When you're in love, you love spending time with your partner. Particularly at the beginning, it can be easy to feel like your new relationship, and most importantly, your partner, take priority over all other things in your life. As a result, you likely fall out of your normal "alone time" routines — going to the gym, cooking for yourself, reaching out to friends, cleaning your house.
But at a certain point — and the question of when really varies, depending on the person — you will find you will want to recreate alone time for yourself. This can be hard, though — either because you love spending time with your partner so much that you deprioritize your desire to exercise or organize your personal life. Or because you fear that communicating your need for alone time to your partner will come across the wrong way and hurt his/her feelings. Though it's not like you're trying to avoid the person you love so much! The key here is communication.
Both my wife and I are introverted, so we need to spend quiet alone time to recharge ourselves. Though in the past, we didn't always communicate our needs so well. I didn't want to come across the wrong way, and I also wasn't secure enough in the relationship. I had (and continue have) a lot of fun with her, so I rationalized my choice not to communicate my need for alone time by reminding myself of how happy I was with her. But most of all, I didn't want to hurt her feelings.
Dating and being in (healthy) relationships are both practices that require work, and it's important to remember that. Whether you're beginning to date someone, working out the kinks in your long-term relationship, or eventually moving in together, both partners need to be aware of the importance of communication.
When people sublimate feelings they need to communicate, they will also likely come across as aloof, evasive, resentful, distracted. As a result, questions like, Does this person actually enjoy my company? or Is he acting kind of distant? can permeate your mind.
Sometimes we then verbalize these thoughts to our partners in moments of insecurity and because of it, the other person is much less likely to communicate the real reason they seem distant. And so the cycle continues ...
But, it doesn't have to! Here are three ways you can communicate your need for alone time AND improve your relationship:
1. Communicate why the relationship will improve if you create the space for alone time.
Here are two different ways of communicating your need for alone time, said in totally different ways:
- "I need my alone time. Gosh, we don't have to spend all of our time together. I need my space, you know.
- "Alone time is really important to me. I want to be the best husband I can be and it's really important that I spend this time alone so I can be that husband."
Imagine the reaction from the first statement instead of the second one. Which one is more likely to be positively received and open up the conversation?
The second response removes the sense of attack from the feeling and instead conveys how the relationship will be enhanced as a result of making alone time available for each partner.
2. Listen to — and meet — your partner's needs while expressing your own needs.
Life doesn't have to be made up of either/or situations. Finding alone time doesn't mean you need to shut out your partner and go on a silent retreat in the woods for two weeks.
Compromise on your expectations and make sure your partner's needs are also being met. Check in to make sure his/her needs are being met, before you spend time focusing on you.
When two people are absolutely clear about their intentions, there is less of a gray area, which minimizes misinterpretation ( one of the greatest pitfalls of dating and relationships!).
3. Express your desire to improve yourself rather than a need to "fix" the relationship.
There are always going to be little things that bug you when sharing a life with someone else. We all have our quirks and they way we like things done. So it's easy to blame your partner for things in the relationship that feel tense or difficult.
Too often, we express this underlying (possibly unconscious) blame by thinking we need to "fix" the relationship in some way. We direct our attention at diagnosing problems in the relationship as a whole and end up getting frustrated. We think, I give up. She doesn't get me. I don't know what to do.
Well, start by taking a step back and asking yourself how you can improve your relationship with yourself, before feeling a strong need to "fix" the relationship.
Ask yourself, Am I communicating effectively so my partner can understand me and my needs? Having an open, honest dialogue with your partner about well, everything, will naturally give the relationship space so that each of you can take care of your individual needs and communicate effectively.
When you take care of yourself, you can clearly address the root cause of problems in a relationship, rather than interpreting them through your own sensitivities or biases.
Plus, by spending quality time alone, it will make the time you are together that much more special.
To find out how you can start building better relationships, download Shawn's free e-book here.