‘I need some space!’ We often hear this phrase tossed out among people in relationships without really thinking what it means. This not only results into questions, arguments and unrealistic expectations but also it can hurt feelings.
In a research done by Woman Magazine, most articles and studies focused on ‘men needing space in a relationship or marriage’ and that they ‘deserve’ it.
While articles, very rarely written on women and space were associated with words like ‘cheating’ and ‘wants out of marriage’.
Why the bias, Woman Magazine asks?
Married women go to work just like any other men, take care of the children, husband and relatives, make sure the house is clean, take care of the budget at home, organise everything, socialise with neighbours and make sure she stands and carries the good name for her family and ensuring everyone is comfortable at home. After all, these gender roles are authored by the society itself.
This fatigue and pressure can leave any woman exhausted and harried. And one way to avoid the trap of exhaustion is allowing some time alone, what we call ‘space’. Whether is it creative, quiet, away, fun or working space, every married woman, wife or a mother, deserves an element of privacy. This is agreed by most women we interviewed. Here’s what they have to say;
Joan Ndosy, 36.
“Freedom is an inherent desire. It is a right that every person deserves. Once in a while we need to get out of the ‘cage’, or to find some ‘alone time’.
Why is it so hard for society to understand that a married woman reaches a point where she desires to have some space away from the daily chores and family life?” she questions.
Joan, who has been married for 15 years, says it is difficult for a woman, especially an African woman to open up and ask for some space from her husband or general family life. Such a request will be met with many questions and accusations. Her husband will accuse her of seeing another man.
Only a few people, mostly married women, will understand that after so many years in marriage, without possibly having taken no break, she indeed deserves some space to regain her strength.
“In marriage, a woman is burdened with a lot of domestic activities. These range from cleaning, cooking, taking care of the children, husband, relatives from both sides, organising family events, funerals and plenty more other activities. How, then, can a woman not want a space after all this?” she asks.
Married life isn’t always rosy, there are ups and downs and both the man and woman need to figure out how to handle difficult moments. But when it comes to wanting space, this stems from the general fatigue that has been brought by the everyday marriage life.
At times it could even be boredom that may make a wife want some space. Reasons vary, but the end-goal is to recuperate and come back even stronger.
“I honestly believe that if a husband and wife are honest with each other and decide to have that much needed conversation, marriages would be happier and last longer,” says Joan.
Jackline Gasper, 28.
A Dar es Salaam resident and entrepreneur, Jackline says it is not possible in our African society for such a request to be taken lightly. “Our norms and traditions do not allow us to do that, personally I have not tried to ask for space from my husband, but I think it is the best way to relieve stress,” she says.
She adds that sometimes life becomes so exhausting that one needs time and space far from the everyday life. “But when I think about my children and how my family will define me, I just decide to relieve my stress through crying. I don’t have the courage to leave the house,” Jackline says.
She further says it is high time society tries to understand women better. “We carry a huge burden on our shoulders, we are always taking care of others but no one ever considers our plight.”
Esuvat Mollel, 41.
Esuvat is a very busy woman. She is a wife, mother and works for a transportation company in Arusha.
“Married life at times is stressful because as a wife, mother and working woman, you have to juggle all responsibilities and ensure your husband, children and boss are all happy,” she points.
“In the wake of all these responsibilities, we sometimes wish to have a few days to ourselves,” she added.
Fortunately for her, she gets a bit of time away from her busy work and family schedule. “What I normally do is spend a day with my friends, go to a place where we can have drinks, eat, dance, talk about all sorts of things,” she says.
Esuvat says such breaks have helped her maintain her sanity in marriage and at work.
According to a psychologist Dosi Said, Director of DM Saikolojia Limited in Dar es Salaam, when a woman says she wants space, there are two possibilities: she still loves her husband but just wants space to relieve stress, or she is tired of her husband and wants space to rethink if she still wants to be with him or not.
“Human beings need some time or space alone to think deeply about things that involve their own feelings and desires. It is nothing out of the ordinary,” says Dosi in an interview with Woman Magazine.
He however acknowledges that there are many other reasons that prompt a woman to ask for space: “If her expectations are not met – every person who enters in marriage has some expectations of how their lives is going to be, when their expectations are not met, they start thinking of what to do,” he says.
Also, when a wife is deprived of freedom, she yearns for it. There are men who don’t give their women any sort of freedom to associate with others, this leaves them frustrated, bored and unhappy.
“Sometimes a woman may lose interest in her husband without even realising it. When people get married, there are things they stop doing which they used to do before marriage. It could be going on dates and spending time together. If the reason for this change of lifestyle is the man, the woman will start losing interest in the entire marriage,” he added.
Giving or asking for space in marriage is not always a good thing.
Not every man is well-informed about the importance of space in a marriage. As a result, when asking for space, try explaining to your spouse why you need that space and assurethem it is going to be productive for both of you.
“One of the things a man should avoid when giving space to his woman, is giving too much space. The space given should be just enough for her to resolve whatever issues she has,” he explained, adding that, “The space between them becomes unhealthy when everyone prefers for it to last longer than intended.”
What husbands have to say
There were mixed reaction from men who were interviewed. While some understood the importance of space, there were others who refuted saying, there is no such thing as time alone.
One of them was Peter Steven, 45, a businessman in Dar es Salaam. He says, “Sometimes I don’t understand women, they are too complicated, they really don’t know what they want, when they get married, they complain that they are tired of marriage, when they are not married they yearn for it.”
“Marriage is about spending happy and sad moments together. If my wife is feeling sad, she needs to share her sadness with me so we can figure out [together] how to overcome such sadness,” Peter adds.
Juma Hussein, 39, married for seven years now, says if a woman wants to be alone for some time, it is okay, as long as she knows the consequences of her being away from the husband and the family.
Juma, who is also a father, explains that, time spent apart does help the couple to refresh and rebuild their love.