When your man says he wants to turn the basement into a “man cave,” you might greet this news enthusiastically, thinking: Great, I can finally banish that LeBron James poster he insisted on hanging up in the kitchen! Conversely, you might have reservations. Is him asking for a space of his own a polite way of saying that he’s going a little crazy from all the time you spend together?
To find out how a man cave could affect your relationship, we spoke with a few couples whose basements and garages were made over into havens of masculinity, courtesy of the DIY Network show, Man Caves. We discovered that the men weren’t the only ones benefitting from having their own dedicated personal space…
Man cave benefit #1: Recharging from time spent alone
Andy Chen, 41, and Kathy Chen, 39, of Bridgewater, NJ, have been married 13 years and are a definite case of opposites attracting. “I’m a bit of an extreme extrovert, and Andy’s on the other side,” says Kathy. “He’s the first to leave the party, and I’m the last to leave.” Early in their marriage, they figured out that the relationship operated far more smoothly when Andy was able to spend a little time by himself each day. Doing so is now much easier thanks to Andy’s man cave in the couple’s former basement, which is filled with memorabilia representing one of Andy’s favorite places: the Jersey Shore.
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“Coming home in the past was kind of crazy with our two kids and two dogs pulling for my attention,” Andy says. “I don’t need a lot of time there, but I need the isolation and time to recharge by myself.” Though Andy visits his man cave daily after work, Kathy doesn’t feel that this has led to him disengaging from family life or any of its responsibilities. In fact, it’s had the opposite effect. “Because Andy has more time and space to himself, he actually helps out more. He never used to do the dishes, and he has now started to do them,” she explains.
Man cave benefit #2: Getting work done more efficiently
Spending some of their leisure time alone isn’t as important to newlyweds Ryan and Kiara Bolger, both 29, of Spring Lake Heights, NJ. However, after the DIY crew turned their garage into Ryan’s extreme sports-themed man cave, Kiara found that the new space increased their overall productivity. “I’m a teacher, and a lot of times I’ll come home and need to take over the kitchen area with school work. But our house is small, and it’s easy to get distracted: the TV is right there, Ryan and I start talking to each other, and things just take longer than they need to,” explains Kiara. “Now that we have the man cave, I can be in here getting some stuff done and Ryan can be out there working out on the rock-climbing wall. It allows us to be more efficient with our time.”
Man cave benefit #3: Spending quality time with the family
Antonio Manata, 36, and Isabel Manata, 33, of Clark, NJ, have been married eight years and wanted more room; specifically, they desired a place for family activities. Antonio’s soccer-themed man cave located in their basement certainly fit the bill. “Before, we would usually hang out in the kitchen and watch TV. Now that we have the man cave, we can spend more quality time playing with our son,” says Isabel. “We have a mini-soccer field, so we play soccer and also do everything from playing Wii to watching TV and movies,” adds Antonio. “My wife, my son and I can all be in the basement at the same time doing different things or doing them all together.”
Of course, not all men would think of their caves as the place to spend time with a significant other. That’s OK, too, according to Avi Roseman, author of Secrets of Shiksa Appeal: Eight Steps to Attract Your Shul-Mate. “When a couple starts dating, time apart was built in, and time apart is very healthy in small doses,” Roseman explains. “When you live together, you need to ensure that there is time apart so that he has the opportunity to miss you and long for you.” Additionally, a man spending too much time in his cave likely won’t be an issue in healthy relationships. “If he does not want to come out of his cave, you probably have some bigger issues,” says Roseman. “That’s the equivalent of saying, ‘We’re dating, but he never makes an effort to see me.’” Indeed, the women we spoke with said that adding man caves into their homes had affected their relationships positively — and in some cases, inspired them to also seek out a space of their own. Kathy Chen has taken over a spare bedroom for reading and scrapbooking. Isabel Manata would like to see women not only receive a cave of their own, but a corresponding TV program as well. “Maybe it could focus on converting closets or adding a nice tub to the bathroom for the woman cave,” she says. “I definitely think DIY should have some sort of equivalent show for women.”
Maggie Flynn is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. She has written for websites such as Salon, The Huffington Post, and many local print publications.