There once was a time, not too long ago, when it was easy to give your partner space. You'd leave to go to work, you'd run errands and see friends, and only then — after spending 8+ hours apart — would you reunite at the end of the day. But now that everyone's working from home, and generally staying in, it's tougher than ever to create space in your relationship.
Of course, living together and being up in each other's business 24/7 definitely has its perks. You never feel lonely, you have someone to bounce ideas off of, and (perhaps most importantly) someone to wrap yourself around while watching Netflix. And yet, it's entirely possible to have too much of a good thing.
According to Amira Johnson, MSW, a relationship therapist and mental health expert at Berman Psychotherapy, it's important for couples to intentionally take a step back, on occasion, so that they're able to maintain their own identities — and keep their relationship balanced.
Giving each other space allows you to "find new ways to [...] keep the relationship fresh; learn new skills that can be shared with each other, like cooking or other active hobbies; and gain a greater understanding that relationships are ultimately about freedom, not control, while being able to love and respect one another at the same time," she tells Bustle.
Here, a few expert-approved ways to give each other space.
Be Open To Silence
When you're always within earshot of one another, it can be tempting to talk, talk, talk. But there's something to be said (no pun intended) for enjoying silence. And this is especially true if you sense your SO could use a little peace and quiet.
"Rather than consistently asking your partner questions or speaking when their body language shows that they’re not in a space to talk, rest and allow your partner to take this time out of their day to hold space for nothingness," Johnson says.
You don't even have to physically separate. You could crack open books and read silently side-by-side, zone out while watching a favorite show, or ignore each other — in loving way — while going about your day.
If you're used to talking, the silence might seem awkward at first, but rest assured it's beneficial for both of you.
Create "Reset" Spaces
Designate a specific area in your apartment — whether it's a certain chair or a separate room — as a reset zone. Johnson says this will be your go-to place for solitude and healthy separation, whenever needed.
Once you get used to having it, you won't even need to communicate that you're feeling frustrated, tense, or burnt out. If your partner plops down in the chair or retreats to the room, that'll be your cue to leave them alone. And vice versa.
Change Up Your Schedule
If you and your partner are typically together from sun up to sun down, make an effort to insert more solo activities into your schedules. You might go for a walk at noon, run errands by yourself, or ask a friend to meet you at an outdoor restaurant every Friday night. And your partner can do the same.
It can help to mark these solo activities on a calendar, too, so that you're able to physically see all the times when you'll be apart. If you're currently sick of being around each other (and if so, that's OK) knowing these blocks of time exist will come as a huge relief.
"Creating a schedule can help each individual feel as though they’re in a space where they’re creating a life with another person as a unit," Johnson says, "while still being grounded in their own individual human experience."
Talk About What You Need
When you love someone — and live with them — it can be tough to ask for space. Even if all you want to do is read a book alone for thirty minutes, you might worry about hurting your partner's feelings, Johnson says, or sending the wrong message.
The trouble is, if you and your partner are too afraid to speak up and be honest, frustrations will brew and eventually bubble over. That's why it's important to maintain open communication now, as you spend tons of time at home, and into the future.
"Take the time to let one another know where you are and how you’re feeling in the present moment," Johnson says. "Create an environment where each person understands that needing time alone is not personal [and has nothing] to do with the other’s existence — it’s simply about giving [yourselves] time to mentally and physically recharge."