Solitude & Partnership

{Taken from my workspace in New York City, on my iPhone}

The week before Yay New York, I was in New York City on my own. I decided to take advantage of the fact that I can work from anywhere and went a few days early. David couldn’t get time off work, so I was on my own in a city that I’m used to being on my own in.

It was wonderful. I saw friends on my own schedule; I journaled by the lake in Prospect Park; I walked from Canal to 14th on a lovely summer night because I wanted to check up on everything. When you’ve lived a huge chunk of your life in New York City, it feels like a part of you. When you leave, it can feel like you amputated a limb. So I walked the streets, at each block remembering something different from a different period in my life. “Remember when you interviewed as a nanny there when you were in college?” “Remember shopping for office supplies there when you ran an office?” “Remember staying out late drinking there in your mid-20s?” And frankly, it was nice to do the remembering alone, at my own pace. It was nice to be away from my husband for a few days (even if I missed him after seeing a play with no one to discuss it with).

During my trip, I had a long chat with Kimi of Printable Press about the nature of solitude and family. Kimi, who had a baby earlier this year, told me that partnership had been a harder adjustment than motherhood when it came to giving up solitude. And I got to thinking about how difficult I’ve personally found that trade off to be.

David and I moved in together pretty late. We moved in together when we moved across country, and only because David told me, “It is beyond stupid and expensive to move to San Francisco and then get separate apartments near each other.” Because the truth is, I would have kept separate apartments til the last possible second. I viewed moving in together more as giving up my own place than building a home together (though in the end, it was both).

I’m someone who needs a significant amount of alone time to feel truly balanced. It’s odd because I’m a super extrovert, but I think that all that time being a chatterbox needs to be balanced by just sitting still by myself. And frankly, I have a hard time getting enough of that time as part of a partnership. It’s no one’s fault but my own… or maybe it’s the fault of us not having a big enough apartment for me to ramble off to another room. But I don’t sit alone and write as much as I’d like (professional writing does not count as solitude most of the time), or take quite enough adventures alone. For me, when there is someone else that I love who wants to come, it’s so much easier to take them along than to not.

So for me, the time alone in New York was important. I could think; I could write; I could wake up and go to bed when I chose. I didn’t owe anyone anything. It restored me and balanced me, and it made me realize that I need to reach for more alone time, even when it’s more convenient to settle into family time.

So Team Practical, what is your wise advice? How do you work to strike a balance between solitude and partnership (particularly in a world that does not usually value sitting in a room by yourself and being quiet). Let’s discuss.

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  • We realized, about 2 years into our marriage, that it was better for us to take some time alone, even in our own home, whenever we felt like it. It has been hard for me to have alone time since our twins were born (they just turned 3) but I have managed. The shared moments are more appreciated when we know they have been chosen, rather than imposed.

  • This is SO important in our relationship. We have tried to each have a time that we are away from the house when the other is home, so that we can each feel like our house – yes, the building and rooms themselves – are ours individually, at least for a couple of hours a week. I work in the evenings or on the weekends sometimes, and wife has dance class other evenings when I’m home. It gives us each the space to clean in our own way (very different styles make it hard to clean together sometimes) or just take up the space in our own way.

    A couple of months ago, we moved to a bigger house where we each have our own study. I think even just acknowledging that we want some alone time is important and effective, and has made our relationship better.

    Thanks for bringing this up! Looking forward to hearing what others are doing, too.

    • Cass

      Having separate study/work spaces is also very important to my husband and myself. He likes to watch movies and work, and I need total silence in order to concentrate on the task at hand.
      We may pay a little extra for rent, but it sure beats fighting about work space!

  • Meg

    I love alone time and like Meg, I find myself rejuvenated afterwards.

    It is however hard to achieve it when living in a 1-bed apartment with my husband! So, most Saturdays I take my book to my favourite coffee shop and I sit there for an hour or so and read. We also have individual activities that we each do during the week. (He plays football, I run with a club).

    As far as I’m concerned it’s non-negotiable!

  • Carbon Girl

    As a graduate student in ecology, I have been apart from my partner every summer since we moved in together for 6 weeks to 3.5 months while I was off doing my field research. To an extent, I have enjoyed this time alone. I loved navigating new places alone as nothing else makes me feel more independent. At the same time, I was starting to get awfully wary of always having to leave each summer and each time I left, I would miss my husband more. Meg hit it on the end when she mentioned how its when you want to have a discussion with your partner and they are not there is when you really miss them.

    Anyways, my field work is done and I am now apprehensive about being home all year with him–what if I get bored? What if I crave my alone time? What if he does? I am thinking about planning a two week writing retreat that includes only my dog and I next summer to give myself some independent space but am worried my husband may be insulted. I think two weeks would be the perfect amount of time.

    Oh and one of the best parts about leaving? Definitely the reunion sex!

    • Just wanted to say: YAY, REUNION SEX!

      I’m also one of the fortunate ones who likes to be alone and has a partner who is gone for significant amounts of time each year. Hubs just flew off to Vegas for three months, as a matter of fact. Everyone keeps asking me how I’m doing now that he’s gone and I say, “Oh, I love this time. I miss him terribly some days but mostly I get to do whatever I want, whenever I want.” And it always bewilders other ladies. I skype him every evening after dinner and I get to visit for about a week for our first year anniversary and that sustains me quite enough. We’re used to long distance, though. One thing I love about him being gone is that I get to spend all my time obsessing about what to eat. Normally he picks our food supplies according to his Paleo diet (which is NO fun) so when he’s away, I get to actually love my meals. I make gumbo and pastas and soups and I just relish eating.

      In our everyday routines, it’s a bit more difficult. Not for me, but for him. I’m a full-time grad student and I work part-time at our library so I actually have a good amount of alone time at home. I like to take the dogs out in the yard and just lay with them in the shade, watching our ONE tree rustle in the breeze. Hubs is military, though, and works with a handful of people all day in a noisy, stressful environment and then comes home to me almost every night of the week. He says that the long commute home, taking trips to the grocery store to pick out dinner, and then cooking for me (all of which he does alone) helps him unwind and transition to family time. I just quietly read or study Pinterest while he’s doing this routine and when he emerges from the kitchen with dinner, I know it’s talking time. It works for us.

    • YngMadeline

      This is my exact situation as well. I am away for 2-3 months a year doing fieldwork. It really helps me keep my sense of self as an independent, capable woman. It makes being in a partnership a lot easier because when I do need to depend on my partner I don’t question whether or not I’m loosing my edge. It makes me enjoy the fact that I do have someone to depend on and who will help me when I need it. Futhermore, my partner and I enjoy two totally different destressing activities that the other person does not enjoy much at all. This leads to two totally different destressing activities even if they are in the same room. He likes to play computer games and I obsessively watch TV. I think this works in our relationship because we need to spend the same amount of time destressing by ourselves. So alone time boundaries are respected as well as when we spend time together. We match up in alone time needs instead of actual alone time activities.

