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This weekend was a good one for dinner and drinks with friends, a birthday party, dressing up, going to the market, and a long slow walk in the middle of the night with fast-moving clouds. I dug boxes out of the basement and sorted their contents into Keep/Recycle/Trash. It reminded me of the different ways that people experience friendships and relationships, and how some people prefer to do everything together and others have a preference for some mixture of time spent together and time spent apart, including a recognition that you can be apart but somehow together.

In sorting through boxes, I found a number of paintings and pieces of writing (short stories, poems) evidence of a time when I did a lot of what I call “being together, apart” or what a friend calls “co-puttering” (a term I’ll use here for its simplicity).

As an example, with the former partner, a typical Saturday for us went something like this: I would wake up early and go to the farmer’s market alone.

I’d come home to drop off my things and then change to go to the log cabin home of an eccentric lady who lived in the woods and taught yoga.

- How you can create time together that works, too - especially in developing relationships where people try and fail with different levels of space/togetherness (and frankly, some of people's desire to spend time together in new relationships is not always because they need to be glued to you; sometimes they're just trying to figure out how/when you will have sex - which is also a very basic human desire).

It would be a waste to find someone you genuinely enjoy spending time with, only to lose the chance to be with them because of your lack of awareness or an inability to tell him or her how you want to spend your hours, being together but apart.

My grandparents’ model of co-puttering was a lovely example for me.

It’s what I later experienced very naturally in one relationship but that I had to be very assertive about in other relationships in which the people I dated wanted far more togetherness than I preferred.

I’m also fine with togetherness; it’s fun to have a partner in crime to go to a museum with or to grab lunch with. - If a person is aware but doesn’t articulate their preferences to a partner – CLEARLY – then their partner can’t know what they want.If I was with him, which was not uncommon because we lived around the corner, then he and I might play dominos or cards while listening to music from the 1920s, 1930s, or 1940s.In the evenings, they ate dinner together and watched shows that they both liked, such as Lawrence Welk and Benny Hill. Sure, they still got annoyed with each other at times. But mostly they seemed quite content, dedicated to each other, and in love.Saying something as simple as “I like spending time with you, but I need some time alone sometimes too. - Over time you can create habits together that you like and that work for you.Maybe I could do this while you do something else” is an okay thing to say. My grandparents (who were married for 67 years) created the following routine in retirement: My grandfather would wake up early to play golf with friends. After, he’d come home and pick up my grandmother to take her to her various classes (cake decorating, Spanish, French, etc). In the afternoon, she would watch soap operas indoors while he sat on the porch.

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