It is said that marriages are made in heaven. Some of you may believe this and some of you may not. But regardless of whether a marriage has a heavenly blessing or not the statistics tell us that 40 – 50% will end in divorce. So with such a bad success rate asking “is a man cave sexist” and “will having a man cave ruin my marriage” are valid questions to have. But what might surprise you is that a lot of psychological research suggests that having a man cave could actually strengthen your marriage.
Do man caves ruin marriages? No! Psychological studies show that taking time to yourself can actually help improve your interpersonal relationships. As long as your wife also has personal space, and the time time apart is limited, a man cave can actually help improve a marriage.
- What is a man cave
- The myth of the sexist man cave
- Why building a man cave could save your marriage
- There are caveats though
- Expert articles to support the above views
What is a man cave
Although the term “man cave” was first used in 1992 in John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, man caves as an idea have been around for a very long time.
A man cave is basically a room in the home or outbuilding in the yard that is dedicated to the male person of the household. It is a space reserved solely for males where the man of the house can indulge in hobbies & favorite activities, hang-out with male friends, or just relax in alone.
A man cave can be set up in any part of the home. Most man caves are created in a garage, basement, spare room or outdoor shed.
Although the name “man cave” applies to a male-specific place the actual concept is not gender specific as there are she caves as well. A she cave is also known as “lady lair” and more commonly a “she shed”.
In this article I intend to demonstrate to you through scientific thinking, and backed by scientific evidence, that the idea of a man cave is neither sexist nor will it hurt a marriage if it is used right. In fact, I will show that having both a man cave and a she shed is advantageous to your marriage as the proper use of both will lead to a happier, healthier and more stable relationship.
The myth of the sexist man cave
Although a quick internet search of subjects related to man caves being sexist or ruining marriages will throw up some damning incitements of this male only space closer look at these articles shows that most of these pieces are poorly researched and offer only personal views. Some even sound like they are written by embittered women with a grudge and a chip on their shoulder like this one. However, there are highly educated women, like Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D., who are a lot smarter than me, that disagree with these naysayers and insist that taking time alone is desirable and very helpful for creating healthy relationships.
Articles disparaging man caves are almost always grossly misleading and completely lacking in any real evidence or even substance.
As I have already covered in the article What is a Man Cave and Why Every Man Needs One many modern scientific sources confirm that the introduction of a man cave to your married life could enrich it by providing a place where you can not only recharge your batteries but also contemplate, and formulate plans to heal divisions in, your relationship.
Man caves provide that much-needed personal space away from work and home commitments that can help a man recuperate. It allows a man to have a space where he can pursue his passions and reconnect to who is he as a person rather than an employee, husband, father etc. This can actually help him to be more present with his family when he is with them.
In short a man cave can not only help a guy kick-back and enjoy his favorite pastimes but it can also help him with his interpersonal relationships especially with his wife.
Why building a man cave could save your marriage
Men are individuals first (just as women are) and husbands second.
However, when a person gets married, he or she will start to experience life in a paired unit. To ensure that unit functions correctly and smoothly each partner must start to think, act, and make decisions based on a co-existent life with their spouse. Although this is necessary and desirable is does tend to rob a person of their individual identify if they become so immersed in this role that they lose who they are and what they want as an individual.
For this reason the need for personal space never disappears for both partners whether they realise it or not.
Below I have outlined the main ways in which a man cave can help strengthen a marriage. Be aware though that these benefits apply just as much to a she shed or lady lair and are by no means applicable purely to the male of the house.
The benefits of building a solid relationship with yourself
When we have time alone to acquaint ourselves with our true selves we strengthen the most important relationship in our lives – the relationship we have with ourselves.
“If cultivating a relationship with ourselves is not worthwhile, what other relationships would be?”, Arnie Kozak, PhD, a psychotherapist and clinical assistant professor in psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. (1)
When a person takes time to build a healthy relationship with themselves they are in a much better place to build healthy relationships with others. Unless you have a healthy respect for yourself and your own needs and desires how could you offer that same respect to your partner?
By taking time-out and honoring your own needs and desires a person is much more likely to honor the needs and desires of others, especially their significant other.
On the flip-side, when a person’s needs and desires are not being met, and they feel that they are just existing to service the needs and desires of others (mainly a female problem granted), they tend to feel resentful and this will often bleed into their interpersonal relationships.
So taking time-out helps a person become a better partner.
Taking time to rejuvenate helps with interpersonal relationships
Taking time-out really helps to rejuvenate both mind and body.
A man cave is a retreat where a man can spend some quality “me-time” where he can just relax or alternatively where he can give deep thought to what’s happening in his life, family, business and career, etc.
A man cave allows a guy time alone to complemplate how he wants to shape his own individuality and steer his own success.
When a person has a clear internal image of himself and where he fts in the world, as well as where he wants to go, his thought processes are no longer scattered but are focused. This means he will be most more “present” when he is with family members and his spouse.
A place for creation and recreation
Just as time-outs can help rejuvenate mind and body, indulging in short periods of recreational fun and creativity helps light-up your spirit.
As the saying goes “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.
Although marriage comes with certain serious responsibilities and commitments a person still needs to be able to have fun. Partners do not always agree on what that entails though.
