The man cave

by Lorin Michel Thursday, May 29, 2014 8:54 PM

In 1992, a relationship counselor by the name of John Gray wrote a book that changed the course of relationships all over the world. It was called Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and I admit to reading only some of it. But I read enough to know that in many ways he was stating the obvious. Men and women are different species. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship with the opposite sex can tell you that. We process things differently, we think differently, we fight differently. I don’t think we feel differently though; I think we just show our feelings differently.

According to Dr. Gray, an oddly soft-spoken man, men often need “me” time, space to themselves. Women shouldn’t ever take it personally. They – we – should simply say “that’s great, honey. Enjoy your time and space and I’ll be here when you come back.” When you’re ready. I’ve never been good with that, probably because of the Venus thing.

This whole idea is the equivalent of interpreting time and space. There’s a part of the brain that does this interpreting and it’s bigger in men than in women. This translates to men having a bigger awareness for their need for space and time than women. Which is a little condescending, if you ask this smaller brained Venusian. I have plenty of times when I need space. I just don’t need a place to go for it. I usually just curl up on the couch with a book. My space is found in the story between the pages of that book.

But I do remember when I was married the first time, and my husband and I would fight all the time, I would often get in the car and drive. I needed space. Eventually I got a whole bunch of it when we got divorced.

I think when married people need space, it’s probably not a sign of a healthy marriage. See above paragraph. Being married usually means you don’t get a lot of space and most married people are perfectly fine with that. It’s part of the deal of getting/being married. It’s the point of being married, happily married anyway. That doesn’t mean you’re together 24 hours a day. People go to work, they meet friends for drinks, they go get their hair done, or to a class they’re taking. But then Mars and Venus come back together again after whatever. Key word together.

It’s not time or space. It’s living.

Kevin doesn’t ever have a need for a man cave, at least I don’t think so. He’ll have a workshop at the new house, a place where he can go and play with his saws and routers and hammers and nails and build something. But he has never said “I need space, I need time.” He does, however, occasionally turn inside himself. He’s a talker, my husband, so when he suddenly stops talking it makes me nervous. This might be his version of the man cave, and it immediately sends me to Venus. I ask him what’s wrong, what’s going on. I invoke Top Gun quotes – “Talk to me, Goose” – I sing, I dance; I promise things. Eventually he cracks a smile and he starts talking to me about what’s bothering him which is inevitably about work and some issue he’s having. And he always feels better for having gotten it out of his head.

We have friends, acquaintances really, and he has a man cave. They have a lovely house with a big garage, and off of the garage, he has built a room. It has its own air conditioner, a big screen television, a small refrigerator, a cushy couch. He disappears in there on a regular basis for his “me” time. His space. His cave.

I don’t know what kind of relationship they have. He travels a lot, they don’t seem to have a lot in common. And yet he still feels the need to disappear. I wonder.

I’m lucky. My husband doesn’t seem to feel the need to disappear. We spend an extraordinary amount of time together. We work in the house together; we exercise together; we cook together, make wine together. We vacation together. And since we don’t spend enough time together, we make sure to have date night every week.

I like to think that if he had a man cave, he’s share it with me. I suspect he would. The Martian and the Venusian – Venetian? – caveman and cave woman, together and celebrating, living it out loud. I wonder what Dr. Gray would say about that. 

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