I'm a 39-year-old man who has never been in a relationship that's gotten serious enough to discuss cohabitation. My partner “Beth,” a 41-year-old woman, is in the same boat. We've been dating six months and are now discussing renting a home together, as something of a marriage trial run. But the thought of coming home to someone every night exhausts me. I just need to completely unplug and be alone with my thoughts. I've always scoffed at guys who shy away from commitment, but I'm definitely a person who needs alone time once or twice a week. I’ve started to get squeamish at the thought of spending every evening together instead of the four or five per week we do now. I'm truly in love with Beth and enjoy our time together. But how do I get past this? Is there a way to share our lives and still have some "me" time?
—Trying Not to Be Alone Forever
As Philip Larkin wrote: “He married a woman to stop her getting away/ Now she’s there all day.” I understand your worries, because like you, I need lots of solitude. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to talk about with Beth without it being a sign of wavering commitment or uncertainty about your love. You tell her that until you met her, you never thought there would be anyone you could contemplate living with. You say you’re excited but also recognize that with separate domiciles you are able to have the quiet time you sometimes need, so you can’t figure out how you would incorporate that into your new living situation. Then you figure it out. Maybe when you come home some nights, you signal you need some down time to listen to music and read the newspaper before you’re ready to be social. Maybe Saturday mornings you agree to be away from each other. Maybe Beth likes to take classes or meet up with friends a couple of nights a week, leaving you contentedly alone for the evening. It could be that Beth, like you, thinks togetherness is sweeter when it’s not incessant.
A few months ago I moved into a small apartment building in a lovely neighborhood. I noticed that someone was leaving bags of dog poop right outside of the front gate of the entrance to our building. My boyfriend and I decided to write a message in chalk on the brick wall outside of the building: "Please! Pick up your pet's poop.” When it didn’t stop, I wrote a follow-up in chalk. The day after that I found this note taped to the wall in response: "What you’re doing is against the law. We will be putting cameras up and pressing harassment charges if it doesn't stop. P.S. You're a coward!" A bag of poop was thrown over our gate into the front entrance. I’m sure this person doesn’t know I wrote the note, but I’m now concerned about having charges pressed. I’m also concerned about getting this to stop. What do I do?
—Doo Doo Problem
I think the note you saw was not in reply to you but a vote of solidarity from a fellow tenant about the solid waste. The offender in response is now practicing canine shot put. (Or should we call it shit put?) Your building must have management, so bring this up with them. I know it’s distasteful, but until this is solved, when you see bags out front, you could toss them into a nearby receptacle. Forget interacting with the miscreant, which will only result in an ordeal over the ordure.
More Dear Prudence Columns
“Reign of Terror: The president of my company just ‘pantsed’ someone at work.”
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“Toilet Paper: In a live chat, Prudie advises a man whose co-worker always takes the office newspaper to the bathroom.”
“Me or the Dog: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend wants her to give away her cocker spaniel.”
“Snip and Tell: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman who’s been trying to get pregnant—only to find out her husband had a secret vasectomy.”
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