There was a time in families in earlier days, when space was something unheard of. Space in vacant plots, space in pollution free, less populated roads and places maybe, but certainly not in relationships. Today, it is the in-thing. In fact, many a relationship is decided on the basis of the space available between two people.

“See, I love my job. I have been working for a very long time, so don’t expect me to take time out for your friends’ children’s birthday parties and stuff. I need my space Man!”

“ It’s nice that you help me out at home at times. But when I go shopping or visiting old friends, I’d rather do it with my own group of friends. After all, I have been doing this for ages. Marriage cannot change it all suddenly. I need my space to chill out just like you!”

And it goes on. People – spouses and friends want to have the cake and eat it too it seems. It’s like, “let’s get together okay, but let’s leave some gap between us for us to feel comfortable. Let’s live a life together but not necessarily share everything. After all, we might have our own a(venues) to relax and feel better in life!

When we see it from the angle of the bygone era when people lived in joint families, sharing everything, joy, sorrow, money, friendship, food, etc….. when space in relationships was sometimes craved for  but not got then, this space seems necessary. Because many a relationship has been destroyed for want of space. We find in-laws eating up the space of young brides and their husbands. Too many children are drowning the space of mothers and fathers. Bosses were/are dominating the space time of employees, etc. Lovely relationships which could have materialized into lovely journeys and experiences were/are cut down mid way for want of simple space.

Today however, we live in an age of extremes. Either there is no space at all or there is just too much space. There are parents who believe that space (read freedom) given to young couples is indulging them too much and building a road to reckless habits. Some more prejudice-free parents believe that it is when a couple is young that they can enjoy life, later, the responsibilities of job, family, etc will bend them down too much to even give them moments to think about living life to the full. True isn’t it?

But, I somehow seem to wonder how a family can live in either extreme. I would feel claustrophobic in both kinds of relationships. I would feel like a prisoner if I had just no time at all to do what I wanted (little joys). In the same manner, I would feel as if I was a cast-away on a lonely island without a soul in sight if I was given too much space. I believe in communication. I believe in space too but not so much that I get alienated. Just roti, kapda and makaan will not suffice. Just the freedom to spend as one wanted is not sufficient. I’d rather have little money and stay communicated casting aside that space funda over the fence!  So many couples have it all, money, status, friends, parties so much so that they have no time to even sit down and reflect at leisure.  But, there comes a stage in life when none of the above seems to appease the soul. Something seems empty within. One even starts getting scared of being with oneself alone! And that’s where too much space seems just too much. I know of an acquaintance who kept jumping from one relationship to another maybe to prove to himself that he was great and attractive but there were moments when things would go wrong and I could sense that he felt that he was only trying to get away from himself all the time. Every time, a friend trespassed into his space he would get be on red alert and then slowly let go and move on.  I remember asking him once and he said, “I am a modern man. I believe one should give space to another.”

Finally, he was left with no one, all alone.  That too much space had brought about a wide space within himself.

I know there are moments we rather be left alone than sharing it with our friends or spouses. I know there are moments we love to be in solitude like the solitary reaper. There are moments when we need to connect with ourselves. During those times, space seems necessary.  But then, who would like to be left that way most of the time?  At least, nor ordinary souls like us! Wouldn’t sharing make our tiny worlds happier, more meaningful?

What do you think?

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33 responses »

  1. gc1963 says:

    Yes Shail I agree with you . We have to look for Aristotle’s Golden Mean i.e. the mid path or a balanced approach towards everything including relationship.

  2. nadi says:

    so true, Shail.
    enjoyed reading the article and the comments too.

  3. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    Dear Shail,

    A wonderful article which ponders on a subject which is very much contemporary. I remember my friend’s father would return home early when her mother was fasting on certain auspicious days of the year so that he could help her out and give her company.

    I also know many people who after their marriage had to leave their jobs or hobbies as they failed to devote time outside their marriage.

    But the incident which made me introspect most is a recent one that one of my young colleagues narrated to me about another one of her age group. The latter having taken a job away from her family said she would rather stay in a PG accommodation than the ancestral property where an entire floor was at her disposal just because her taaya and taaiji (who stayed on the ground floor) might object to her coming home late from night outs or parties.

    Love in relationship has given way to space in relationship. The concept of distance marriage or distant marriage is I think also an off shoot of this concept?

    Being born and for a few years brought up in a joint family the concept of space is something alien to me. But at the same time, bogged down by domestic as well as office responsibilities, sometimes I do feel the absence of me-time which is also very necessary at times to keep one’s sanity in such stressful times.

    • Dear Geeta,

      I cannot but agree with this statement of yours,
      “Love in relationship has given way to space in relationship. The concept of distance marriage or distant marriage is I think also an off shoot of this concept?”

      Sadly, that is the case today, although space cannot be driven away because it is something we all need every now and then. The solution lies in balancing it all without alienation oneself….

