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Monday, November 1, 2010

Love doesn't mean sharing everything: Head off conflict by embracing the separate bathroom

By Lapraya McCoy


Joshua and Khalilah Davis had lived in their Hampton home for three months, when one of them packed up their toiletries in the master bath and moved down the hall.

"He may have been in the bathroom and I had to use it, and I couldn't hold it so I went to the bathroom down the hall," Khalilah says. "That's kind of how it started."

Like other Peninsula couples, the Davises share one less room in their home — the bathroom — allowing each other space and avoiding havoc in the morning.

"The bathroom in the bedroom isn't that big" Joshua says "and there is not enough space for both of us to be in there at the same time, so we started using separate ones."

The Davises have lived in their home for three years now with their 1-year-old son, Caleb, and their Yorkshire Terrier, Huggy. Originally the couple shared the master bath without any problems. It was not until they had to get ready for work at the same time that they realized the true size of their master bathroom.

Some couples say they recognized in the beginning potential problems with sharing a bathroom — lack of storage space, shorter shower times, and differences in cleaning habits — and avoided it all together. Other couples with small children find that they have an extra bathroom in their possession, since their children are too young to occupy one on their own. In many cases this arrangement is not planned nor discussed, but couples agree with the Davises when they say that taking advantage of the extra space just makes sense.

"I have a lot of products and like to spend time in the bathroom, and if I shared a bathroom, then I would have to cut my time short," Khalilah says.

It's impossible to know how widespread the arrangement has become. But even bedroom sharing is on the decline. According to a 2005 survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, one in four American couples sleeps in separate beds or bedrooms. While it has not been proven that a separate loo is the key to a long lasting marriage, Linda Lytton says she doesn't know of many couples who wouldn't have their own bathroom if given the chance.

She and her husband Dan, often get ready for events in separate bathrooms in their new Smithfield home.

"Did we almost divorce over using the same bath? No! We made it work," says Lytton, who shared a bathroom with her husband in the earlier part of their marriage.

For the married couple of 37 years, using separate bathrooms helps for efficiency. But as a marriage counselor with her own private practice in Smithfield, Lytton says she knows all too well that some couples have different morning styles — one is a chatty Kathy and the other is a mute — and for those couples, separate bathrooms are ideal.

"Separate space quite often lets partners see better sides of each other," she says. Her newly married son, Seth, recently spoke with her about this. She remembers him saying to her, "Honestly mom, she (his wife) doesn't wanna talk until 10 o'clock." Lytton told her son not to take it personally. If you have different morning styles, she says, allowing each other space is a great solution.

"When couples come together they think they have to share everything," says Anne Aja (prounounced Asia), a licensed marriage and family therapist at Rock Landing Psychological Group in Newport News. "That's not good for a marriage."

In an effort for Aja and her husband, Daniel Kauffman, to respect each other's privacy and give each other lots of space, they haven't shared a bathroom throughout their 10 years of marriage.

Aja's colleague, Kay Allen says privacy can have a positive impact on a relationship.

"There are so many times in the long term relationship, that we see each other looking unattractive," says the licensed counselor, who has over 22 years of experience working with couples. "We have to think of ways to recharge eros, erotic love, and for some people that's not sharing the bathroom."

John Womeldorf, a Williamsburg realtor, says while he finds it very difficult to sell a home with just one bathroom, he doesn't believe it is because couples don't want to share one. He says couples generally request a home with at least three bathrooms.

"Couples want one the kids can mess up, one for them and one for guests. That's pretty common in larger home buyers," he says. "I very rarely run across a couple who won't share a bathroom."

When Joshua and Khalilah wed five years ago, they encountered few problems with sharing the bathroom in their one bedroom apartment.

"He's always been pretty good with putting the toilet seat down," Khalilah says.

The only problem the couple had — if you can even call it a problem — is that they used different toothpastes. He used Arm & Hammer Toothpaste while her brand of choice was Colgate.

"I like (having my own bathroom) because I'm able to have my own stuff and keep it the way I like it," Khalilah says.

Don't have his and her bathrooms? No worries. Follow these tips to ensure you and your spouse share a bathroom headache free:

Purchase towel hooks and avoid using towel racks. Nothing is more annoying than finding a wet towel on the floor or seeing one sloppily hung on a rack. Hooks allow the lazy showerer to just throw their towel on any kind of way (and it still looks great) and not have to fold it.

Don't fuss about the toilet seat. Period. It's not worth it. There are plenty of other petty things to argue about.

Invest in extra storage for the bathroom. Keep toiletries off of the counter and out of your spouse's way. Don't be mistaken—even though it is a bathroom—toiletries do not add to the décor.

The neat freak gets the privilege of cleaning the bathroom. If your partner does not clean the bathroom to your liking, be the bigger person and take on the responsibility. Keep in mind everyone does not have the same standards of cleanliness. Instead of arguing that the floor is not spit shine clean, just ask your partner to clean their things tidy and you handle the dirty work.

Respect the closed door policy. Rest assured it is closed for a reason. Respect your partner's space and knock rather than just barging in.

Communicate. Know each other's schedules and respect them. Make arrangements that work for both partners. For example, if you have to get ready at the same time, the early bird should take their shower first.

Take two seconds to replace the toilet paper. No matter how big of a rush you are in, make your spouse proud and replace the toilet paper.