No matter how compatible a person is with his or her spouse there will be certain things that the husband wants to do that the wife is not interested in and vice-versa. By being able to indulge in activities that are personally appealing to only you, you will be less likely to feel that your needs and desires are being withheld from you.
Having your space to do those things also means you don’t have to try to cajole your partner into things he/she is not interested in doing.
Helps in balancing your relationships outside and inside the marriage
It’s not just a marriage that can directly benefit from you spending time alone. All your interpersonal relationships will benefit and this in turn will also help your relationship with your spouse.
As a human being, you are tied up in different kinds of relationships both personally and professionally. Arguably the most important of these relationships are the ones you have with your friends.
A man cave can help a guy to cultivate the important male relationships that exist outside of his marriage.
You need to remember and realize the importance of cultivating and nurturing friendships. A man cave offers the opportunity for a husband to hang out with his buddies without having to go out to a bar or leave his own home. And, he can do it without disturbing other members of the family.
Having a space for socializing with friends at home means a guy has all the benefits of friendship outside marriage without the wife encountering any of the risks. (2)
Man caving is not a zero-sum game but can be a win-win scenario
When a guy retreats to his man cave his wife can also take some “me-time” too.
“By spending time with yourself and gaining a better understanding of who you are and what you desire in life, you’re more likely to make better choices about who you want to be around.” Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter. (3)
However, as I will outline below both partners in the marriage need to have somewhere they can kick-back and both need to time in which to do it. A guy can’t simple go into his man cave and expect his wife to look after the kids and perform household chores – she needs space too!
The time a guys spends in his man cave should be equal to the time his wife gets to spend alone as well. She can utilize that time for her “me-time” in a separate part of the home with friends or else she can expend the time in her she cave if she has one (which I recommend having).
There are other things to consider also which we will look at now.
There are caveats though
You and your partner should acknowledge the power of personal space which is a key factor in helping a marital relationship thrive. However, there are key points to consider.
Personal space may be one key to a healthy relationship but it is only one, and it is a double-edged sword.
Your wife needs time-outs too!
Just as a guy needs time alone for all the reasons covered above, a woman needs a time alone for all the same reasons.
When using a man cave it is not always possible to give your wife the same space at that time especially if you have kids that need to be supervised. However, this does not mean that your wife should not be given the same courtesy and opportunity for some “me time” or time with her girlfriends.
For this reason it is alway advisable to create a lady lair or she shed as well as a man cave. I covered this subject in the article What is a shed and why every woman needs one. If there is not enough available space for both then you must ensure your wife has some form of kick-back space. You also absolutely must ensure she also has the time to use it!
If you need to, then both wife and husband must decide upon set times for each to use their own me-time and that time should be distributed evenly.
If one partner is a home-maker that person may find that they can take a time-out during the day when the kids are at school and the other partner is at work. If both partners work or have busy schedules then a compromise should be agreed upon where the time can be split evenly.
Time alone should be restricted
Water is the elixir of life and is essential for maintaining life. Go just 10 days without water and you will most likely die. However, drinking too much water in one sitting leads to hyponatremia, a condition of low-sodium in the blood that has uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, loss of energy, drowsiness and fatigue. In serious cases it can lead to seizures, coma and even death. The point I am making is that you can have “too much of a good thing” no matter how “good” that thing is!
I have provided a lot of evidence to show how creating and using a man cave can help you strengthen your marriage. But, there are dangers to the over-use of a man cave that I must also outline here.
When a man cave is properly and purposefully used then this personal haven can be a marriage-strengthener and even a marriage-saver.
If it is overused and abused though it could very quickly become a marriage-wrecker!
It is unhealthy for partners in a relationship to spend large amounts of time away from one and other. Therefore it is unhealthy for a guy to spend large amounts of time in his man cave neglecting other members of his family and his wife.
Below I have outlined how a man cave should not be used – ever!
Although I’ve outlined ways in which a man should not be used these reasons apply equally as well to a lady lair or she shed.
What a man cave should not be!
Below is a list of the common uses of a man cave that lead to marriage breakdowns. I have listed them as “do nots”.
A man cave should never be used as an escape from life or a place where you “hide” from your partner.
A man cave is not:
- A place to escape from family responsibilities
- A place to hide from your partner
- Somewhere to engage in self-destructive pursuits
- A male-only spot where you give more time and importance to your friends than your family
Unlike the articles that claim having a man cave hurts your relationship, which rely on pure personal opinion and wild speculation, there are scientifically backed experts who claim otherwise.
Build the man cave. Spend time in it. Have fun it. Recharge your batteries in it.
… make sure your wife also has a lady lair or she shed where she can do the same thing! And, make sure you both get an equal amount of downtime.
Used correctly time spent in your man cave can be productive and life-enhancing.
When overused and abused, to the detriment of your marriage and family, a man cave can be destructive.
Use it wisely!
Expert articles to support the above views
(2) The Risks & Benefits of Friendships Outside Marriage – https://www.marriage.com/blog/friendship-in-marriage/risks-benefits-of-friendships-outside-marriage/
(3) Psyalive – https://www.psychalive.org/being-alone/
(4) https://www.nbcnews.com/better/wellness/why-you-should-spend-more-time-alone-n750966 – cites Arnie Kozak, Ph.D, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor in psychiatry at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine.
(5) Why Alone Time Is The Key To A Successful Marriage – https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-secret-to-relationshi_n_4326246