COVID-19 and the subsequent stay-at-home lifestyle has placed the majority of us at home more often than usual or even generally preferred. This new reality has had some intriguing consequences and left some partnerships and marriages struggling to maintain a reasonable and healthy amount of alone time. Although a lack of alone time may begin as a tiny disruption, it can morph into a bigger problem, eroding intimacy, creating resentments, and harming positive sentiment in the relationship.
How to Get Away From Each Other
Have other outlets.
Come up with a list of 5 things that you enjoy participating in by yourself. This list can include hobbies, meditation, reading, exercising, or cooking, as examples. Search out, and allot time to do one of these things each day or at different periods throughout the week. You may notice some resistance in yourself or from your partner as you initially embrace this “alone time”. Suspend judgement, stay open to you and your partner’s feelings, and keep a greater perspective in mind.
Just do it.
This is one of those things that may be easier said than done. However, you may just need to push through and do it anyway. If all you have time for is 5 or 10 minutes a day, that’s just fine; do that. Alone time can be paramount for relationship satisfaction and life-affirming individuation. If you neglect this time and your own emotional needs, you may be perpetuating an environment that is ripe for contempt, hurt feelings, and displaced dissatisfaction.
Chefs take time to sharpen their knives, athletes take time to physically recover, and partners need alone time to replenish themselves, so they can bring more to the relationship. Some alone time in a relationship is not “unhealthy” or a sign of problematic behavior; it’s actually a prediction of healthy interdependence, indicating trust and relationship maturity. “Reframe” alone time as a mutual benefit and not a threat to the health of your relationship, and make it part of your coupling routine.
Close the door.
In this highly unique time, sometimes the only way to get alone time is simply to shut the door. Sometimes you may need to advocate for alone time by claiming it. This may include: setting boundaries, communication, or postponing gratification for others. The ultimate aim is for alone time to be mutually accepted and advocated for by both partners, but there may be some insistence, which requires a bit firmer of a voice.
How to Talk About Alone Time
Lean into it.
Face it head on and honestly but not aggressively. It may, indeed, be a difficult conversation to have, and it may bring up feelings of anxiety or fear for one or both partners. Stay with these intense feelings, breathe, and continue to listen and share. This can be an emotional topic that may bring up other material in process; continue to lean into these conversations.
Alone time is healthy.
Explain clearly why you’re asking for it, how you see it benefiting the relationship, and take some time to listen to your partner’s response and emotions that arise during the conversation.
Check your codependency.
Relationships, by definition, contain relationship dynamics. These can be thought of as the various roles, power distributions, and behavior patterns that get repeated over time. Co-dependent relationship patterns specifically can contribute to relationship enmeshment; creating tension when trying to achieve healthy interdependence and subsequent alone time. Be mindful of your own relationship dynamics, experiences of safety, and your role in the relationship. This may be an opportunity to do some relationship work before engaging in alone time.
Make the reengagement “worth it”.
Upon coming back together, spend some time genuinely connecting and appreciating one another. This can be done with little gestures and an acknowledgement of the space that was given. Moreover, spend some time sharing emotion, being physically close or sharing your appreciation of your partner.
If you’re struggling to get alone time or are feeling uncomfortable talking with your partner about needing space, couples counseling can help. Contact Louis Laves-Webb & Associates to learn more our couples therapy, available online or in-person.