      • K

        You have just brought up something so key! I spent a year away from my then-boyfriend doing fieldwork, and when I returned I moved into a new apartment (his) in a new city (yay New York, indeed!). I missed him daily while abroad but I was also doing something deeply rewarding. And now, the sense of “losing my edge” because, at least at the beginning, I depended on him for connections to the outside world while writing my dissertation (a lonely business) is so palpable. Even though at the same time, I’ve never been happier in our relationship–after years of long distance I get so excited to see him at the end of every day. We’re getting married in less than three weeks, and I think your words have really helped me think through a little bit of that vague unease that still surrounds the idea of being a wife for me–for a lot of reasons, none of which are about my fiancé. So thank you!

  • Liz

    Alone time is incredibly important to both of us. We realized this most when we moved to a much tinier open plan apartment in a big city and no longer had our own rooms to escape to–I swear, we had more fights those first few months than we had in our entire relationship up to that point. We’ve mostly solved it by buying some screens, so we each have our own office space, and giving each other the permission to say when we need alone time and make sure that we both get it. I’ll take off for a run on my own, or schedule some time with friends so my husband can have the house to himself some nights. He works late and will go for a wander if I need some quiet. It works out most of the time, and makes our relationship stronger. It certainly makes me appreciate the time we share together more, as well, because we do have that time for ourselves.

    Taking an occasional trip away from home and partner sounds like an excellent idea as well…

  • Solitude is definitely something that we have struggled with (and will probably struggle with again as our relationship evolves).

    Previous girlfriends of my fiance dealt badly with his need for alone time, and he is very happy that I understand. Still, we’re not quite on the same page. He, like you Meg, can be extremely extroverted for a period of time and then turn around and need almost monk-like solitude. Me, I don’t like large groups or loud parties and, frankly, any gathering of more than a handful of people (because it feels like I have to do complicated social math the entire time I’m in the group).On the other hand, I can spend a lot of time in the quiet company of just one person.

    We’re just different styles of introverts and we negotiate (very explicitly) about what works. We have plenty of conversations like this one:”I really want to play Fall Out 3 now. I spent the entire day getting it to work and now that it works, I want to play it.” “Okay. How many hours would you like to have?” “A couple?” “Is that two? Or six?” “Oh.. How about you come to see me when it’s 8.30?””Cool.. It’s six now, right? I guess I’ll go back to programming”. We also negotiate about who gets what room. Lucky us that we’re both comfortable working on a bed as well as on a couch or at a desk :) That’s just the day-to-day.

    Since fiance travels regularly for work, we get to miss each other every now and then – I may not like it when it is going on, but it’s definitely refreshing. It’s easier to appreciate him when he’s not always there.

    On the other hand, because he oscillates between social states so much more than I do, there are definitely certain moments where I feel he either wants to be with everyone or with no one at all, (and not really just with me). If I bring it up, though, he’ll always maketime for me, so in the end it all works out and my insecurities prove unfounded. At the same time he sometimes feels I have no social life outside of him, so I make sure I am the one to not be home every now and then (or just casually sidle into another room for a few hours).

    • “Me, I don’t like large groups or loud parties and, frankly, any gathering of more than a handful of people (because it feels like I have to do complicated social math the entire time I’m in the group).On the other hand, I can spend a lot of time in the quiet company of just one person.”

      I smiled when I read this because I totally relate.

    • ‘. . . different styles of introverts’ . . . interesting!

    • We have such similar conversations! Now that our work schedules are a little different, things are easier. But in the beginning when we had first moved in together, I sometimes got my feelings hurt when my girlfriend would say that she needed time alone. I wondered why she needed time away from me and I didn’t need time away from her. And then sometimes she would go play video games with a friend and I would think – “Hey! That’s not alone time!” Over time I realized that the time was just time when she didn’t need to think about what I (or anyone else) wanted – she could just live by her own schedule. And if that meant going to play video games with a friend, so be it. I also discovered that once I let go of my own insecurity about whether she felt the same about me as I felt about her (and that’s really what it was about), I needed the time as much as she did. Now, several years later, I relish my time doing my own thing. We’re about to embark on 4 1/2 months apart, and while I’m going to miss her terribly, there are parts of it that I’m looking forward to – the silence with myself, returning to my own journal-writing bedtime routine, Murder She Wrote marathons without judgment. :)

  • I also love my alone time! I think you’re right that it might be linked to being a chatterbox. At a party I’m the life and soul, but then I really need time to decompress. Much as I love hanging out, seeing people and chatting, I dread weeks where I have a lot on, and know I won’t get in any sitting and thinking time.

  • Sarah

    After living together for 4 1/2 years, my fiance and I spent 9 months only seeing each other at weekends last year as he was working in another city. It was really difficult in lots of ways, but I did like having time to myself at home and doing things on my own schedule. It was hard to talk about though, as we were both working so hard to find a way to be back in the same place that it felt almost like a betrayal to say “actually, I’d rather be by myself today”. Now that we’re back in one place (yay!) we sometimes forget it’s okay to want our own space too.

    • Morgan

      Yes! My fiance travels for work, nearly every single week, M-TH. When people ask how we deal with it, I sometimes feel guilty for saying, “well, it has its perks…”. I am definitely more of a homebody/loner sort of person (I mean, I have friends haha, but it’s a tight circle and I tend to see people one on one), and I enjoy ending the work day in my own way, whether it’s running errands, Google Reader-ing, retail therapy, trashy TV, cooking, etc.

      But it is hard on the weekends when he is home to find that balance. I feel like we should be spending all of our time together, but I am potentially sacrificing friend time (obviously it’s easier to see people over the weekend than on a Tuesday night), and I’m not sure if he’s getting alone time that he needs (I don’t think alone time in a hotel for work counts…it wouldn’t for me).

      And I definitely worry about the transition when he finally moves on to his next job and we do have all of our time together.

      • Annearky

        In addition to being a nurse, my fiance is also a combat medic in the reserves. Last year, he was gone for three months on a humanitarian mission in South America. I missed him, but damn it was nice to have the place all to myself. (I got a lot of work done, too…no sexy distractions. ;)

        Eventually, he will have to go overseas again for 9 months, to places far less pleasant than South America, although hopefully not for another year or so yet. I’m curious to see how I’ll react to being alone for that long a timeline – while Fiance is working somewhere that’s not the safest of places…

        • My husband is currently deployed. Spending an entire year apart (while one person is in a war zone) totally blows, but I have learned a lot about myself and grown tremendously.*

  • Cass

    My husband is the one who really stressed the “alone time” even long before we got married.
    He is very wise indeed, because you, yourself, need to be a whole person before you can wholly be with another.
    So we are both very giving in “allowing” alone time, because that time apart makes us whole. And being whole really makes it easier to give your whole self to your partner.

    • SeptBride

      “because you, yourself, need to be a whole person before you can wholly be with another.”

      I cannot *exactly* this enough. Wonderfully said.

  • yeah, the tiny apartment thing (plus dog!) makes it difficult to get alone time. while zach is in grad school, it’s not tooo hard because we have different schedules, and we each end up home alone often enough. this summer I was really busy and all over the place and we actually had the opposite problem (TOO much alone time, for him in particular). this is his final semester and he’s going to be extra busy, so I may find myself alone too much. we shall see.

    the hardest thing is finding a balance of Just Enough alone time. If I have too much time to myself I get slothful, but if I’m never alone I get really irritable. Sometimes walking the dog is enough, sometimes I need a little trip by myself, such as awesome overnights to NYC for epic parties.. as much as I loved that party, one of my favorite parts was just wandering the streets by myself, looking for a place to change my clothes.

