Tips For Addressing Your Need For Alone Time With Your Partner

Wanting alone time isn't simply a matter of introversion versus extroversion — though extroverts may be fine to spend time with others 24/7, solo time is still a generative force that they should feel free to take advantage of. Introverts can explain the power of resting and recharging, but extroverts who haven't prioritized it may not realize the benefits until they're enjoying them firsthand. 

Caring for your partner's needs means communicating, but what should we do if we aren't sure of our own needs? Part of a healthy relationship is experimentation for the sake of mutual growth. Have you and your partner been fighting over small things with increasing frequency or expecting more than the other person can give? Turning away from your relationship to find answers may be scary, but it's not necessarily a deal-breaker, and bringing new self-knowledge to the table can only help you articulate what might work better for you in the future.

Starting difficult conversations with your partner may never be high on your to-do list, but asking for however much alone time you need doesn't have to be a stressful endeavor. There are plenty of strategies to approach your me-time craving that will leave both parties feeling secure and loved. Plus, the relationship will benefit from you both getting what you need in the long term.

Nurture your separate interests

We know that shared value systems ultimately matter more than having the same interests as our partners, and the latter certainly doesn't make for a perfect match. And though we love our partners, we may welcome an excuse not to do everything together. Research by Healthy Framework has shown that common interests motivated 61% of users to connect on dating apps since shared passions can be a necessary catalyst for starting a conversation online. However, relationship expert Carmelia Ray told Refinery29, "When you first start dating someone, it can be exciting to discover that you have a lot in common. However, as time passes, you may find that having too much in common can be just as challenging as having nothing."

Why would shared interests make your relationship more difficult to maintain rather than easier? Psychotherapist Charisse Cooke told the outlet that we expect our similarities to guarantee less conflict in the long-run, but that this assumption is actually misguided and can lead to a dead-end. "When dating someone with the same interests, there's less room for growth," the relationship expert shared. "You may find that you stop trying new things." She added, "It's essential to continue exploring new things together so your relationship can grow and change over time." 

Dr. Sarah Mandel suggests encouraging our partners to try new things on their own: "Supporting your partner's separate interests not only helps them to feel loved and appreciated but can benefit you to get the solitary time to do your own thing and join together at a later time." 

Stick to your other commitments

How many times have you or your partner flaked on friends in favor of a cozy night of Netflix and chill? There's nothing inherently wrong with deciding to spend intimate time together over a potentially superficial hang, but forgetting that we need social connections outside of our romantic relationships can become a major blindspot, no matter what our lives look like.

As Marriage and Family Therapist Shadeen Francis told Well + Good, "People assume 'me time' is time spent by themselves, but it's time spent prioritizing your needs and not focusing on the needs of your relationship." She suggested, "Maybe that's spending time with other people, as a means to serve your social needs."

The HuffPost's referenced psychologist Lee Land also shared that once you've incorporated separate social time, it may show both parties how valuable the practice can be. "Hopefully your partner sees that it can be extremely helpful for people in close, intimate relationships to continue to foster and develop healthy connections with other people and to explore other areas in their lives. For many partners, being able to comfortably spend time apart can potentially lead to reunions that deepen and enrich relationships." But how do we bring a conversation to the table that might potentially hurt our partner's feelings? 

Come to your partner with specific needs

Make sure that when you suggest more alone time in your relationship that you are upfront and have solid ideas of what that space will look like. Experts warn against vague expressions of "space," since it might send your partner spiraling about what's gone wrong between you. And, as dating coach and blogger Katy Red told Bustle, "A conversation about feeling that you'd like a bit of time to yourself to see friends, maintain interests or to find space for personal growth is going to hurt a lot less than a text telling them you'll see them in two weeks without an explanation." 

It may be much easier for your partner to conceptualize what you want from a day apart if you're able to share what that time will mean for you. For example, just seeing an old friend or doing yoga at home could bring you much-needed joy outside of what you gain from your relationship. Hopefully, your partner supports you finding happiness in sources beyond your connection and feels encouraged to do the same once you've had this conversation.

Dating coach Samantha Burns also told Bustle about another excellent strategy for softening your request. "When you ask for space, make sure to follow it up with a comment about looking forward to spending future time together." This way, you'll have a plan to reconnect, as well as enough time to reenergize before a sweet date you can both get excited about. 

Your partner is not the answer to your internal struggles

When NPR asked world-famous relationship expert and psychoanalyst Esther Perel about being happy in her marriage, she responded with a reflection on the inherent assumption the question makes — "This idea that my marriage is supposed to give me something, that I'm supposed to get something from my partner and that my partner owes me that because somehow it was implicit in our agreement." Her examples included: "I'll never feel alone again. I'll never worry about abandonment. I'll never feel disconnected. I'll never feel unnoticed." 

