On Space

Photo: Etsy

Many thanks to a splurge of romantic comedies, to other means of perpetuating the notion that somewhere on this planet rests another soul with the elixir to loneliness on their lips. Not only have we been outwitted to think of our lone space as a disease, we have also been promised a false cure in companionship.
On the surface, it is easy to take these words as cynical or typical of the 21st-century hyper-rationalist; to see it as a mindset that kills every hope of discovering romance; like we read in lines of a story, or watch in scenes of films.
Far from it though, there is no doubt that the need to be understood against all odds is a very honest and human need. As with the frame of society, the only person expected to fit this space is a spouse; a partner of some sort. So we strive to be in the best state hoping one day, we would encounter ' The One', and with them, our days of loneliness would be passed.

The reality of the situation, as always, is hardly black and white. 
While we want to create intimate connections with our partners, there is always a part of us that requires to be alone, and this is where the frequency theory comes in. If you may, think of the mind as a radio with an array of frequencies it can be tuned into. When we are alone in a state of rest, we have a base frequency we have grown used to because people come and go in our lives, but we are always with ourself. 
On awareness of any kind of observation, we react by shifting our frequency to welcome the interference of our observer. Sometimes we have to make drastic changes, like when the overbearing friend visits and won’t just stop coaxing you into all sorts of interaction. Sometimes we have to power down to chill with that friend that is more draining than recharging. 
Regardless of how we adapt, there is a shift from the norm that is our resting phase. It is important to note that the degree of change doesn’t necessarily denote our discomfort with the interference. 
There are times when big changes are needed. However, all change requires a sort of mental energy, and over time, our reserves deplete; eventually, we find ourselves more or less irritated by a person’s presence. 
A feeling of relieve after a friend heads back home isn't an indication that you're bad, or not appreciative of friendship. It is just simply a crave to slip back to your own space.

Illustration: Ahra Kwon

Over time in the dating front, we try to merge with our partners so time with them requires less energy and we don’t get irritated too easily.  Unfortunately, when we start to slip into this frequency that is close to our lone space, the other person may interpret it to mean that we aren’t all that into them anymore because the honeymoon period is over. When we are the ones being relegated to the lone space, we tend to fight back by complaining that our partner or things are changing. We try to force them to pay us attention on the frequencies we are used to. This tends to make matters worse because it communicates to the other person that we aren’t compatible with them in the long run. They assume being with us is just too demanding. 
Mastering how to be together and alone at the same time is perhaps the most important skill we need in any long term relationship; if we don’t want to end up suffocating each other.

Naturally, it is understandable why we kick against the idea of letting our partners have their space. To start with, there is a culture of insecurity that keeps growing with the network era like our parents weren’t doing just fine without WhatsApp. Also, there is the fear of boredom and normalcy. 
Bertrand Russell did say that " A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men...of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase." 

After the promise of a life full of adventure, we might consider being regulated to someone’s lone state the death of any escape-dream we had. 
A lot of people end up moving from one partner to another, leaving as soon as the fire is burning out and believing that somewhere, there is a fire that burns eternal. 

Life is an incredibly boring game of waiting for a few moments worth highlighting. In our relationships, instead of expecting a constant stream of adventure, we are better off learning to adjust to stable states that allow both parties co-exist without upsetting our mental balance. This might even mean giving our partners complete space regularly, like letting them go on a guilt free uninterrupted guy’s night out or girls’ night. Sometimes it isn’t even that we need lone space, we are just strained from one frequency and need to change for variety. We can’t stay in our base frequency for too long either. 

A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men...of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase

Understanding the need for space in our relationships allows us navigate the maze of companionship with a smaller chance of smothering our partners. It also assures us that some behaviours that might come across as rejection— when he would rather watch the football game than hang out with you— are just actions geared towards balancing the need to be disconnected sometimes. We should understand too that it isn’t necessarily a situation to raise an alarm for. 

This isn’t to say we should all settle for an eternally boring life so people aren’t suffocated, rather, the advice is to be aware that there is time for adventure and there is time for boredom. And if life was a cookie chip, then adventure would be the raisins: sparsely distributed. The true art of being together lies in what we can make out of even the dullest moment. The precise reason old couples are worthy of our admiration isn’t because they stuck it out through years of bliss and adventure. It is the opposite; they stuck it out through boredom with a dash of excitement.