    • Bloom

      Agreed about getting irritable when I don’t have enough alone time. For the longest time I’d feel myself transform in to a scary dragon lady when I deprived myself of any quiet time. I’m just a nicer person when I have time to myself.

  • Harriet

    This post seems to me to be the perfect complement to the “Go Dancing” post–the quieter version of the importance of making time for yourself without your partner. My husband travels all the time for work, so I get lots of alone time without trying at all. I miss him a lot, and I can’t wait until we can live together full time, but I also really value the time I get to spend alone. I love that I can spend a weekend all by myself, just reading, doing errands, running, watching whatever I want to see. I think when you get a chance to remind yourself of what an independent, capable person you are, it makes you appreciate your partner more–you don’t “need” another person to take care of you or entertain you, but you’ve made the choice to take care of each other.

    We have a one bedroom apartment, and I know that when he’s able to actually live here again, I’ll have to make a conscious effort to get time alone. It’s been helpful to read everyone’s advice on how they manage it–I look forward to more comments!

  • m

    It’s hard for us to find some balance… throughout our whole dating process we lived in different cities (between 2-4 hours apart) and only saw each other on weekends or vacations. Since we were apart so much, when we moved in together it felt like we needed to spend all of our time together and be sure not to take it for granted. Although I knew we both need alone time/our own things, it was still hard to schedule time apart. About a year in, I think that is finally wearing off. Now to actually make it happen….

    • Anne

      This is exactly my story too! Long distance for several years, 4 hours apart, and now we’ve been back together for about a year. We value the time we spend together so much, it’s hard to rationalize that the time apart is valuable too. Even when we both know we really need it. So we’re in the middle of finding that tricky balance.

      • m

        good to hear someone is in the same boat! My husband had to work out of town during the week recently and we ended up spending the whole weekend totally alone together. It was great and what we needed at the time, but a second weekend of doing something similar wasn’t so great. I think maybe going from no time to all the time makes it hard to know how much time you need together and how much you need to be apart. That may be something that settles in a little more naturally if you aren’t dating long distance.

    • FawMo

      We were in different circumstances but a similiar problem: for the first five years of our relationship we never had more than one day off together and for substanal chunks we had no days off together. That, friends, was rough. It always felt like someone had to “rally” after a long day of work and/or school and it caused a bit of resentment when the rallying did or did not happen.

      Now we’re about six months in to having the same work schedule. At first it felt like we needed to make up for all those lost weekends and caused some friction when we didn’t live up to our supposed potential. The wrinkles have been smoothing out and we’re finally hitting a stride on balance. It came with time but also lots of check-ins and fun adventures.

  • Sadly, I haven’t had much (or any of this) since busy season started. I’m usually either working or attempting to squeeze some time in for James. But I’m hoping that the move to full-time with photography helps me create more balance in my life so that I can have time for lots of things I haven’t had time for lately while working the day job + running my business. The most important chunk of time I miss is that spent by myself… sitting somewhere reading a book, or at the gym, or doing whatever! That will be amazing. And because I will take that time – the time I do spend with James then will be so much better because I’ll be centered, happy, and feel like myself!!!

  • streamnerd

    Currently living apart from my fiance 3-5 days a week because of work makes me very sad most of the time and missing him prevents me from enjoying my time alone while I am away. However, when we are together I very much enjoy my time alone which usually consists of me taking our dog on long walks early on weekend mornings while he is still asleep.

    PS. This is my first time commenting but I’ve been lurking for a while. I am so glad to have found APW in all the craziness of wedding planning.

  • Aileen

    I crave alone time, and I currently don’t get as much as I would like. Partially because I need more than I used too. I work with adults with severe to profound developmental disabilities, and in order to be effective at work (and stay sane outside of work) I have to have some time every day where I am not responsible or near another living creature more sentient than a house plant. If I’m around another living being (such as my puppy, or my fiance, or family, or friends) I can’t not nurture them. I just don’t know how to turn that off. But, I don’t know how to nurture them and also nurture me. And I do so much nurturing at work, that it’s starting to burn me out.

    The other complicating factor is that my fiance and I are renting out my parent’s basement, which basically means that we are living in a studio apartment that my family has to walk through to get to their tools, laundry, and their own storage. The saving grace is that my sister ( adult, also living at home) and a dear friend of mine made me “walls” out of fabric around our bedroom area. So I can (like I did last night) retreat into there with some tea or wine, a book, and headphones.

    But it’s not really enough. If we can afford to, I would love to get a 2 bedroom apartment when we move out so I can have a room all to myself.

    • Not Sarah

      I hear you, Aileen!

      Is there a park nearby that you can retreat to and read? Do your parents have a backyard with a tree that you could read under? I know it sucks for now, but I hope the fabric “walls” help you enough to not go too insane.

      Would moving out to a studio apartment with just your fiance make you less insane than living in your parents’ basement?

      • Aileen

        Hi Not Sarah,

        There is a park nearby, and my parents have a gorgeous back yard. But I don’t get off work until 7pm my time, so by the time I get home and eat dinner it’s too dark for outside reading. Also, my family loves to be outside as well so they are usually also outside and wanting to visit. I do sit outside and read in the mornings sometimes since everyone is at work, but that’s also the only time I have to get everything done.

        We’re getting such a deal on rent here that moving out just doesn’t make sense financially. Soon though!

  • SeptBride

    I need a lot of alone time and have always known this about myself, so my husband has also. We moved in together very *early* (1.5 years into our relationship, but 5 years before we got married), and I knew I wanted to marry my then boyfriend because he was so respectful of my need for alone space, even though he does not share that need. And even when my husband does not need space for myself, he is kind enough to realize that allowing me my space makes for a much better relationship because time alone allows me to relax, recharge, and take care of myself so that I can better take care of my baby family.

    These days, after 7.5 years very happily together, we manage our needs in a few ways.
    *First, we know we need a lot of living space. We live in an expensive city (DC), so this is definitely a sacrifice, but we knew when buying our house that it would be better for us to bite the bullet and buy a 3-bedroom rowhouse that we would live in for a long time (and *eventually* be able to comfortably afford) than to buy a one-bedroom condo that we would grow out of quickly and that would drive me slowly insane. Having more space means my husband gets an office he can hole up in while I watch tv or read, and I have a craft space I can use without taking over our house or his space.
    *Second, we try to manage our solo nights out so they don’t fall on the same night. This gives the homebound partner the opportunity to have wine and popcorn for dinner and watch endless Bravo trash television (obviously, this is my night in, not my husband’s).
    *Third, I am lucky enough to work from home one day a week. While I am working during the time I am at home, this time still fills my need for my own space in my own house.
    *Last – and this is just a lucky coincidence – my husband travels about 2 out of every 6-8 weeks for work. He gets to advance his career, build up our mileage account, and see interesting parts of the world, and I get glorious, indulgent amounts of alone time. The very best part, however, is the abolsute joy I feel when he comes home.

    This is an excellent topic. So often, I feel that there is a stigma attached not just to wanting alone time, but for wanting time away from your husband. It is freeing to know that so many other women agree that I can both love my husband beyond belief and thoroughly enjoy a little bit of time away from him. Thank you, Meg, for reminding us that this is okay.

