Ritual Separation – Love and Loneliness

I’m not sure it’s possible to have a true appreciate for solitude until a person’s been married, or at the very least lived with a lover. Not until faced with innuendos or accusations of “you’re ignoring me!” and “what are you hiding?!” does the advantage of isolation reveal its full measure.

Growing up in rural Tennessee I lived a country mile from my nearest friend. Unlike my son who walks to his buddies in under 50 paces, the logistics required for a play date included a reliable bicycle and regular checks of the weather. Fate often saw to it my sister was the only source of entertainment, if I was inclined to play dress-up and Barbie’s; as such a great deal of my time was spent fighting ninjas and the Russians, alone.

College parties, fraternities, and girlfriends each helped to ensure I never let any tendency of becoming hermit to take hold. Solitude is inconceivable when you live at ground zero of fraternal brotherhood. Day or night someone could always be found squashing potential moments of peace courtesy of drinking games and keg stands.

•♦•

I wasn’t prepared for all the demands marriage would bring. Proper toilet seat position, wiping feet, and choosing curtains instead of bed sheets were easy to embrace. The struggle came when the wedding band included matching ankle bracelet. While I had lived with the occasional roommate, whenever the need arose  to get away I made straightway for my bedroom and hung a ‘do not disturb’ sign or jumped in my car and left. I quickly learned neither option made for suitable marriage strategies.

Between the lines of ‘to love, honor, and cherish’ was the implication that my time and whereabouts were no longer my own. Marriage makes little room for ‘me time’ and running off in a car for the afternoon or secluding oneself behind locked doors aren’t husbandly maneuvers. Anyway isn’t it a sign of marriage difficulty if someone purposefully needs to get away from their spouse? Shouldn’t a couple in love spend all their time together? That’s what I thought, besides I wasn’t mature enough to handle her need for escape from me without thinking I had done something wrong, or that she was about to. It would have been an insult to be told, “I need the afternoon to myself”.  A quick calculation would have meant something didn’t add up.

So what began as the solitary hero battling imaginary dragons and saving beautiful maidens became a life of uninterrupted attachment.

•♦•

My divorce changed all of that. Suddenly I had abundant amounts of alone time. In between my visitation, as I was rebuilding my life, I had more seclusion than I needed, or wanted. And instead of soaking up this new found ‘me time’ I tried to fill the gaps and often in unhealthy ways. In lieu of embracing the isolation and using it as a chance to examine and reconcile what had happened to my life, I flatly reflected the space for what it came to represent – a failed marriage. The silence was the constant reminder of what has been lost and taken away, and I was willing to do whatever to keep from being reminded. I would endure many seasons including an Emotional Winter before I could finally accept the loneliness without feeling lonely.

I recognized early in my relationship with the Queen’s of her need for alone time. I could tell subtle differences in her manner and attitude when she had been given time for herself. She was more refreshed and focused instead of feeling frazzled and stretched. No longer did I feel threatened by her need to just be away. Where before I would have assumed that I wasn’t living up to some standard and was therefore inadequate, now I was able to appreciation her needs because I need the same nourishment.

She and I perform what I call Ritual Separation. It’s time where we intentionally disconnect from each other to recharge. Usually we don’t need to say anything making it official we just feel it when the pull of being a mother/father/lover/friend/employee/boss takes its toll and we are craving attention from ourselves. It might be an afternoon or an entire day where we will be without each other or kids.  This may be run-of-the-mill for the average couple, but since she and aren’t married and don’t live together most often this separation occurs during what would normally be designation as ‘our time’. In some ways it is a loss, but when we aren’t with each other we are with kids, so that only leaves us making the sacrifice. But we believe that without time for ourselves now we’ll likely get more than we want later.

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7 responses to Ritual Separation – Love and Loneliness

  1. Funny how that works… it’s almost like reverse psychology! Without taking time to “sharpen the saw” and recharge our batteries, everything else we do isn’t quite the same. I really look forward to time by myself, without the demands of work, kids, relationship, etc. – I didn’t always understand the importance, though. Being divorced reacquainted me with more alone time than I’d had in 15 years. I found that although I was spending less time with others, the time I did have with them was more involved. I took less for granted, and made a point to be more present in the moment. I am guilty of spreading myself too thin, and try to be aware of when I need some time to disconnect. Great post!

  2. Kyle Bradford – Author

    DT, I do believe that divorce has that habit on most men. It’s how we use it that is what’s important.

  3. T

    YES!

    And this is why I’ve grown quite comfortable in a long distance relationship. 🙂

  4. Kyle Bradford – Author

    T, how concerned are you that things will change if/when you marry/move in/ live closer to GJ?

  5. “Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other”
    — Rilke

  6. KQ

    Excellent post! In the short time I’ve been dating a single dad, we’ve already encountered this issue. And it was simple. The texts flew back and forth.. “wow, I’m tired” …”how did we get so old?”… “I’m afraid tonight I’ll fall asleep at the table”… “at the table? I’m trying to stay awake at my desk!” It was pretty easy for a mother of three who only has 48 kid-free hours a month and a halftime father to put the kabosh on dinner and instead spend the evening on the sofa, childless and alone, twenty miles apart.

    We’ve also talked candidly about the need for “man time” over beer and pizza and “woman time” with the hens. This was, I think, each of us firing a warning shot early on that every child-free hour did not belong to the other.

    I wonder, now, if this is a need we learn to recognize as part of the “after.” Like DT, I’ve learned a lot about being in the moment, post-divorce. And a lot about my limitations, my own need for solitude as well as friendship, and the therapeutic value of the twinkling sound a glass bottle makes on the brick patio after the ex calls with excuses about everything under the sun. 😉 We can’t ignore ourselves, because we have to be charged up to be great parents and take care of the millions of details in our daily lives!

  7. Kyle Bradford – Author

    ” This was, I think, each of us firing a warning shot early on that every child-free hour did not belong to the other.”

    I think many divorced singles feel this way. We’ve likely been in an inattentive relationship for so long we just want that one on one that we’ve been missing. I think that we can actually do more harm than good if we feel the need to spend every waking ‘kid fee’ moment with that person.

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