      What do you say?

  4. Dear Om,

    Your comment gives a lot to ponder too.

    Thanks for your detailed listing of the problems that ail our society and yes, space is indeed a foreign phenomenon. It’s not that we cannot make use of anything foreign. If it helps we must definitely make use of a habit/trait/quality that improves relationships.

    But, space for the name of space is a hollow concept. Every couple/family must realize it on their own and respect each other’s independence. That independence need not necessarily mean unlimited space…..

  5. Shail,
    The essence of any relationship, is sharing – which is not happening in many modern relationships because of the EGO of “I” – people feel that their feelings are more important than the other’s feeling! – But this is as far as relationships in couples go –
    what happens in families? These days, if any family can boast of eating their dinner TOGETHER – like, grandparents/parents/ and grandchildren, then, THAT family is really really blessed. These days, the father eats separately, the mother separately, and the children, separately – this is just one indicator of the TREND of family relationships.

    In India, the disintegration of the joint family system has spelt the doom for relationships, and has also brought in degradation of social values. Even a thief, or an anti social, will not be so, if he/she receives love from his/her family, which is not happening. These days, it is very common to read abt EDUCATED youth who go astray into crime. That is the saddest outcome of this disintegration of the joint family system.

    Giving space is a western concept and many in India think it is very fashionable. Unfortunately, space or no space, unless one LEARNS what is a relationship, giving or not giving space is of no use.

    An article to ponder.

  6. Smita Luthra says:

    Everyone feels a need for space. Most often one seeks space so one can fill it with one’s choice of tasks (both solitary and collaborative) and people/relationships and not let the world and its rules dictate how every square inch of one’s life must be filled. In that sense the space is absolutely necessary.
    However, often when people recurringly draw non-negotiable lines around the “space” they need and not allow for the spontaneity of life to flow in, they find themselves tied to these spaces which over time start to feel like voids. Thats when loneliness sets in.
    I think it is important to have spaces in relationships but it is also important to be fully present and available for life so it can sometimes fill these spaces with sweet surprises. 🙂
    A very thought provoking writeup, Shail. You have talked about the two extremes in a very pertinent and sensitive way. It wasn’t mere food, it was a feast for thought. 🙂

    • Dear Smita,

      Thanks for the beautiful comments. Yes, space is something which is often resorted to in today’s world to either get away from reality or take relationships for granted. Both don’t help.

      But, yes, a certain amount of space helps in any relationship and it should come instinctively, not exactly planned out. This will kind of retain the spontaneity in life as you mentioned.

      Don’t you think so?

  7. Ashwathy says:

    So true 🙂
    In fact I wonder how you find the right topics to blog upon.

    But then again, in this one, the point being….how much is too much? 🙂

    • Hi Ashwathy,

      Nice to see you out here.

      Thanks for the lovely comments. Encouraging enough to keep writing like this…..

      I suppose, the space has to be drawn by us, something like a lakshman rekha…

  8. knot2share says:

    I think those days the only concept that was available was WE/US. Nobody knew anything otherwise and it was one big happy family. It is different now and we need to respect each person’s likes and dislikes. I surely think space is important. We could possibly be doing things out of concern but if we don’t watch it, we will end up driving the person away from us. After a certain age, it is best to look at the person as an individual with his/her own interests and opinions and to be open to their opinions and be able to talk about it sensibly and give the person the opportunity and space to reflect on it and come up with their own decision.

    • Dear Shree,

      Hi! Good to see you. Yes, caring too much could become not giving space at some time. But so also would giving too much space become disconnecting and non caring.

      Everybody is born free but that does not mean either stamping on someone else’s toes or pushing him/her aside for the desire of too much personal space.

      Moderation, balancing as some other friends have said is the secret.

  9. Sonal Shree says:

    Nice blog, Shail. Unnecessary intrusion upon others’ affairs is totally uncalled for.
    In our country, we find it in plenty- courtesy, relatives, neighbours and sometimes even strangers who are always bothered and forever ready with free advice.
    Sometimes such advices and concerns are valuable but not always. In west, nobody is bothered. Funny. Two extremes.
    As with everything, the key lies in moderation.

    • Dear Sonal,

      Thanks. Yes, people can really peep into your lives as if they deserved the right to do so.
      But I worry about either extreme. So, as much as I wonder about unnecessary intrusion, I also wonder about too much space.

      Yes, the key indeed lies in moderation.

  10. Indrani Talukdar says:

    One needs maturity to magnify and diminsh ‘space’. Many men puriuse sapce instead of meaningful relationships, like your acquaintance, and they end up with nothing or no-go relationships, just because they missed the bus too many times.

    • Dear Indra,

      True. that kind of maturity is definitely needed. But, who has the time for all that today? Everybody is in a tearing hurry to get somewhere all the time. And when it comes to connecting, “give me some space man” is all they ask for.

      I like the ‘magnify’ and ‘diminish’ part of your comment ….

