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Why I Can No Longer Share a Bathroom With My Husband

He does this thing that really makes my skin crawl.

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Bathroom Female and Male symbols with the male symbol running off
Guillem Casasus
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My husband does this thing that makes my skin crawl and sets my last nerve aflame — though 25 years ago I adored this habit of his.

I’ll be standing at the bathroom sink, flossing, plucking a chin hair or slathering lotion on my scaly-from-winter skin and he’ll walk up behind me, enveloping me in his warm embrace. Then he’ll nuzzle my neck and whisper something lovely, repelling me completely and sparking a civil war within my psyche.

He loves me and is simply attempting to show me the affection that I’d welcome wholeheartedly any other time. When I’m grooming, though, especially when the task is kind of yucky or one I don’t want an audience for, what I’d really appreciate is some privacy. I want some personal space in which to conduct the often-unappealing business of beautifying.

What’s odd about this, to me, is it represents a complete reversal. In our early days, my husband and I shared bathroom time for anything and everything. Nothing we did in there was off limits to the other or out of bounds.

In fact, one of my fondest memories with my husband is of the time I was stuck sitting on the toilet after a raucous, overindulgent celebration of my 21st birthday. He kept insisting I pull my hair back with a scrunchie, diligently attempting to hand me one, over and over again. I finally appeased him and the second I did, I whirled around just in time to use the toilet in a different way.

Does my about-face in attitude point to trouble in paradise? Shouldn’t we be even more intimate in all the ways by now, unfazed by normal acts of grooming in front of one another—especially after experiencing two childbirths together? He’s already seen me at my worst and most compromised. Nothing he observes or overhears me doing in the bathroom will ever compare.

I attribute my change in attitude, preference and personal needs to approaching a saturation point. Kind of like how moms of small children no longer want to be touched by anyone by the time evening arrives. We give of ourselves to the point of approaching selflessness, a state in which we’re no good to anyone for anything. Even receiving affection is a form of giving when you don’t particularly feel like receiving it.

Twenty-five years into marriage and motherhood, I now need some space and distance between my physical being and that of those I love while I’m in my bathroom. In my head, my desire to wiggle out of my husband’s embrace while I’m busy grooming feels unavoidable, an automatic reaction to his timing. But in my heart, I struggle to allow myself to feel this way.

That I feel differently about our bathroom encounters all these years into marriage isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a thing. And it’s OK to choose to respect my own feelings and needs, without assigning extra meaning to them or assuming they call out any kind of malaise in my marriage.

Once, nearly everything my husband did presented as interesting or sexy, charming or a window into his personality. Coming to know and accept each other’s habits and hang-ups, methods and madness was enthralling. But today, I’m not so keen on observing toenail clipping or nose hair trimming anymore. I don’t want to catch a glimpse of him washing his nether regions in the shower, nor hear him evacuating his bowels after a garlic-laden meal. And I don’t want a gallery while I draw on my long-lost eyebrows or disguise the increasing graying at my temples.

As my husband and I head into our sunset years together, I’ve found I crave a little less transparency and visibility—the same things that used to foster deep intimacy between us—in favor of a little more mystery. I want the space to create a bit of mystique. As I age and my body changes, I don’t want a witness to the ways I cope. Even if said witness is the person I love the most and feel most comfortable with.

The ways we change inside our marriage aren’t necessarily signs of anything other than our humanity and our individual, ever-evolving psychology. Representations of the hope to be respected and honored at each stage we arrive at in life—honored by spouse and by self, both.

So, I’ll try and explain all this to my husband one more time—but because we don’t always evolve at the same time or in the same ways, I’ve an educated hunch he’ll still come up behind me to offer hugs and sweet murmurings while I swab wax out of my ears.

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