    • Not Sarah

      Wow, this is amazing! Thank you for spelling out how you guys work through this. If I was to buy a house buy myself, I would definitely look at a 2-bedroom townhouse at a minimum (1 to sleep in, 1 for computer space) and I think that a 3-bedroom would be perfect for, plus a partner.

      I think what worries me the most about the future event of having kids is how I will deal with alone time then. If we each want an office, plus the master bedroom, we’re looking at a 3 bedroom house for just us, before you move any kids into the picture!

  • Alana

    I see my work time as my ‘alone’ time – i’m extremely extroverted and have never had much desire for actual alone time, but my work time provides everything i need in terms of ‘independent identity’ time. Seeing as that’s 8-9 hours a day of ‘separateness’ for both me and fiance, we both have an insatiable appetite for ‘togetherness’ the rest of the time. We see friends together, work out together, chill out together, go on day trips together, etc, and it seems to suit us very well. We have been labelled co-dependent by friends who are very keen on keeping ‘their own lives,’ but that always strikes me as unfair, as it’s just an expression of our mutual inclination and temperament. If one wanted time to see their friends alone, or to work out alone, or whatever, the other would have no problem with it, it just doesn’t seem to happen that much!

    Our life certainly doesn’t FEEL unhealthy, anyway! :P

    • I’m with you on this Alana – I wonder if maybe I *should* want more alone time but, honestly, after a full day at work, I just want to curl up with the hubster and relax. And seemingly, that’s what he wants too.

      So, I’m trying not to think in “shoulds” and thinking maybe this is something that will evolve once we grow out of being such newlyweds!

    • I’m with you. I am perfectly happy having my “alone time” needs be met while in the same room as my husband – him with the computer and a hockey game on, and me with a book. After all, we spent 10 hours a day apart, and the chance to spend the rest of our waking time together is one of the reasons we got married. I have more trouble understanding friends of ours who never, ever socialize together. Neither of us, looking through the lens of our own relationship, can figure out how that works.

      Also, we like each other’s friends, so hanging out together much of the time just makes sense.

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        Us too — we’re very good at being alone together. It’s not uncommon to find us with our laptops/books and noise-cancelling headphones, enjoying the companionship but doing our own things.

      • thesasha

        I’m so glad you (both/all) posted this! I was reading all these comments and starting to feel un-independent because I don’t feel a lot of need for alone time. We did long distance for years, in between living together, several times actually. I always felt like when people asked I was supposed to say things about how it was fine, we made it work. Which, we did. We stayed together and managed to be happy while apart and all. But we are so much happier together. We get along better and we are happier in our day-to-day lives, because we get to come home to each other.

        I do like being able to go out with my friends on my own, and right now it is hard because we have shared friends here and I have my friends here, but he doesn’t have his own friends here, but that will change soon when some his friends move back and he makes friends through work.

        But when I am home, I am just happy to be around him. And we can read our own books or watch our own shows (on laptops) while in the same room. I always want him there at the end of the night, never gone for days, and he is if anything more attached/clingy. No problem with couples who don’t work this way, as long as they don’t mock us because we do. No reason to label people co-dependent just because they like being around each other/know how to be alone together.

        • Sara A.

          This. A thousand times over.

          My husband and I put our relationship through the crucible when we’d only been together for 8 months. We met in September 2007 and started dating immediately, it was love in November, and in March I told him that I was spending the summer working in Montana. He could follow me or not, it was up to him. He decided to follow me and for the next three and a half months we shared the smallest room ever. This is the kind of thing that either makes or breaks a couple. We had to learn how to live together, when together means on top of each other. My personal time was usually just the two of us sitting on opposite sides of the room reading.

          We have the ability to be in close physical proximity, but for our minds to be miles apart. I never feel pressure to pay attention to him when we’re in this state. But if he wants to say something, then it’s welcome. I’m so pleased that we’ve brought this companionship back with us. I used to be worried about moving in or living with someone other than my family, but now that I know that we will each have our own (mental) space I am much less worried.

    • Marchelle

      Alana, you two sound like my parents. :) Joined at the hip, their friends call them, and in fact all three of us used to do almost everything as a single unit when I was younger. More than 30 years of very happy marriage later, it seems to work for them. I think you just need to do what works for you as couple. A pretty high degree of togetherness outside of work works for them.

    • Alana

      This is all very comforting! I like to think we’re not co-dependent, we’re co-preferent! Comfortably ensconced in each other’s pockets. ;-)

  • We are pretty good about being explicit about needing alone time and that seems to work. What I really struggle with is judging how M uses his alone time-playing video games just doesn’t seem relaxing to me (because I would rather bake in my alone time). It has taken a while, but I think I am much better at just acknowledging the value of our alone time and what actually happens doesn’t matter.

  • Alana

    PS I recognise that we are in the engaged gooey bubble and we may have more desire for separateness in due course ;) But I think it’s also just a consequence of our personalities.

    • Eh, I’ve been with David for 3 and a half years, and we’re like that. I was with my ex for 7, and we were the same way. Some of it’s just down to how you are wired.

  • Abby C.

    The interesting thing for me was how much this changed when I met my fiance. In past relationships, even when I was crazy in love with that person, after overnight visits I would wake in the morning already eager to leave and get back to my own apartment, and my own space. I craved regular amounts of alone time, and got twitchy if I didn’t get it.

    With my fiance, what surprises me is how little alone time I need. We moved in together into a small 1 bedroom apartment that was a squeeze for both of us, yet the moving in and adaptation process was amazingly smooth. We were able to negotiate chore-sharing and what little alone time we need with no hurt feelings and very minimal friction. I wake up next to him in the morning and don’t want to zip off to work and my own space, I want to cuddle in closer and never leave.

    Now, this is not to say I don’t need a little alone time – I still do. But I get most of it at work, and due to the fact that he gets off work usually 1-2 hours after me, I also have an hour or two at home alone to relax and decompress after work by myself before he gets home. Usually by the time he gets home I’m ready to have his energy in the house. :)

    We’ve both had the occasional brief work overnight, but never for more than 1-2 days. It’s usually worked well, and we definitely miss each other and are happy to be back.

  • We went from a 2-year long-distance engagement, to married, living together, and carpooling to work. We were pretty lucky, because the switch from plenty of alone time to 24/7 contact could have been claustrophobic. It wasn’t, but working out which activities we could do alone took some work. By nature, I like to explore and hubs usually would rather stay put. When we made peace with not having to accept each other’s invitations to do everything together, we were able to find the balance. We both got to do all the things we wanted to do, and each of us got some solitude. So I’ve been able to go play in the woods for hours while he does his thing at home, and that’s been a wonderful way for both of us to get the alone-time we need.

