If you're anything like me, you might find that getting alone time and a little bit of space is really important to you— and that's totally OK. Alone time is really important and some of us need more of it than others. But when you're in a relationship, it can become a tricky thing to navigate, especially as so much emphasis is put on coupledom in our society.
"I think that alone time is undervalued in our society," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. "With the advent of social media, everyone is all about posting pictures of parties, gatherings, group dinners, and vacations and that's what we come to value. No one is posting a picture of themselves taking a yoga class alone or reading a book! But individuals and relationships thrive on having a nice balance of together time and alone time." That balance is key. Of course it's important to bond with your partner, to spend plenty of time together. But you are entitled to your space, too. It's just that asking for it can be difficult, especially if your partner doesn't seem to need as much space as you do.
Because talking about needing space in general is easy, but once it comes down to telling your partner that you need more space, things suddenly feel far more controversial. You're no longer talking just about your need for space, like it exists in a vacuum. Now you're talking about your need for space from your partner. Even if that's not what's really happening, even if you've always needed alone time, they might take it personally. So you need to tread carefully. Even though you have every right to your own space, you need to take your partner's feelings into consideration. It's a tough balance to get right, so going into the conversation with empathy is key. Try to think about how they'll feel, while not compromising on your own needs.
If you're not sure about how to ask, here's what you should keep in mind when you're having the conversation.
Dropping hints probably won't work— and could seem really passive aggressive. "The best thing you can do if your partner has a problem with your need for time on your own is to sit down and make your needs known," Hartstein says. Using words like "space" and "alone time" might seem harsh, but you can get a chance to really explain where you're coming from. Make sure to talk about how much you value them, too, so they don't think that needing space is about getting away from them.
Don't Feel Guilty
Even if they respond badly, it's important that you hold your ground. You can be empathetic while still being firm. "Don't feel guilty and don't apologize," Hartstein says. "Explain that you love your partner and just because you need to do things on your own shouldn't take anything away from them or your relationship."
Give Them Something Back
It can help to soften the blow by going out of your way to show how much you do value time with them, even if you need alone time too. "It helps to give a little when you are getting something," Hartstein tells Bustle. "If you are spending the day on your own, go out of your way to plan a nice evening with your partner. Let them know that having time to yourself makes you value them and your relationship that much more." If you needing alone time brings out an insecure side of them, try to be mindful of that. They may just need a little reassurance, either through your words or by arranging some quality time together.
And it may be that you want to show them the benefits of alone time, too. "In my clinical opinion, it is important for a partner to encourage the other to take space for activity, socialization, and activities that lead to meaning and purpose," Dr. Kim Chronister tells Bustle. Don't push the issue if it's something your partner is sensitive about, but you may find that gently encouraging them to have some alone time is good for them, as well. They're likely to struggle at first, if it's not something they're used to, but it can be hugely beneficial.
Getting some space in a relationship and having some time alone is not only reasonable— it can be integral to your happiness. So if you know that you need it, don't back down. Show your partner you care, be empathetic, but make sure you're getting what you need.