Johnny’s World: Separate Togetherness

February 8, 2013 12:08 PM7 comments


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.




  • I agree with Jenn. Absolutely beautiful, and very wise.

  • Dear Johnny! As I said over on Twitter, this is your best column so far. One of the reasons , yet not the only one, is that I’ve got the feeling that you finished your process of thoughts, and you still have left room for readers ,and you, to start or continue their own processes of thoughts. Victor has been right when he tweeted about the column being your best one #luckiest. Congrats. I wish for you to continue like that.

    By the way, one of my favourite quotes is (paraphrasing it since I don’t have the original one at hand):

    Love does not consist in gazing at eachother but looking out in the same direction.

    I’ll be back correcting when I’ll have found the original quote.

  • Been waiting to read this ever since Victor’s tweet. I see now why he was so moved by it. My heart is aching a little bit for you being much the lone myself and found it difficult in the first couple years of my marriage that I actually had in INCLUDE my husband in my hyjinx.. something I wasn’t used to doing. Now married almost 15 years, we’re still learning and changing. You have a long road ahead of you and I know you two have what it takes to stay together. I’m so sorry you felt and feel so alone in the world with so many that love you, it must be overwhelming and make you want to crawl in a hole sometimes. Just always know, that your TRUE friends and fans will support you and love you, and of course, Victor and your families will always be your fortress.
    Continue to love and inspire.

  • A really honest, moving, and soul-searching column. As a veteran of 38 years of marriage, I agree with Johnny that love and marriage do not mean being joined at the hip. It is mentally healthy for each spouse to maintain different sets of friends and to hang out with them separately at times. On the other hand, I can also see how a new spouse would certainly like to be introduced to the partner’s myriad friends and get to know the other’s world, too, and ask to hang out with his partner’s friends from time to time. Yet, I can definitely see how Johnny’s eyes might glaze over when Victor gossips with frat brothers about old times, or discusses legal cases, and would rather click his Louboutins together and catch up with the fashion world (which may hold the seeds of his future). Marriage demands very hard work, fortitude, and continuous dialog and compromise. Happily, a good marriage is the closest thing to living two lives at the same time and can greatly enrich one’s life with far-flung experiences.

  • When my husband and I were first married, I never wanted to be away from his side but I soon realized that separation was not a bad thing. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

  • You are such a good writer, Johnny! And I know exactly what you are talking about here.

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