  • you basically wrote about my summer vacation. see, the thing is, before i got married last year i would go on at least one vacation a year alone…and usually it’s to nyc since it’s pretty much my favorite place in the world. my husband and i are both introverts and frankly, like you said, our house is way too tiny for either of us to give each other space.

    so, after much consideration and finding a ridiculous deal online, i finally fessed up to my husband earlier this year and i said “do you mind that i go to nyc alone this summer?” just so we can both get alone time. i knew he didn’t have the leave time and i knew it would break his heart because i know how much he loves nyc too. and he was like “yes, go do your thing!” and very supportive.

    the thing is, since we just got married last year, i felt so weird doing this, like people would think that our marriage was ALREADY falling apart. then i talked to some people who have been married 20 and 30 something years and they all said something along the lines of “oh, if you don’t have a big enough place, there is no other way. you NEED to get out of each’s faces every once in a while. it keeps you both sane.”

    and then i remembered that after i moved out of my parents place in 2009 (also the year my mom retired, so she’d join the ranks with my dad), whenever i’d visit my parents i thought it was so strange that my mom would be upstairs and my dad would be downstairs. this is a couple who has been married 36 years. i remember one time i asked my dad why they were never together and he said “what are you talking about? we’re always together, but we also need our time apart in the house. we can’t be with each other every second…you know how crazy we would get?” now, i get it.

    i say, if you have the means, do it…take a vacation alone. and let me tell you, after being away from my husband for 2 weeks…all i wanted to do was smother him with kisses and show him all the photos i took when i got home. :)

    • Last year we took separate vacations weekends – he traveled with a buddy to some sports event in the States and watched multiple sporting events for a weekend, and I traveled with girlfriends to Vegas. We’re doing similiar things in November and January coming up. I have to say, I never thought this was something I would enjoy, but I do. Most of our vacations are together, and he is my favourite travel partner, but these long weekends have been really fun. I get to go to the spa in the mountains, he gets to hang out other hockey fanatics. Everyone wins. (And also, while I love my friends, a long weekend is enough. He’s the only person I can spend 10-30 days with 24/7 and be happy.)

  • Jo

    I’m definitely the alone-time-needer. I usually am so busy that I NEED time to myself, but when I’m home he was beginning to feel cheated that I was being alone. The truth is, for me to be my best self, I have to be alone.

    I’ve also had to learn to prioritize my alone time, which means not only being explicit about needing it and getting it, but also using it wisely. Sometimes I need to journal during that time, sometimes I need to sleep, and I need to pay attention to that.

    We’re really lucky that we both like to travel and do things on our own as well as together. We’re also super lucky to have a large enough home to be alone: we’re working on our private offices a lot this week.

  • SaraB

    Love this post! The Man and I just moved in together a month ago into our new house. We are still working on the need for alone time, but we’re honest about those needs. Sometimes it ends up as a rock-paper-scissors for the living room w/ TV, but we make it work.
    Earlier in the summer when work was going crazy, we just signed on the house, we just got engaged and life was mayhem, we went camping with some friends for a long weekend. The Man and I drove separately due to work committments. I left Friday night to split the drive up, camped out alone, hiked in the morning, got coffee and generally puttered before heading to the final camp. The 6 hr. total drive plus camping gave me some MUCH needed quiet time and I cam back much more refreshed.

  • Jennifer

    Hah, I was the same way about moving in together. About six months before we got engaged, I moved into an apartment in the same complex as his – different building, but same set of mailboxes. We bought a house together a couple of months before the wedding, and I completely dragged my feet on that (it was only the end of my lease that got me to stop clinging to my own place). While we’re lucky to have a lot of space, it was his childhood home and it’s taken a long time for it to start feeling like it was my place, too.

    For alone time, I realize this is going to sound pathetic, but I kind of love my long commute. It’s about 90 minutes door to door, with 30 of that driving to public transit so I am in my car, by myself, totally just me in my own space, and an hour of public transit/walking, where I can either listen to my NPR podcasts or just zone out and think. I also get home an hour or so before he does, and I have one day a week of telecommuting where I have the house to myself for ten hours. It’s not “me time,” because I’m working, but it’s “me space,” at least. Finally, while we’re both introverts, I’m a little more social than he is, and work in the city where most of my friends live/work (while he is wholly suburban) so I’m sometimes grabbing dinner after work — or meeting up with other APW readers for drinks — which gives him the house to himself for a while.

  • I just got married a few weeks ago, and the transition to living with someone else (we had not lived together before) has been challenging. I value the time when I can just be with me, and no one else (even if it’s just grocery shopping), but he likes to do everything together, and we live in a little 1-bedroom apartment so there isn’t much space to have solitude at home. Of course I love that he wants to spend every waking moment with me, but it’s going to take some time to figure out how to create the space for solitude I crave without making him feel bad.

  • Despite a 2-bedroom apartment, I am dying for a little more space. As a writer, our 2nd bedroom is also my office. But it is also Chuck’s music and video game room. Not having a space of my own to write has made the transition to freelancing much harder. Chuck and I also work together at another part time job, but it isn’t often that we are physically together. I actually enjoy this because his skills and talents complement mine so I can go to him for help without feeling judged by my coworkers.

    Because of our weird work schedules there are nights when I have a few hours to myself. I take that time to clean up the kitchen and make dinner while listening to music that I enjoy. I seem to live for those night sometimes. But, the nature of our work schedule sometimes means that we don’t spend time together, even when we’re in the same apartment.

    I’m more social and Chuck has always been the stay at home alone type. I think we have a pretty good balance of personal time and together time. I think it’s important to have that balance.

  • Ha, I was actually just explaining this to my roommate’s girlfriend this morning (we recently took in a roommate. It’s in BETA testing phase now). I told her that the reason Michael and I can live together is because we basically only talk to each other for 45 minutes a day (at most). Even if we are in the same room, we can operate in two totally different bubbles. When we’re ready to hang out, we’ll just raise that veil (or remove our headphones, whichever applies).

    But this has also been a major process for us. Like Meg, I also thought we would just live in separate apartments until…I dunno…kids? Retirement? And there have been times when I felt like I’ve compromised myself for this partnership (not in big ways, but more like that time I wanted to audition for some singing competition and I couldn’t record myself on the webcam because I was never alone enough to feel comfortable doing something so stupid. I just walked around the house shouting at Michael, “You’re ALWAYS here! Why are you always HERE?!”) I think part of the frustration is that not being alone removes the luxury of just doing things whenever you want to, without regard for others. And while that can be super annoying, it does force us to really prioritize what matters for us (ok, so maybe I won’t audition for American Idol. But just *try* to interrupt me when I’m reading a book. I will eff a bitch up).

    Anywho, I think that in the past few years there have been a few things we’ve done to ensure that we still remain to whole people living in the same space, without stepping on each others toes too much.

    1. Establish boundaries. Don’t be afraid of closing doors, putting on headphones, or just straight up ignoring each other. If you make it clear that you’re not angry when you’re doing these things, I think they can be a total gift to you and your partner.

    2. Leave the house. Alone. Get a hobby and go places. It doesn’t have to be major. Sometimes I just take the dog for a walk by myself.

    3. This might just be me, but I like to give myself mini-trips. I’ll go to the city for a night (or with Hart & Sol, I’ll be gone for a weekend) and it gives me a chance to miss Michael. Even if I’m gone for a night, I’ll come home feeling like we need to catch up with each other.

    Lastly, I think the best thing we can do for ourselves is to take off the pressure of feeling like we have to be together (mentally or physically) all the time. I’ll decline the invitation to couples’ dinners for some alone time and feel no guilt. He declines trips to the city so he can play video games. And sometimes we’ll just sit in the same room and pretend that the other one is not there.


    • Anne

      “I think part of the frustration is that not being alone removes the luxury of just doing things whenever you want to, without regard for others.”

