Leave me alone sometimes or I turn into a crabby cow, says Wendy Squires. Photo: Stocksy
Looking back on my most enduring relationship, lasting nearly a decade, I see where I have been going wrong since.
My ex and I were young and in love, saving to scrape together our first piece of real estate, which ended up being a run-down cottage we adored. In between swooning about pressed metal ceilings (rusted, but that's another story) and the tiny established garden out back, I spied what was really the most attractive part of the home for me – a small spare room.
You see, I am an introvert. I like people, and most of the time I enjoy socialising. I just need time to recharge after being around others and that means being alone.
Wendy Squires. Photo: Mike Baker
While extroverts re-energise in company, it can only happen for me in solitude. Without it, I tend to wilt. Okay, I turn into an unhinged harridan, similar to when woken mid-REM sleep by a dreaded, chirpy, morning person telling me I'm missing the so-called "best part of the day".
I need time alone, damn it, and if I don't get it, those closest to me, especially a beleaguered beloved, likely will. It's not as if I want to be a crabby cow, it's just that I've learnt through trial and error that if I become deprived of alone time I become devoid of patience. (Just as well I'm not a mother, I hear you rumble. Don't worry, I agree!)
The other thing I've realised is necessary for me to remain rational in relationships is to retain an element of mystery. When I have a clothing crisis and pull out dozens of outfits while crying that I have nothing to wear, I don't need anyone to witness my madness or ask me what was wrong with the first choice.
Just like when I sit back on a Sunday night in a mud face mask, enjoying the gross pleasure of scraping dry skin off my heels, I prefer to do so in private. So far, any man I've known who has witnessed this event readily agrees it's best kept to a one-hander. Hence, my passionate penchant for a room away from view. And for many years, that tiny room in that creaky old cottage, with its fold-out couch and funky desk I found in a council clean-up, was my sanctuary.
As much as I loved curling up in that safe, soft place where my man's arm met his shoulder, when he wanted to sleep and I wanted to read, potter, answer emails and/or toss and turn at will, that spare room was a godsend. Just as when that man of my dreams was snoring (why is the volume always louder when they've been at the pub?) and passing wind with the unmistakable odour of kebab, it was nice to pad off down the hall to the other room, one that didn't smell like old RSL carpet or sound like gravel in a blender.
Apart from saving fights, I also believe having personal space enhanced our romance. In all the years I lived with my partner, despite the spare room, we rarely slept apart. But if we did fall asleep away from each other, a quiet tap on the door asking can we snuggle was always warmly welcome - a choice rather than a given. And sex seemed spicier, away from the predictability of the same old bed.
Now, whenever my girlfriends tell me they're moving in with a man, the first thing I suggest is they commandeer a room to themselves if they can, or at least have a bolthole to hide and indulge in secret women's business. If there's somewhere you can be alone to just do whatever it is you need, I reckon your relationship, and peace of mind, will be a lot healthier for it.
You see, when we bought that house, it also had a backyard shed, which was immediately seized by my partner, also an introvert. There, he would hide and renew, ruminate, relax and write, allowing me to do the same.
We both understood the importance of privacy and space. And we both wanted our relationship to work, long-term. And for my longest while, it did.