Relying on our partners to give us a sense of satisfaction with our lives, as well as daily happiness, is avoiding our own responsibility to ourselves. Dr. Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., told Well + Good readers, "Speak to your own inner landscape, so the other person doesn't feel criticized or like they've done something wrong." She added that this might come in the form of saying things like, "I love you, and I'm noticing I need some space to recharge alone," or describing a solo activity would put you in a better headspace. She also told the outlet, "Taking ownership of your feelings and your needs is a key piece." 

When you are able to find what makes you feel fulfilled beyond your partnership, the relationship is relieved of the immense pressure to complete your life. It can then return to being a source of joy, solace, and growth that we experience as a welcome addition to our individual journey.

Plan intentional time together

Either before or after you take space with your partner — and we're saying "with" rather than "from" because this shouldn't feel one-sided — it can be nourishing to spend some real quality time together. This doesn't mean sitting side-by-side playing video games on the couch at home. It means trying something new together, or finally planning that fancy date night you've been putting off.

Ultimately, we want to undo the belief that we're only in love if we want to spend every moment of free time we have with our person. Couples' therapist Jason Polk told PsychCentral, "Be intentional about seeing each other. If you two put your best foot forward during this time, it can create a sense of reconnection and rediscovery — like when you first started dating."

Esther Perel also wrote in her 2006 book "Mating in Captivity" that when you do spend time together after integrating alone time, "You'll bring more to the relationship itself," (via Very Well Mind). She clarified, "Stepping away regularly prevents your time together from growing stale. Instead, it allows for curiosity, more interesting conversations, and growth. In effect, taking time apart will enliven the relationship dynamic."

Emphasize the importance of long-term balance

Balancing your time between your partner and other areas of your life — including self-care — is a non-negotiable for a healthy relationship dynamic, and there's a helpful ratio that might help you stay on track. Counselor Garett Coan suggests a 70/30 split between time spent in partnership versus time alone, which you can dedicate to your own life and passions.

If 30% of your time is spent on independent ventures, that still leaves plenty of room for your boo. And though every relationship is different and partners will have varying needs, it's important to not swing too far one way or another if we truly want to strike a long-term balance. As dating coach Katy Red told Bustle, "If your 'space' time becomes more frequent than your relationship time (unless it's always been this way) it is likely to create problems within that relationship longterm."

Psychoanalyst Esther Perel is a major champion of the theory that separateness is the ultimate key to sustainable togetherness. As she wrote in "Mating in Captivity," "When intimacy collapses into fusion, it is not a lack of closeness but too much closeness that impedes desire."

However, Perel shares in her TedTalk that at the beginning of relationships, it may feel less important to maintain our space as individuals. "You don't need to cultivate separateness in the early stages of falling in love; you still are separate," she said. "You aim to overcome that separateness." As our lives merge together, though, it's wise to make sure we aren't losing our individual identities.

Turn to others around you

Relationship and sex expert Esther Perel has also noted the role our personal and cultural histories have played in forming our unrealistic relationship expectations. She told NPR, "We come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide. Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and all in one."

Perel also asked Well + Good a pertinent question; "Why is it that the marriage has to be the most important, and everything around it an accessory?" In dismissing the other meaningful relationships in our lives as less valuable than our primary romantic relationship, she shares, we are essentially saying, "'With you, my beloved, I'm going to find a partner, a lover, a co-parent, an intellectual, an equal, and someone who is going to help me fulfill my dreams.'"

There are, in reality, many ways to fulfill our personal dreams and feel supported and loved — they often include friends, family, and a greater connection to community. If you are an introvert, of course, a good amount of your time away from a partner may be best used recharging your social batteries. Relationship therapist Stephanie Buehler told The Huffington Post, "An introvert will really start to wilt if they don't get time to themselves to daydream, read or do whatever quiet activity they like." Still, connections between introverts and their loved ones remain life-giving, and they won't regret saving some social energy for those outside their immediate partnership.

Lead these conversations with love

As psychologist Lee Land told HuffPost, "For some folks, experiencing their partner emotionally or physically distance themselves can feel like a painful rejection or abandonment." Because of the potential misinterpretation of our requests for space, it's imperative that we speak to our partners in a loving and productive way. 

Land explained, "The key to success with these types of requests is the ability to see it from their perspective, not just your own. You're only ever privy to your experiences, thoughts and feelings, so when your mate tells you that they need a break or time away, you have to trust that they know themselves and their limits." By meeting our partners where they are, we may realize they haven't been thinking about space as something missing in the relationship. Because you're introducing the idea, care and positive intention will set you up for a successful shift rather than an anxiety-inducing or sudden change.

Marriage and family therapist Talia Wagner also supports the idea that the content of the conversation is equally important as its tone. "If you ask nicely and kindly and stress that it's something you both need and would benefit from, it goes a long way." She clarified, "When you deliver this news in an accusatory or frustrating tone, the message is rarely received."

Ultimately, if we meet our partners with kindness when we share our needs, suggestions, and hopes for the relationship going forward, we have the best chance of a well-balanced and loving future together (and apart).