      THIS. My husband and I have very different styles of downtime. He’s a putterer- lucky for me, his ideal way to unwind after a long work week is to fix our bikes, or take on a home improvement project, or clean, or cook. Unlucky for me (and for him, I guess), my unwinding activities include reading, TV, processing pics in Lightroom, and eating popcorn and wine for dinner (I love that this seems to be a solo dinner of choice among the APW community). The problem with us trying to have downtime at the same time is that it’s reallyreallyreally difficult to just enjoy hanging out when your partner is being Useful and Productive.

      Making matters worse, I travel for my job and he doesn’t, and I travel to visit out of state friends and family more than he does. I’m an introvert, and both of these activities involve being “On”/social pretty much the entire time I’m away. So he gets the house to himself plenty, but I very rarely do. So there’s been a bit of “You’re ALWAYS here” in our relationship, too. We’re working on it.

      • DanEllie

        “The problem with us trying to have downtime at the same time is that it’s reallyreallyreally difficult to just enjoy hanging out when your partner is being Useful and Productive.”

        Exactly! I end up feeling guilty for not contributing rather than acknowledging that I’m a much better partner when I have had time in my own head.

        This has been a hugely helpful conversation to read. I needed the reminder!

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I’m the Useful and Productive one, and my challenge is not being a martyr about it. Nothing terrible happens if clean dishes aren’t put away, or there’s spots on the bathroom mirror, except that I get more and more irritable. The fact he doesn’t care about the dishes or the mirror is not his fault; the fact I care isn’t my fault. If I want to spend free time cleaning, and he wants to read, both are acceptable choices, neither more praiseworthy than the other.

        • K

          Yes. Yes! Y-E-S.

      • I have the same thing! I need to have large chunks of time to just relax, i.e. read, mess around on the internet, play Civ 4, snuggle with the dog. That is how I like (and need) to spend my Sundays. But my boyfriend spends all weekend working outside on the house and landscaping. The guilt I feel totally takes away from the recharging of the batteries!
        Then, I remind myself that he comes home from work every night and reads the paper while I make dinner for us. And I don’t mind that at all. :)

  • We work opposite schedules most of the time, and while I hate it, we don’t have to worry about getting time to ourselves because we each get loads. I need lots of it. I crave it. When I can’t have it, I get moody (alright, moodier) and cranky (alright, crankier). I’m an introvert and himself isn’t, and I think it’s taken him a lot to understand why I need so much time to myself. I don’t know that he’ll ever “get” it, but he respects it, which is just as well.

    Funny that this post should mention alone time in New York. I miss the city so much, and I think a large part of that is because that’s where I came into myself and actually learned how to be alone effectively, in a way that nourishes me. I’m going to be there “alone” in October/November, and can’t wait to reconnect with those memory of myself again.

  • My husband and I are both paramedics who work a 12 hr shift with a 4 days on 4 days off schedule. I work the 4am-4pm shift so I get up and leave the house by 0330 and most days get home about 5pm. He works 5pm-5am up at the station by Mt Hood giving him a 30-50min commute depending on traffic. He leaves for work around 4pm and gets home most days around 6am. Days ‘ON’ we don’t see eachother unless I get off early and he swings by to kiss me on his way to work. We have 4 days of the bed all to ourselves, our small number of waking hours free to do whatever we want. Then we have 4 full days off together every week. We feel like it is the perfect arrangement for us. We both like to have our alone time. I too am a super extrovert but must have my quiet time. My husband is a budding home project guy and relishes the time to tinker and work on things without any shall we say “input”. The dogs are happiest when we are both home together but they have a pretty sweet life with one of us home almost all day. We are hoping our baby will thrive in this set up as well when they arrrive in February. People say “Oh, how do you do it? Not seeing eachother for 4 days at a time would be so hard” and they are right. It has its moments where I really just want him here or I really don’t want to have to hang up and go run the next call but the balance it has created is beautiful. We miss eachother by the end of the week and it reminds us to cherrish the time we DO have together and to make an adventure out of our 4 days off no matter if it is an adventure to home depot or to the mountains. I think the time spent alone makes a lovely space for our relationship to grow from two strong, independant, healthy, happy people.

  • Sara

    I am a runner and when my husband and I first started dating he wanted to run with me. Those first runs were…awful. And I couldn’t figure out why. I ran with lots of other people and never had such visceral reactions. But eventually I came to see that running, for me, was my alone place. It was the place where I checked in (or out) and could just be by myself. We had some really tense conversations about my space and my running, and what it all meant to me. And then at some point I realized I started wanting to run together. We have done a few races together, but I have also set up some clear boundaries (running a local 1/2 marathon together is great; running the NYC marathon together – my dream race – is not). And so now we will go for a pancake run on Sunday mornings (run+IHOP=awesome) and I will do my own training runs on Saturdays. I guess its all about balance, boundaries, and perspective. I still have my running space, but I also have our running space as well.

    • Becky

      We had this same conversation, but it was with bicycling.

    • Me too. But for yoga. Husband is not invited to attend yoga class with me, even though plenty of other friends have been recruited.

  • Becky

    I’ve always needed alone time, but always seemed to be getting conflicting messages about couplehood. Well-meaning female friends would ask, “Where’s Andrew?” or “You’re doing that/going there/on your own?” They seem amazed that someone in a couple would even think of being alone. Sometimes it feels like it’s socially unacceptable to be your own perosn in a couple. You have to literally be attached at the hip, which does not work for me. The hardest part was not telling Andrew that I need time for myself, but realizing that it was okay to have it.

    Luckily, my partner understands this. I think the way we get around it is to pursue our own interests. Like others have said, we each have our own hobbies and we take the time to follow them independently. I’m not going to force him to go to a knitting or dance class; he’s not going to make me play a video game. Doing things on my own also makes me feel less grumpy and claustraphobic, which makes me a happier person to live with. As for being alone in your own space, for right now grad school schedules take care of that for both of us, but in the future I may need to periodically leave the house and read at a coffee shop to avoid cabin fever.

    • Sarah

      I knew someone who had until her husband went away on a business trip. No hotel room alone, no home alone as a kid, no my-own-apartment, never, ever no way. She couldn’t handle the idea and went over for a slumber party at a friend’s house. I guess some people are just wired differently, or at least buy into a set of narratives I ignore about the dangers of being alone as a woman. So yeah, I hear you about the conflicting messages!

      • Sarah

        And re-reading that, I realize it sounds like I’m calling everyone who prefers to be “together” afraid of being alone. That’s not what I mean, nor do I think that — I just think that’s the reason for that particular person, not everyone.

    • I get the same reaction all the time. My boyfriend and I travel alone quite a bit; he goes away for work a few times a year, and I go visit my closest friends, who ALL live out of town. A few months ago, I went to Boston to meet my best friend (who flew from Seattle) so we could spend the weekend with our other best friend and her new baby. People couldn’t believe I wasn’t bringing Steve. And my response was always, “He’s not invited!” I mean, all we were planning to do was eat good food, watch trashy TV (and Bridesmaids) and lay around, soaking up each others’ company. Why would I bring him and why would he want to come?

