Do you or your partner need “alone time?” What does it mean to you when your partner asks for it? Does it mean something negative about the relationship?
In the best of times in your relationship, one of you taking time to be alone doesn’t feel like a big deal. You separate and think fondly of each other, and then reunite and feel close again. But if you’re arguing and feeling less connected, the need for alone time starts to feel like a bad sign. It starts to feel like alone time is really about taking time away from your partner rather taking time to decompress and relax.
We like to think there’s an optimal standard of how things are done in healthy relationships. Sometimes people ask me what’s normal. How much time should be spent separately and how much together? There isn’t a right answer. We each need a different amount of alone time to refuel and relax. This is kind of like how we each have a very slightly different normal body temperature. Some of us are a bit above 98.6, and some of us are a bit below. In this case, the difference can be labeled being an introvert or an extrovert.
If you’re an introvert, spending a lot of time with people tires you. Too little time alone, and you start to feel irritable, distracted, and less open to the people you’re with. If you’re an extrovert, you tend to get energy by spending a lot of time with people. Too much alone time, and you feel bored, lonely, and unmotivated. We all fit somewhere on this continuum between introvert and extrovert. We each have a balance that feels right between time alone and time with people. At the beginning of a relationship, even a hard-core introvert may want very little time alone. Being close to that new love feels so irresistible that a need for alone time temporarily goes to the back burner. But at some point, often after three to six months, that need for alone time wriggles its way back in, regardless of how happy the relationship is. When you’ve got an introvert and an extrovert together, you’ve got to understand those different needs.
If alone time has become the source of hurt feelings or arguments, you’ve got to learn, with an open mind, what it is that alone time does for each of you. Talk about what you think your optimal balance is, and make sure you’re not talking as if your balance is right, or that your partner’s optimal balance is wrong. When you’re both open to the idea that it’s perfectly normal to have different needs about this, you’ll both be in a good state of mind to find solutions and compromise.
For more information about how I might help, visit my practice website at www.annieschuessler.com