My likes and desires regarding a mate in some ways can present a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, I live a very full and dynamic life (combining career, service, family, and social activities). On the other hand, I thrive on consistent and authentic companionship or togetherness. I am attracted to men who live similarly dynamic lives. Unfortunately, two people who have very “full” lives do not necessarily have exceptional amounts of time to spend with each other. Clearly, some strategy and negotiation need to take place between two people who have dynamic lifestyles, in order for a relationship between the two, to peacefully (and more importantly, lovingly) co-exist. That requires some honest and realistic consideration. In my case, because I am attracted to dynamic individuals, I have to understand that they, more often than not, will have activities that will not include me, thus impeding on our time together. The same holds true for my activities potentially infringing on a relationship. Therefore, we have to work together to ensure that we are spending a mutually acceptable amount of time together that is healthy for the relationship. However, we both also need to be willing to make reasonable sacrifices with respect to our “outside” activities in order to honor the priority of our union. Hence, if I am involved with someone who has a life that requires him to be heavily engaged in activities that don’t involve me, I need to be a priority for his “free” time, and of course I owe him the same courtesy.
I often think about the fact that if I am supposedly in a “relationship” with someone, but we spend minimal time together, what is the benefit of being in that relationship? Additionally, if he does not engage in activities with me that I deem really fun (or he is unwilling to make a “sacrifice” on occasion to do so), again I ask, what is the benefit of the relationship? In my view, in those instances, the relationship arguably lacks “togetherness,” which for me, is an essential aspect of a union.
Therein lies the rub. When two people are leading “separate” lives and essentially are just “sharing living quarters,” this for me is not togetherness because they are not sharing their “time” with each other. In actuality, in this example their individual “free” time is spent doing the things apart that do not necessarily incorporate their mate. Examples include hanging out with the fellas (or girls), or even being home, but being anti-social, not interacting with their mate.
When I think about my experiences as well as the ways in which I have lived vicariously through others, I recognized that the concept of “togetherness” in a relationship has been a source of contention. “Togetherness” on the one hand seems intuitive and straight-forward. However, when its existence (or lack thereof) is dissected in a relationship, it is not uncommon to find that rather than being straightforward, it has a multitude of meanings, and invariably is different for everyone or at least changes over the course of people’s relationships.
I submit that when we think about the “glue” of relationships, the question of how a couple spends time with one another becomes a sticking point. “Togetherness” has multiple dimensions that are exhibited through a variety of questions including; How much time does a couple spend together? What are they doing when they spend that time together? What is an acceptable formula for the amount of time one spends outside of the couple or the amount of time one spends alone, when they are in a relationship? How does the enjoyment felt when time is spent with people outside of the marriage, compare to the enjoyment felt with time spent with one’s mate? Does the relationship appear obvious to everyone around? (Are the nonverbals of a relationship [touching, hugging, kissing, admiring glances] readily apparent?) What is a reasonable level of negotiation on these issues? Of course every couple has the right to define these issues in a way that is mutually agreeable to them. Although their formula might not work for all other couples, it must work for the two people who have a relationship.
It occurred to me that this issue was a consideration for me when I was in my early twenties. I recall attending a party with some girlfriends when we noticed the arrival of a “couple.” At our age, seeing couples at a “party” was a bit of an anomaly. The thing that struck my girlfriends and me about this couple, and thus, the basis for my remembering the scenario, was the fact that the “guy” was deliberate in introducing his date to a number of friends at the party. It was noticeably apparent that the guy was the one in the couple who was familiar with the attendees at the party. However, it was also obvious that he was on a “date” and he was proud to be with her. The striking and memorable part was the fact that shortly after their arrival, he took the time to escort her around the room and introduce her to his friends. Again, at twenty-something, this behavior was not typical of my male contemporaries. At that age, people in general attended parties stag. And, if they did bring dates, you could not tell by the body language of the couple.
Although this could be interpreted as benign or a non-issue, I believe the symbolism is quite poignant. Many couples seem to exist as independent people who share a space, as opposed to united people who have come together to share a life. These separate lives are exhibited through the fact that they either do not spend a lot of time together, or when they do spend time together, their interaction is limited, of low quality, or does not read, “couple.”