Many of us need a healthy amount of alone time in order to reset, de-stress, and feel good. But when you're in a relationship — especially if you live with your partner — it can feel like it's more difficult to create those moments of "me time." That's why it's important to keep an eye on each other, and take notice whenever it seems like your
partner needs more space in your relationship.
In a perfect world, you'd both speak up and be honest about it. And that's definitely a goal you should both work towards. But it
can be tricky. "Many people feel hurt when their partner asks for alone time because they see it as a personal insult or a sign of disrespect for the relationship," certified counselor Jonathan Bennett tells Bustle. "However, alone time is a basic human need."
And, it's also necessary for a healthy relationship. "Research by the '
Early Years of Marriage Project' at the University of Michigan found that lack of alone time and space was a major cause of marital unhappiness," Bennett says. "So, giving a person 'space' when needed is vital for happiness in any romantic relationship." Here, a few signs experts say your partner may need to chill by themselves for a while — even if they've yet to say so out loud.
They're Nowhere To Be Found
If your partner has been skulking off to other rooms, it could be their way of saying that they need some alone time. "While this varies widely depending on the individual, some signs your partner may need to take some space for themselves might include ... turning towards their screens more or spending more time in the den or garage — any place where they can naturally get a little more space from you without asking for it directly,"
family therapist Annie Wright, MFT tells Bustle.
You may be tempted to poke your head into the room and see what's up — and you certainly can — but take this as a signal your partner just needs time to themselves, and that doesn't mean they don't care.
They Seem Closed Off Emotionally
It'll be obvious when your partner removes themselves physically from a room, but be on the look out for them checking out mentally, too. As Wright says, you might notice "your partner shutting down and being less present in the relationship." And if you notice that they are
being emotionally distant, this may be a sign of someone who needs some time alone.
You've Been Arguing More Often
Unfortunately, one side effect of needing alone time, and not getting it, can be an increase in arguments. "Unexplained irritation ... is the biggest sign that your partner needs space,"
relationship expert Dr. Ryan Hooper tells Bustle. "Maybe they give you a half-hearted reason for their emotional state, but many times this shows that your partner needs some time to themselves to work some things out. Even if the issue has nothing to do with you, respecting their need for alone time can help maintain your relationship for the long run."
They Have Closed Off Body Language
Bennett suggests keeping an eye out for
closed off body language, which your partner may use (consciously or unconsciously) as a subtle way of getting their message across. They might pull away if you move close, or a reject a hug. And if it only happens occasionally, it's totally OK. We've all had that moment where we just want to be alone.
They Seem A Bit Frustrated
Have you ever gotten super cranky when you
just want some peace, but no one will give it to you? Look for similar signs of frustration and crankiness in your partner, and, again, try to be understanding. As therapist Carrie Krawiec, LMFT tells Bustle, some big hints to pick up on include irritability and one words answers.
They Keep Canceling Plans
Canceling plans — especially with a super lame excuse — is a pretty big sign, too. "If you try to make plans with them and they say, 'You'll have more fun without me' or 'That's not really my thing,' it could be because they need a little breathing room," says
licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Racine Henry. It may not be the most mature way of handling things (again, saying "I need a little time to myself" would be much better), but it does get the point across.
They Want To Go Out Without You
author and life coach Jaya Jaya Myra tells Bustle, some people go about fulfilling their need for space in an indirect way, such as making plans and not inviting their partner along. If this happens to you, don't fret. Your partner is very likely to invite you out again, once they've fulfilled their need for a bit of independence.
They Aren't Texting As Frequently
If your partner needs to pump the brakes and focus on something else — even if it's just for an hour or two — you might notice a drop off in the number of texts you receive. As Krawiec says, they might "avoid responding in a timely fashion to texts or voice mails" as a way of protecting their alone time. And that's OK. If your partner is still making an effort to text you, but just less frequently, ask them if they'd like a little more alone time. Chances are their need for space has nothing to do with you.
They're Staying Later At Work
Sometimes, the only moment in the day when you can snag a little "me time" is right after work, either once the office empties out, or on your commute home. That's why, as Krawiec says, you might notice that your partner "disappears for periods [of time], either not coming straight home," or maybe making a few plans with friends without you. Once again, try not to take this too personally. As long as your partner still makes an effort to see you at all, this may be a sign they're trying to create a balance in their lives.
They Suddenly Want To Run Errands
If your significant other uncharacteristically wants to run an errand at 9 p.m., it could be a sneaky way of getting some time alone, without hurting your feelings. "A partner is apt to mask their need for space as something else, especially if they fear losing you," says Myra. Since it can be tough to say "I need some space" to someone you love, it makes sense why they may go about it this in a less direct way.
They're Giving You The Silent Treatment
As far as immature responses go, the silent treatment really does top the list. But things like this happen when people have reached a breaking point; it simply becomes the only thing they can think to do.
So if your partner's needs have gone unmet for a while, don't be surprised if they shut down. "The problem is people don’t usually take or ask for space (or demand) until they are at a fever pitch," says Krawiec. "This can cause the person who needs space to panic if they feel closed in at every turn."
The remedy, of course, is to always honor requests for alone time in your relationship — even if they aren't always verbal — while still working towards better ways of communicating about the situation. As Wright says,
"Hopefully, by starting a dialogue in your relationship about how it's OK to need and to take space, you will both feel more permission to do so." So try opening up the conversation — you both may be better for it.