  11. Dear Beyni,

    Thanks. Yes, that balancing act is difficult. And you never know when you cross the line.

  12. beyniaz says:

    Good topic, Shail. How much is too much space or too little? Difficult to get it right!

  13. Shernaz says:

    Shail, there is an adage – “Let there be spaces in your togetherness.” I have always understood it to mean that no relationship should be so crowded, particularly with possessiveness, that it is strangulated. There should be just enough room so as not to trample upon one another’s toes. Problems arise when anything is taken to the extreme and in the literal sense, without first giving it the consideration it deserves.

    • Dear Shernaz.

      I agree completely. But I find a lot of the young and not so young generation either wanting to get together too soon or live a life too casual with too many spaces. By the time they are in their mid thirties, they have done it all and not with the kind of dedication or devotion that they could have invested in relationships.

      Yes, there definitely should be spaces in one’s togetherness. That’s the key to the success for most happy and content relationships.

  14. Safiyyah says:

    Having read this I now regret missing the chance to reply to your email, not having the time to get to the PC around the time of that email.. Actually, I can relate to that friend who hopped relationships, trying to run away from HIMSELF; in my case I used to ring friends one after the other to fill the silence that was left behind building up atrocious amounts in phone bills. I have lived alone for the past 12 years in the UK, and for the best part, loneliness was my big elephant in the room. I had no TV for about 9 years and no PC for about 6 of these 12 years. I couldn’t cope with my thoughts, the void, the having to eat lunch and dinner alone and you name it, I couldn’t cope with. I would see 2 people talking on the street and I would burst into tears. Slowly I came out of this feeling and state of mind, and now I like visiting people, but by the end of the day I crave to get back home, and just sit, for a short while before turning with TV or the PC on.
    I visited my parents in India after about 11.5 years last year, and I couldn’t cope with people visiting wanting to know when I’d be where and for how long. In England, we find it very rude to even ask such a question. I couldn’t cope with one lady in my maternal grand parents’ village telling me that I should find a husband, but before finalising it I should seek her approval, Be-ikhtiyaar, almost without realising I was about to say “If I waited for your approval, I’d be left a spinster like yourself”, but I bit my tongue in time.
    I feel space is very important, though in moderation, within reason. We need not be bogged down by formalities, but there is a thing called privacy, yes, space, confidentiality and to me both are very important. What I share with you remains with you, doesn’t become general knowledge, a concept that is very entangled with space. And I honestly struggled with all of these when I visited my folks. But then thats life too.
    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, Shail. Thanks for allowing us to bring the giant in the open. Regards

    • isabel says:

      Very well said…I was in the same predicament before due to homesickness, high phone bills etc.

      Got used with the foreign way of life and accepted the fact that it’s like so…in the process you’l meet new friends, create new family and ties.

      The key is being at peace with your inner self and everything can be balanced there after.

      Still misses home but I have lots of beautiful memories collected to accompany me by…

      My sincere compliment to the author Shail R.

      • Hi Isabel,

        Nice to see you here more so because I find that you identify with the situation and the topic discussed.

        Thanks. Hope to see more of you here at Write Space.

        Cheers!

    • Dear Safiyyah,

      So good to hear from you, even if it is at Write Space. I suppose I realized that either you were busy or you simply needed some ‘space!!’

      I agree with you. Space is something that is necessary for most relationships but when it dominates our lives we are left feeling lonely and alienated. This is something we need to balance in our lives.

      I am glad my article enabled you to share a significant part of your life.

      Thanks.

  15. A.Hari says:

    Hi,

    This is a burning issue in metros like chennai. In our area a 100 year old man lives in a separate house with attendants, as his grand daughter objected his intrusion into her privacy. He kept asking questions about late arrivals, phone calls etc. She fought with father and moved to another house.

    This is the trend today…

    A.Hari

    • Hi Hari,

      Good to see you here. Sad about that old man. Sad for the daughter too. Both are losing out so much in the ordeal and yet it is difficult living together too. Some body has to be flexible but the big question is who and how much…..

      • Varun Reddy says:

        Very valid point indeed… Adjustment is needed from both ends and usually sitting down and talking helps… But if either of the parties involved do not have the time or the patience, then it’s best to terminate the relationship rather than prolong the suffering.. It may not be the best solution though, but it’s better than silent agony…

  16. vimala ramu says:

    You are so right, Shail. The extremes are indeed bad. But I feel this space-vace business is not one of physical space but one of mental dimensions. Even living in joint families before and after marriage, we never had that ‘smothered’ feeling. It all comes back to good old Indian Yoga, which says that it is all in your mind to feel ‘lonely’ or ‘social’ Or probably I am a spoilt favourite of Nature!

    • Dear Vimala.

      I agree. It is all in the mind. Physical spaces don’t matter that much. But, the problem now-a-days is that people demand mental space and expect to still stay connected….

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