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Are you Distancing?

Fed up in Florence – oil on board. 18 x 24 cms / 7x10 ins

This couple were surrounded by the beauty of Florence but looked so thoroughly fed up. Perhaps the togetherness of a holiday was getting to them?

Today is my wedding anniversary (ours actually – there are two of us in this marriage). Forty four years – who’d have thought – all that time together.

When first married, each running our own business, my mother-in-law, with whom I had shall we say, a slightly “iffy” relationship, commented in a disparaging tone:

“No wonder you two get on so well, you never see each other”.

I was a bit offended at the time but on reflection she’d hit the nail on the head.

Should anyone ask me the secret to a long marriage (nobody actually has, but I thought I’d tell you anyway) it’s distance. Not all the time obviously, that wouldn’t work at all well on the procreation side, but there’s a lot to be said for having your own space, in your head as well as your home. That new phrase, Social Distancing is 2 metres. Marital Distancing is much greater. So if this forced togetherness is getting to you I have a few pointers.

Just to say this advice is for women married to men since it’s based on my own experience.

There is nothing more annoying than a partner sitting on the sofa binging on TV box sets or football whilst you are cooking, cleaning, trying to occupy the kids or attempting to finish that novel. I firmly believe that physical tasks exercise the brain and occupy the mind leaving no time for moaning.

So, make a list of things he can do (particularly important during lockdown), need doing but in that other life pre isolation, there was never time. A lot of encouragement may be required here but it’s worth it. When the first task is done, praise like mad – even if it’s not quite right (forget perfection, your sanity is at stake here) or you will have a row and he won’t do anything else. Remember those stars for “effort” at school? Motivation is key at this point.

Tasks like organizing (don’t, whatever you do, use the word tidy - systemizing, restructuring or reconfiguring are more appealing to men). The garage/ loft / attic / basement are particularly good for marital distancing. You can pursue your hobby at the other end of the house. Remember there’s no time limit here. If they get stuck into old photos, unearth the ancient hockey stick and reminisce on sporting times or even fall asleep, it doesn’t matter. You have time and that precious marital distance between you.

The garden shed is a really good occupation. There’s nothing like the phrase “man-cave” to start a creative spark. I don't have to tell you that garden sheds are usually at the bottom of the garden. If your other half is a keen gardener you have no problem anyway, so can ignore all the above, except in extremely bad weather.

I’m very worried about couples sharing an apartment right now. I think you will have to resort to locking him in the bedroom or a cupboard for a while. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder – he’ll be very grateful when you let him out. Ever heard that song “The Best Part of Breakin' Up, is when you’re Making Up" and may I remind you that I have been married for forty four years.

(which is why I remember that song - a hit for the Ronettes in 1964)

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