By Mary Jo Rapini
My husband’s birthday was the day after Valentine’s Day, so celebrating is a double whammy. Buying him gifts for the two holidays was tough because I like buying him sentimental things for Valentine’s Day and useful things for his birthday. He is a practical man; he enjoys working in the yard and fixing things in the house. I encourage this part of him because he has a stressful job and working on things seems to relax him. I had been bugging him since the holidays about what he wanted for his birthday, so the week before his birthday when he came to me with a big grin on his face pointing to a magazine telling me, “This is what I want,” I paid attention. It was inside a Prime Living Magazine, for which I write, where he found his dream gift: a “man cave” you could build at home.
The man caves featured in the article were incredible. One look and I knew it was the perfect gift! Some were round and hanging from a tree. Some of them were fashioned after elaborate cottages hidden in the trees. I kept looking at the pictures and imagining how they would look in our yard. I looked at him and said, “Wow, we need one of these! We can climb up inside and retreat for days.” His face changed, and he became suddenly serious and said, “Wait a minute, the idea of the man cave is I go into it by myself. I go there to retreat, to think, and to work on stuff.” He went on to say, “I get to eat what I want (I’m vegetarian, he’s not), listen to what I want (he likes 60’s rock, I like bossa nova) and it’s a place only for ‘the man.'”
The more he talked, the more I realized what a great concept a “man cave” really is. It allows men freedom from being anything other than a man. During dinner that night, we had a lively conversation about the man cave with several of our friends. I was surprised that more women weren’t open to the idea. They seemed a little jealous that their man would leave or wouldn’t be completely in need of their company all the time. One of my friends told us that her home is a man cave. She has sons, and she said they all act like barbarians in the home. She felt that a woman’s cave would be more appropriate.
The conversation became so animated that my husband conceded and said he didn’t really want a man cave, but he brought the whole idea up because he thought it was funny. I didn’t and don’t think it’s funny…I think it’s ingenious. I think a man cave could save marriages, and they would be much cheaper and less destructive than a divorce.
Men who need a man cave but don’t build one may end up creating one in their relationship. They achieve this by withdrawing, getting defensive when their partner asks for more of their time and sometimes by abandoning the relationship. Guys need time to be alone. Women do too, but women often prefer the company of friends during their “alone time.” Women are more verbal and frequently include other women in their alone time by chatting online, talking on the phone or through texting. Guys’ alone time looks different; it is actually alone. My husband takes a trip with his brothers every year to an old cabin in Canada that they have frequented since childhood. The best part of his vacation is when they all do their own thing during the day…alone. He writes, fishes, catches bugs and whatever, but it is done in solitude. He is a better husband because of this trip.
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Rapini is the author of Is God Pink? Dying to Heal and co-author of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex or Whatever. Keep up with the latest advice at http://maryjorapini.com