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Yes, Love is a Battlefield

Claiming Personal Space in Your Marriage

Glo welcomes Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn, the husband-and-wife duo behind the book You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up, who have kindly volunteered to share their most intimate marital details with us. Here, the couple tells us a thing or two about personal space.

She says:

I believe an important component to preserving harmony in a relationship is carving out individual space. Unfortunately, my husband Jeff has no sense of personal boundaries.

The guy has some kind of nudity radar: If I even take off my clothes for a second, he's standing in front of me cheering as if he'd scored box seats at Fenway Park. (And I'm not talking about sexy undressing — I'm talking about stripping-off-my-smelly-sweatshirt-because-I-just-got-back-from-a-run undressing.)

If you find you're living with Mr. Peep Show, first of all, be glad it isn't the other way around. Studies on marital happiness show that couples who have more sex stay together longer, and wanting to get naked is a good sign. But our house in LA isn't big (and we both work at home), so we can have too much togetherness. My office is a converted closet adjacent to our bedroom, and I find it I really annoying to be talked to through the "cloffice" door. It reminds me of my thin-walled apartment in New York, where I was treated to so many details of my neighbors' intimate life that I felt as though we were engaged in a threesome.

He says:

When it comes to carving out her personal space, my wife has many rules. She has set up very distinct "no sex zones" in our house, and "no sex times" of the day and night that I must adhere to if I ever want to get back into the "free sex zones and times."

Let's face it: Most men don't like rules unless they apply to sports. Three strikes and you're out; that's a rule I can live with. Intentional grounding, fifteen-yard penalty and loss of a down — I'm all over that. Abiding by your wife's no sex decrees? Now there's a bunch of rules I'm going to try like hell to bend.

Personal space aside, what fun is getting married if you can't shake things up once in awhile? Ladies, if you make the rules, please surprise us once is a while by letting us fly outside the "no zones." We'll really appreciate it, and who knows? Maybe you'll like your personal space invaded at off-hours.

She says:

How to resolve these issues? Perhaps it's an evolutionary trait left over from the male hunting days, but if I'm moving and naked — forget it. I gave up on that. Now, I change my clothes in the bathroom unless I'm "open for business." But my advice is to carefully negotiate and delineate your work areas and let your partner know specifically what hours you expect to be working from day to day.

When I'm on a business conference call, or even if I'm just gossiping with a friend, I hang a "Do not disturb" note on my door. It might seem extreme, but don't give up on your right for reasonable limits or you'll find yourself on top of each other when you should be working, and working when you should be on top of each other.

He says:

Here's an example of one area of personal space I think we've worked out pretty well: Annabelle insisted on playing music on an old CD player, filling our house with endless loops of either James Taylor or her beloved collection of Zen Buddhist chants. (Annoying!) So, last Valentine's Day I confiscated the CD player and bought her an iPod Nano that I lovingly programmed to include music we could both listen to.

Sure, she was miffed that I infiltrated her personal space and jettisoned her old music ways, but very soon she was bopping about to the new Nano tunes and completely enthralled with me that I took the time to program her playlists.

That's 1 for team Kahn, 0 for Team Buddhist chants.

She says:

Yes, the iPod was one of the sweetest things Jeff's ever given to me, particularly as it was already programmed, and I positively hate doing stuff like that. It really has enriched my life — in more ways than Jeff anticipated.

New research has shown that exposing yourself to new music gives your brain a workout not unlike solving crossword puzzles, so sharing music with your partner is also a really healthy activity.

I do reserve the right to listen to my Buddhist chants, though. He doesn't seem to realize I still listen to that stuff, only with a pair of headphones on. If a Buddhist chant falls in the forest and Jeff doesn't hear it, why should he care? Wins, losses, compromises and unexpected benefits ... that's how we roll.

Our overall advice on personal space? Eat, Pray, Drink! Eating is always fun, prayer won't hurt and drinking will make you forget about your personal space problems for a little while.

BUY NOW: You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up, $24

  • The authors' book, available now on Amazon.com

    Courtesy of Random House
Yes, Love is a Battlefield
Claiming Personal Space in Your Marriage
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