National Commentary

Johnny’s World: Separate Togetherness

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I am just over one year into married life and it seems I learn something new every single day. You learn about compromise. You learn about taking another person’s beliefs, fears, and feelings into account and how they affect you personally. And of course you learn how to make space for another human in your day-to-day happenings.

Married life is bliss for some and hell for others, but something so special about marriage and relationships is the ability to ultimately learn about one’s self.

Making room for someone else was never my strong suit. Unfortunately, I have not been a great friend to many of my friends who remain on my “in case of emergency” list, nor have I ever been, until now, a good half in a romantic relationship. To be an Olympic-level athlete, one must be very goal-oriented, mildly selfish, and also a snob at times. It’s easy to imagine that one doesn’t make a lot of good friends with the qualities I’ve just described. I lived a life devoid of loving relationships with family or friends despite being loved by many around the world, just for doing something I love. It’s a very odd circumstance to find yourself in, when the world is all rainbows and sparrows and you are almost entirely alone. I can honestly say that to achieve what I wanted in my career, I forced myself to be angry, hungry, lonely, and terribly motivated.

When things got serious with my husband, I pushed very hard to make it official quickly. He agreed of course, full-heartedly, but we were coming from two very different places. My husband was recently out of the closet and wanted assurance that I would always be there for him, while I wanted to make sure that the person I’d made myself in private, the cat-like, I-don’t-need-anyone-but-myself ice queen never had a chance to rear her ugly head. In the end of course, the paramount reason we were married was because we loved, and love, one another deeply and are invested in making our marriage a success story no matter the cost. In a time of easy divorces and overnight, FedEx annulments, is it too much to try to have a strong marriage between equals that lasts “for better or for worse?”

A year in and I’ve started to examine the idea of separate togetherness. Can we both be in New York at the same time, with different sets of friends and meet up and go home together after? Is that healthy even?

Being a loner somewhat to the core, and understanding that I have very different interests, upbringing, feelings about people, pastimes, social systems, and friends than my husband, I have been the one pushing for separate togetherness in the past months. Am I crazy for offering him to see his frat buddies on the same night I’ll hang out with one of my three full-time friends simply because if I have one night off per week I want to see my friends, not his? Every time I’d upset him with my concept, I had to examine it and try to understand it from his side, as that’s what you do when you marry someone.

What I found out was quite a shock to me, the loner. While I don’t need to change myself, I should see that my husband’s strengths are my weaknesses. He has a thousand friends because he is a good, kind person, and I can learn from him. I married my husband because I love him and want to be with him all the time, no matter how often my inner diva tells me I should go solo. Separate togetherness, it turns out, can seem glamorous and modern, but at the end of the day there’s no one I’d rather come home to or spend time with than a person who challenges me, teaches me, and forces me against my will to grow. Why would I want to separate myself from that?

For what it’s worth, don’t fix something that isn’t broke, unless it’s you.

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