies.
Speaking to a women's gathering, a therapist friend of mine shocked the group by saying they were not mothers or wives.
His point was if a woman, or anyone, lets a role define who they are, they will lose their identity as a unique individual. The problem with identifying ourselves as mother or wife is that the role requires us to meet expectations that may not include nurturing self. For instance, a typical role expectation for a mother is always being available, looking out for everyone, and serving as a full time caregiver.
The problem comes when we identify ourselves as our role or job; we are letting one of our functions say who we are. The crunch comes when that role or job is taken away from us. Many men have heart attacks during their first year of retirement.
My friend went on to suggest the need to identify ourselves first as individuals who function as mothers and wives or as fathers and husbands. Hopefully, by doing this they will allow themselves to meet some of their own needs and take care of themselves.
One of the tasks of any relationship is to balance how much time we give to the relationship and self. If we spend all our time for the relationship, we lose. On the other hand, if we spend it all on us and live as a single person, the relationship loses.
If we do not have any outside interests, our partner may be feeling smothered and confined. Fusion does not make for a healthy relationship. Healthy relationships have boundaries, time together and time apart. Since no one person can meet all the needs of another, it is important to have outside interests, friends and hobbies so that each partner can grow, which in turn enriches the relationship.
To see if making space for self is a problem, answer the following questions:
1. Do you and your partner have dates when you leave the children at home? Or, do you feel guilty if you make time for you and your partner?
2. Do you find it difficult for you to voice your needs? What would have to happen for you to voice them?
3. Do you feel threatened or angry if your partner has friends and hobbies outside the marriage?
4. If you made a list of how you spend your time and energy, where do you spend most of your energy? Where would you place your partner, children, job, self?
5. If you are not happy with your answers, what are you going to do about it?
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700
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