Posted By: Kelly Seal Date: 01-18-2021 Comments: 0
Are you feeling stifled by a partner who insists on spending as much time together as possible? Or are you suffering feelings of neglect as your partner continues to make plans without you?
Negotiating alone time is crucial to any relationship, but there are ways to do it where both partners can benefit, rather than one of you feeling like you got the short end of the stick. Setting healthy boundaries in a relationship is challenging, and the pandemic has only amplified the need for couples to practice this.
Instead of trying to suppress your needs, it’s time to have an honest conversation with your partner about expectations and needs. This is not about confrontation, it’s about being open enough to listen to each other, to understand what you are both feeling, and to explore options that work for both of you.
First, it’s good to acknowledge that we are all different. We have unique personalities – for example, some of us tend to be extroverted while others are introverts, which can affect our needs, especially when negotiating how to spend our time. If you are introverted, likely you crave more time alone to recharge and be a better partner, whereas an extrovert might crave more attention, togetherness, and affection. It’s good to understand and accept who we are and what we want, instead of trying to change for someone else’s benefit. It’s also important to understand your partner’s needs and what works for them.
We’ve put together some advice for those who crave more alone time as well as those who are feeling neglected so there is room to negotiate. Check it out and see what feels right for you.
Lead with your love for your partner.
It’s easy to feel defensive when you are having difficult conversations with your partner, because there’s a lot of room for misunderstanding. This is why it’s important to start off with what you know to be true: you love spending time with your partner. When you make that clear from the start, it distinguishes your needs from how your partner views the relationship itself. It releases the automatic defensiveness that arises. When your intention and feelings are established, it’s time to ask for what you want.
Outline your needs clearly, with how much alone time you seek.
This is the time to get clear about exactly what you want so that you can negotiate with your partner. Do you need a few hours each day to take walks or meet with friends without your partner? Do you only need a couple of nights per week? Get clear on what you are asking, because otherwise it can sound like you need space in the relationship, which might not be true.
Plan your next date together and make it a priority.
To start with negotiations, consider reminding your partner that alone time benefits both of you. He could reconnect with friends or take up a new hobby during that time, which only enriches your relationship. Another important part of the process is making plans for when you are together. After you have scheduled alone time, you can both have a fun date night to look forward to. This gives your partner more reassurance in the relationship, too.
Be mindful of each other’s needs when starting a discussion.
You don’t want to put your partner on the defensive, or list all of the alone time they already take if you feel they are neglecting you. Start with a clean slate and enter the conversation with an open mind. It’s easier to come to a workable solution for both of you when you can see things from your partner’s perspective and be willing to talk it through. Again, people are different and have different needs, and time in a relationship can be negotiated.
Think of what needs to change about how you spend your time alone and together.
If you are feeling neglected or defensive about the lack of time you spend with your partner, consider things differently. Exactly how much time do you spend apart, and together? And ask yourself a deeper question – how are you spending that time together? Is there something you could be doing to feel closer and more connected? Often, it’s not a matter of how much time you spend together but of your connection. If you distance yourself from your partner, they won’t feel comfortable being open with you. Consider using your alone time to nurture yourself, especially if your time is usually occupied with work or kids or daily life. Think about what brings some joy and allow more time for that. It will help your time together with your partner to be more joyful, too.
Make a plan for a recurring date night and switch it up.
If you are granting your partner more alone time, it’s good to even things out by scheduling a date night/ day together (and make it for an ongoing, specified time that you put in the calendar). Explore different activities to try or pick a destination and plan a day or weekend trip. Most importantly, try to get out of your routine so you both can enrich your relationship.
Kelly Seal is a freelance writer, dating expert, and author of the book “Date Expectations: A Guide to Changing Your Dating Life and Finding Real Love.” She got her start in the dating industry by hosting speed dating events around southern California and offering advice and encouragement to attendees. She now lives in L.A. and spends her free time hiking in the Santa Monica mountains and blogging at www.kellyseal.com.