We all know marriages are about compromise. We compromise about where we live, what we watch, how we decorate, and where we go on holiday. Some men choose to not get too involved in creating the home environment, (I didn’t) which is probably toxic masculinity telling us that candles are only of interest if they are shaped like a grenade.
Then we decide to be parents, and this process intensifies. At first, we were happy to sacrifice the study and turn it into a nursery. There was excitement, and decorating and, soon after, a baby. That grows.
Marriage meant that room by room, cushion by cushion, our home environment would change. Then children arrive, and we suddenly find ourselves living in an alien landscape.
Invasion of the body snatchers
Our personality is now barely anywhere to be seen in the home we live in. The things that were once important to us have been sold, given to charity, or gather dust in the loft-like some forgotten Ark of the Covenant. This probably extends to how we dress, style our hair, our hobbies, and the programs we watch. Perhaps even who our friends are.
This was not a direct campaign of wanting to change us. It was just our response to the smile or the compliment we received when we wore the new sweater that was bought for us for our Birthday. Or the giggle our child made when we bought yet another toy. Or perhaps just practicality.
This was caused by love, a desire to create a home where the whole family can thrive. But our lack of input meant a compromise became a sacrifice, and the damage is now done. It feels like we are living with our wife and children, rather than living together.
Every hero needs a lair
In a panic, the powerful man cave is called into creation. A shining example of male privilege. A place that is exclusively ours, that we can spend hours on end indulging in our hobbies and interests. Maybe it is a shed, a loft conversion, a spare room. It really doesn’t matter.
It is somewhere we can be ourselves, surrounded by our “stuff”, where we can relax.
We can watch what we like, play games, decorate as we choose. This is our little corner of peace and relaxation, our fortress of solitude.
We convince ourselves that it is okay that we “comprised” on so many choices because we have our escape room from our family life. But that is the problem, it is an escape because our life is no longer our own.
Sadly, we may find ourselves spending more and more time in there.
Our partner will have done the same. The home that has been created is not all theirs; we have still infected it a little. When my wife and I recently separated we had been living in a large house in a village.
It was quiet, nice, and a great place to bring up our daughter. But neither of us were happy. Once she did not need to compromise she bought a small house near her parents, close to her work. She loves it. It is cozy, she has a cat, and it looks wonderful when decorated for Christmas.
Reconnecting to our old selves.
Whereas I went to the city. I rented a penthouse apartment, with a balcony and mezzanine floors. I feel like Tony Stark. In this space, I started to remember who I was. I started to dress differently, eat different things, and wear different jewelry. As soon as I walk in I start to feel regenerated. I am home. My home.
I am energized, happy, interested in life again. As is my ex. We have crafted our environments to suit our identities. We enjoy each other’s company again, and there is a familiarity in recognizing the person that we fell in love with.
Before the compromise. Our daughter is thriving too, because we, as parents, are in our elements.
Perhaps if we had not moved in with each other, or I had taken more interest in our home, our relationship might have survived. We really are not that much more complex than animals. We thrive in the correct environment, and a man cave could well be a sign that you are a depressed Polar Bear in a zoo.