  • Sarah

    Second (and third and fourth and so on) everyone on the tiny one-bedroom apartment difficulties. In our relationship, I have a full time job that requires a 45 minute commute (yay DC!…) and he’s a graduate student with an infinitely flexible schedule. He commutes too, and although we often do the “in” portion together, I insist that we do the “out” part alone so that I can have time to digest the day. And, like everyone else here, I insist that some times are mine (like, when I’m cooking you better stay the hell out of the kitchen so I can watch hulu and chop vegetables and do all those things that I do much better, faster, and more effectively when I’m not being “watched” or “helped”).

    I have found myself feeling a little limited in the amount of choices I have for how I spend my days lately, so it was good to hear from APW and all of the comments that a desire to be alone doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong. I think I feel bad some times because he’s alone a LOT, as the life of a graduate student is often one of solitude, so when I have time, I feel like I should spend it with him. But, maybe it’s a quality vs. quantity thing. Something worth thinking about.

  • meredyth

    When he works late nights and I have nothing to do: alone time. I make myself a dinner, go to a movie, (I love seeing some movies alone) see friends. Weekends when he works: farmers’ markets, errands and cleaning. I don’t quite get it but I love doing errands on my own. Also, mornings. We don’t have to leave at the same time so I drink my coffee while reading blogs and he’s either still asleep or enjoying his iPad in the other room. It makes us enjoy the mornings we do share together all the more.

    His alone time: often it’s playing music when I’m in the other room. Or his bus rides to and from work. And any nights I work that he doesn’t. It seems to be good for us this way.

  • Manya

    Two words: MAN CAVE.

    My husband is an extreme introvert. He is charming as hell out and about among the peeps, but he is exhausted by it and needs a lot of alone time. The MAN CAVE is a wonderful solution to not that, butit also gives him a place to have his favorite stuff all together, lie around like a pig, stash his surfboard (I know, hot, right?) and hang that Bob Dillon concert poster that doesn’t go with anything else in the house. He loves that the rest of the house is beautiful and artistic, but that room is all his. Everyone is required to knock and ask permission to come in (including me!).

    Right across the hall, I have my tangerine-orange walled office, with all of my work talismans and a big wide desk and a view of the beautiful . That’s the Manya Cave. This need to cultivate your deepest most alone self only gets more important when you have children.

    I will never forget the first business trip I took when my little girl was about 14 months and had finally stopped breastfeeding. I went to Bankok for a meeting, and ended up tagging on an extra two days. I remember scheduling a massage and then venturing out into the heat and noise and smells of Bankok and remembering some part of myself that I thought I might have said goodbye to. I spent the day in a tuk tuk, zipping around the back streets, visiting temples and browsing the night market. I ate noodles made by street vendors and had an incredible massage. I was alone, but not lonely at all– I was both peaceful and giddy with the incredible sense of freedom.

    Did I miss my baby? Of course. Did I feel guilty for being so euphoric? Yeah, a little. But I felt invigorated, and grounded and reminded of the resiliency and adaptability of my innermost soul. It was the me who I had to find again when I got divorced. The me whose strength I needed to draw on when I was a single mom of two little girls in a foreign land. The me who my wonderful husband Brian fell in love with. The me who must remain sovereign and intact, no matter how attached to, and intwined with, other people I am.

    Some people think that Train’s lyrics are cryptic, but I love that song “Drops of Jupiter” because to me it is about reconnecting spiritually with yourself and coming back more whole to those you love. I am lucky in that my work and life sends me to some farflung shores. I hope I always come back from my travels with drops of Jupiter in my hair. And yeah, I miss you while I’m searching for myself out there… and I’ll always come home.

    • Seriously Manya, I feel like a weird APW stalker, but you are my favorite commenter and I could read your posts again and again. You have an absolutely lovely writing style.

    • Marchelle

      Do you have a blog? Or write elsewhere? I want more of you, please.

      • Manya

        Aw, thanks guys. I’m very humbled and encouraged by your words.

        Actually, I have been thinking about blogging for years, but haven’t taken the plunge yet. I have never felt like I have things to say, but rather, a deep desire to connect and share, and APW has made me understand how that might look and feel. So… I’m practicing here. Doing jumping jacks, if you will. Writing for me. Getting up my nerve.

        Also, I am crazy busy for the next 15 months: I’m a graduate student again, getting my MBA, run my own public health consulting business (and do a ton of writing for that) and am a mom and (new!) wife. I don’t want to start a blog until I can commit to it. Until then, I’m submitting way too many pieces to Meg, as if this isn’t HER awesome blog! (sorry Meg!)

        Anyway, you guys are awesome, and you are the reason for the writing, so thank you.

        • All right, I GUESS I understand. But when you start a blog, you better let me know!! ;)

  • I guess I’m in the minority here, but I don’t really feel the need for distinct alone time from my partner. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy it when I run errands by myself, or one of us has a work trip and we either travel alone or stay home alone, but I don’t find myself craving it the way other people seem to.

    Maybe it’s because we both really enjoy companionable silence that we feel like we have space even though we’re physically together a lot. But during grad school we lived apart and only saw each other every few weeks, and overall it was crappy. We both did our own thing and were fine with it, but I think that the missing each other outweighed the enjoyment about getting the whole bed to ourselves (he had a king-sized bed and it was so big that he routinely left piles of papers to mark on one half while he slept on the other!).

    All that said, maybe I would feel differently if we both worked at home or something, so we were together 24/7!

    • Companionable silence is also crucial. I waited MONTHS for my husband to realize he could read his book, and I could read my book, and we didn’t have to chat around the paragraphs. He figured it out. Mostly. WIN.

    • I’m with you. I’m perfectly happy having my down time occur 3 feet from David. And we do have a large house where I could be two stories away if I wanted to. I just… don’t.

      Actually, I think about the only time we close a door between us is I want to paint and watch girly movies while he’s working on projects watching hockey. But even still we’re all of 10 feet away, and the door is really just for noise cancellation. (I still come out every half hour and demand that he look at the painting. :) )

  • “When you’ve lived a huge chunk of your life in New York City, it feels like a part of you. When you leave, it can feel like you amputated a limb.”

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!!!!!

    My fiance and I also enjoy being on our own in order to find balance, but this post made me miss Brooklyn and NYC more than anything. I’m now yearning for a trip to wander around Grand Army Plaza, enjoy a beer at my favorite bar on 2nd Ave and 14th Street, meet up with friends to go to the Donut Factory, and head to Smith Street for some patio drinking.

  • MamaMelli


    I’m interested in the “nobody owes anybody anything” part. What did you mean, and why did this enter your stream of consciousness?

  • Contessa

    One of the unlovely things about getting engaged and having two children already was thinking, “I’m committing to another person who needs my time and attention.” I was quick to fill in my fiance on my need for time away by myself and to suggest that he take the time too so we don’t become too overwhelmed. I sometimes wonder, if I had known this before, would my first marriage have been less stressful? If I had known that creating time and space for myself was allowed and completely healthy, would we both have been happier?

  • For me, just being in a different room doesn’t work. Occasionally, while he’s working late, and I can sit around, read, and eat crappy quick dinner, it’s EXACTLY what I need. And, from what he says, what he needs. But more often, I need to be doing something other than sitting at home alone … be that by having a me-only outing somewhere close to home, or a weekend trip to visit a friend.

