Over the last six or so months, many couples have experienced the disappearance of space. Physical space is gone. We used to have work, business trips, the gym, and all sorts of other events and activities in life that provided this kind of physical space and separation from each other.
But that’s only part of the problem. We are also experiencing the disappearance of mental space. This form of space is less tangible but perhaps even more significant. It’s space from screaming children, your partner's virtual meetings, and other distractions. It’s the space that allows your mind to rest and open up to new and creative possibilities in work and life.
The loss of physical and mental space is a problem for all sorts of reasons. And yet it’s particularly problematic in marriage because space is essential for love and intimacy. Space and separation leads to longing, missing your partner, and, ultimately, craving to be with them. It's like jet fuel for desire and love.
So how can we create space in marriage when we're stuck at home together?
The new normal of pandemic life limits our ability to do this. But it’s still possible. You can create physical space by making an intentional effort to go for a walk each day alone or by reading your favorite book outside with headphones on. Even if it’s only for 30 minutes or an hour, taking space away from your family and your partner leaves you refreshed, excited to come back, and more open for connection when you return.
One of the key insights from modern psychology and ancient wisdom traditions is this: your experience of life is a reflection of your mind. If you live with no headspace, with a claustrophobic mind churning through endless streams of thought and digital distractions, all of life can feel like you're crammed in a packed subway car. The world begins to reflect your cramped mind. If you cultivate a more open mind, however, this expansion of headspace changes everything. It makes life feel slower and more manageable, regardless of your external circumstances. That's the power of mental space.
To get more of it, you can use all sorts of techniques. Meditation and mindfulness training is one powerful tool. Practicing yoga is another. You can also build more mental space in less formal ways. Lie down in the grass for 10 minutes and gaze at the sky. Wander around your neighborhood while paying close attention to the sound of the birds.
The more you do this, the more you may notice that the space you crave most in these challenging times isn't physical. It's this subtle space in the mind, a kind of space that allows you to be connected, engaged, and even turned on by your partner.