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"Let There Be Spaces in Your Togetherness"

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This week there's been a lot of discussion on work/family issues as it pertains to international work. Lots of dual career couples, trailing spouses, and wondering singletons. I've thought about this on and off when we were still in Ouagadougou. I guess my frame of reference is so skewed now that separation, however temporary, is the norm for me. One time my (former) regional director told me that half the international staff in West Africa were living apart from their spouses, and now I have a friend who just transferred to Burundi while her husband is in grad school in Maryland.

When I tell people that MoBob and I calculated how much time we've physically spent together in six years of relationship (two years dating + almost four years of marriage) and the answer is 10 months, they're pretty shocked. We lived in different cities in Morocco, he stayed on in Morocco while I was in Mali, and then when we were in Burkina Faso I was in the capital and he was at the Peace Corps training site. Little Rock will be the first time that we're going to live together as a normal couple - and without a housekeeper, no less!

I suppose what keeps us going is what is expressed in
Khalil Gibran's poem on marriage

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
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On October 19th, 2006 01:12 am (UTC), thegarlicbite commented:
I often imagine how difficult it would be for my husband and me to be so far apart for so long- I'm not exactly sure I would like to find out. Somehow we are still at that stage where we prefer to spend all our time with each other rather than anywhere else- after almost 4 years.
However, even though we spend a lot of our time together- I still place so much importance in that poem. We read it at our wedding and it still means so much to me, it is so beautiful.
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On October 19th, 2006 12:54 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
We were planning to have this read at our wedding in English and in French; apparently it's a favorite with hippies and intercultural/interfaith couples.

I always tell people that when we are together it's real quality time. When I was in Mali and MoBob was in Morocco we saw each other for two six week long home leaves in the US. I'd rather have that than short rushed visits trying to do errands and work at the same time.
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On October 19th, 2006 01:45 am (UTC), congogirl commented:
Hmmm. In the past more than a year since we left Kinshasa, I've seen the man friend a total of maybe a month. I like this poem.
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On October 19th, 2006 12:54 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Quality, not quantity! :)
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On October 19th, 2006 06:29 am (UTC), flemmarde commented:
what a lovely poem, thanks for posting!

well i kind of subscribed to that philosophy, but the ex didn't and the apart time was the biggest factor in doing us in. obviously there was other stuff in there... and in fact i observed it was the anticipation of the apart time that began the troubles seriously. i guess some can and some can't.

10 months in 6 years is pretty spectacular though! I guess you must get used to it, but it does make it interesting to imagine how you might go in the new togetherness, and whether that changes how you manage apartness again in the future. relationships are mighty dynamic things
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On October 19th, 2006 12:56 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
I think the big challenge will be housework since that's the one area that we've managed to avoid discussing! We did get a little testy while getting ready to leave Ouaga but that was only manifested in exaggerated sighs (me) and a kicked box (him).
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On October 19th, 2006 09:52 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Not me!
My wife and I each spent 30 years apart from each other before we ever met, dated, & got married. Half a life-time of doing without is more than enough, so we try to stick together as much as possible. I think we've spent a grand total of 20 days or fewer without seeing each other over the last 6 years, most of them when we were dating. Gibran's poem is sweet consolation for those who have to put up with separate lives (or for those who prefer it) but it doesn't speak to me in the slightest.

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