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article imageThe Couple Who Spent 24 Hours Never More Than 15 Feet Apart

By David Silverberg     Jun 7, 2008 in Lifestyle
Imagine being 15 feet from your partner for 24 hours. You both go the bathroom together, you listen to every phone conversation. It was a journalistic experiment that taught David Plotz and Hanna Rosin how relationships change when you're never far apart.
Digital Journal -- On a recent Wednesday, David Plotz went to the bathroom with his wife. No, it wasn't a kinky excursion. Plotz was in the middle of a full-day experiment to be no farther than 15 feet apart from his wife, Hanna Rosin. Married for 11 years and parents of two children, Plotz and Hanna emabarked on this idea for journalistic reasons - Plotz wrote about the social experiment for Slate, where he works as deputy editor.
The Washington couple was inspired by a New York Times story about a Buddhist couple who lived in a secluded Arizona region. Michael Roach and Christie McNally vowed to never be apart from each other, both in body and soul. They took the former literally: for the past 10 years, they have always been within 15 feet of each other.
In a vastly scaled-down version, Plotz wanted to see how he would cope with being incredibly close to his wife for a full day. He knew his family would have a harder time at it, compared to the Buddhist couple who didn't have full-time jobs and kids.
He said he was optimistic about the results. "I enjoy being around my wife," Plotz told in a phone interview. "It wasn't like I had to be around a random stranger whom I didn't like."
David Plotz and wife Hanna dine out
Slate editor David Plotz wanted to see if he could be within 15 feet of his wife for an entire day
So what was Plotz's reaction to being 15 feet apart from Rosin for a full day?
"This was a shocking window into how mundane our life really is," he answered. He also realized something interesting about relationship routine. As he wrote on Slate:
We don't have any stories to tell each other about our day because we lived the same day. We don't have questions for each other because we know the answers. We can't lie and exaggerate and twist the day's happenings to gain sympathy—the usual evening activity for most married couples, I suspect—because the other will call foul
When Plotz was answering emails or picking up the kids, his wife was with him. He couldn't engage in the familiar recounting tradition most relationships rely on in evenings.
In the article, Rosin, who works for the Atlantic Monthly, called the what-did-you-do-today ritual "marriage's last vestiges of the awkward first date." Her husband disagrees. "It's a way of ordering the world, of engaging in a valuable piece of storytelling," he said. "It almost acts as a diary you tell to your spouse."
There were frustrating moments, as you'd expect from any couple that unexpectedly had to be joined at the hip. Plotz said he noticed how often his wife "wasted time primping herself to get ready, whether it was applying face creams or choosing the best outfit." He had to watch her try on clothes instead of his normal morning routine -- eating breakfast and feeding the kids.
"Spending this kind of time with Hanna forced me to get into her brain," Plotz waxed thoughtfully. "She could be talking on the phone and I might find the conversation tedious but I'll pay attention to see how she learns things, how she lives."
Rosin noticed other odd moments, such as when she followed her husband into his office at Slate. She wrote: "I am an annoying appendage, like those wives who come in to show off new infants while everyone's trying to work."
Rosin concluded that she was starting to get used to being so close to her husband: "The next morning, I have to admit, I feel slightly disappointed when I wake up and David has already snuck away."
Plotz wondered whether this proximity experiment could help other couples find out interesting tidbits about each other. "Happy or conflicted couples, it doesn't matter," he said. "It can have a positive effect and leave you with some ideas to take away long after it's over."
As to whether he would like to do this again, perhaps for a period similar to what the Buddhist couple experienced, Plotz practically scoffed at the notion.
"The logistics make it hideously impossible to be so close for years and years," he said. "Although it gave me a different perspective on relationship, it would get irritating after awhile."
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