    It’s good to be able to get out and make decisions that only affect me, not US. It’s a healthy reminder that I am not half of a whole, I am an individual … when you are always together, it’s so easy to forget that.

  • You need a regular date night just for yourself!

    This couldn’t have come at a better moment! I’m currently in Paris for work, but I usually live in a tiny apartment in NYC with my boyfriend where we both work from home. I love my bf, and I love my friends, and I love a good party, but I’m an only child, and I’ve found that I need DAILY solitude to function. Sometimes that means I get up in the morning and go for a walk along the Hudson River by myself. Sometimes it means I practically sprint to the quietest cafe in our neighborhood for a coffee and some reading time. I love going to the movies and to dinner myself, too.

    On the nights when my boyfriend has other plans, I don’t always rush to make plans of my own. Sometimes, I just relish that evening alone, at home, with a nice dinner and a glass of wine. And you better believe I buy fresh flowers and light candles, too! It’s what I call date night for me!

    • Harriet

      I love the idea of “date night for me!” Love it. Why should I just make the apartment look nice for other people? I am definitely going to give this a try.

  • I think this is one of those topics which is so, so different for every person and couple. For example, Eric and I really don’t spend much time apart. I think it comes from starting off in a long distance relationship, but we value every second we get with each other, and when it comes down to it, I’d rather be with him than anyone else…now, this doesn’t mean we don’t have our “alone” time, however, alone time for us is more of a mental state of mind. We share a studio space, and I couldn’t be happier about it–he has half the room to record/play music, and I have half as my sewing space. However, even though we’re both in the same physical space, we could go hours without talking–we’re just in our own heads and hobbies.

    I guess I’m just wired differently, or something, but I don’t need much alone time from him. I get home before him, so I do have two hours or so every day by myself to putter around the house, but when we’re both in the house, we’re 99% of the time in the same room, doing something together. We spend most every weekend together, and yes, it was even weird when I had my bridal shower/bachelorette dinner and we didn’t see each other for hours on a weekend when we could have been together.

    The beauty of being a strong woman is knowing what feels right for you; I know I’d always rather be with Eric than alone. Maybe it comes from being the oldest sibling and learning how to zone people out and live in my head (and when he’s involved with music, he doesn’t notice ANYTHING around him)…but we very much so can isolate ourselves mentally, without doing it physically.

    • Abby

      We have a similar experience in our relationship. We were long distance initially, and then living in the same city but as two ships passing in the night. Now we’re ex-pats and so far have no friends – so we spend a ton of time together, and it’s lovely.

      We have a giant apartment, thanks to an odd housing situation in the country we live in, and had separate offices. We moved my desk into his when we had guests, and we haven’t moved it back because we enjoy being in the same room. I do, however, really like having my own space, even if I don’t spend much time in it.

  • Beautifully said, Meg. We also both need our solitude, but it’s tough to balance that well without neglecting each other. It’d be easy, of course, if we had all the time in the world, but who does, really? Over time (our seven year dating anniversary was Monday!) we’ve figured out that his solitude needs are wrapped up in doing things physically — he needs to go to the gym, go on a run with the dog, things that are physical to clear his head and have that time of meditation.

    For me, it’s a little more complicated because I have a lot of time that is alone at home but I’m working. Or cleaning, or cooking, or running errands. And sometimes that’s fine, and I’m totally ready for company. But other times I need to be alone in the city – that wonderful feeling of being surrounded by people, but only really hearing your own thoughts, and taking the path that is right for you. So silly in its simplicity, but even the act of getting a cup of coffee by myself is so wonderful sometimes.

    Luckily we both totally understand the need for balance and appreciate it. On the flip side, we recharge together as well, and make little dates at least two or three times a week – sometimes they’re really simple, like trying a new coffee place, getting a glass of wine, going on a walk together. Sometimes they’re nicer, like going out to dinner or a movie. But we always change it up, and it’s so nice to feel like it makes me whole and recharges me to be together as well as alone.

  • i don’t think i value solitude as much as i value down time. i can be a foot away from folks, and if i’ve got my headphones on it’s as good as being in a box for me. i guess i don’t need physical solitude so much as mental solitude.

    that said, i have found that i can read, relax, bury myself in my head, etc. with my wife around (though there was an adjustment period for us to figure out that we could be together without doing stuff together), but i can’t get stuff done very well with her around. she used to work nights, which was miserable and lonely and she never got much sleep – but i got a lot done in the evenings that she was gone, both housework and personal projects. now, i still struggle to do basic things, like dishes, when we are both home together after work/school. it’s getting better, but it is strange and frustrating.

    one thing that was surprisingly nice was being left home for vacation. jamie got a last-minute offer to tag onto a buddy’s vacation – i was invited as well, but can’t do last-minute very well due to work stuff, and there was only one nearly-free due to plan changes slot. everyone was so offended for me that she was going without me. i thought it was lovely. she got to go to disneyworld and to the beach in august. i didn’t have to do either, and i got a week to myself at our house. (it helps if it’s a vacation you wouldn’t enjoy – i suspect jealousy could taint this.)

    we’re trying it again soon. almost exactly the same – last-minute cancellation, jamie invited on nearly free trip to fill in, i can’t afford (money or time) to join in. i am sure folks will be fully offended for me again, but as i see it, i get out of having to go on a cruise with her (something she has wanted to do since i met her, and which i find utterly unappealing) and i get a week to blog, or tear apart more of the house or something else i find easier to do in solitude.

    • “i don’t think i value solitude as much as i value down time. i can be a foot away from folks, and if i’ve got my headphones on it’s as good as being in a box for me. i guess i don’t need physical solitude so much as mental solitude.”

      YES. I need down time, not solitude.

  • This post really resonated because frankly, my husband and I are still figuring this out (and our one-year anniversary is this weekend so we’ve been working on it for awhile now…). He travels some for work so that gives me a little space, but it’s always during the week when things are hectic anyway. Before we moved in together, I had a lot of alone time and would spend whole evenings, days even, at a park reading and thinking, or on a walk just listening to music and trying to figure out my life. I’m a huge proponent of self reflection and awareness, but since getting married, I feel like I have less and less time for this (in my opinion) very important activity. And it’s not entirely bad – my husband rocks and we just really enjoy being together, and it’s tough to force some time apart when there’s no urgent need. So anyway, yes, can relate, need tips!! p.s. We also live in the one-bedroom apartment, so no chance for separate studies just yet!

  • Rymenhild

    I am reading this post and its comments very carefully! I am an introvert living in a 1br apartment (more or less; it’s complicated) and my girlfriend of nearly 4 years, all of which have been long distance, is moving in with me this Sunday. I haven’t even shared an apartment since 2008. I love her and I want to live with her. But for my good, her good and the good of our relationship, I’m going to have to give myself a certain number of hours of alone time every week.

    • First of all, congratulations!

      Secondly, I feel your concern. And I just want to tell you that I cried, literally, for almost 5 months leading up to when I moved in with my husband. I had all sorts of fears about alone time, identity and sacrifice.

      It was still one of the best (despite being one of the most challenging) decisions I’ve ever made.

      I think you’re already halfway there by acknowledging what might be difficult and being proactive about protecting your needs now. I think you’ll find you come together naturally and that you will find ways to carve out your solitude as you need it.

      Good luck!

      • Stephasaurus

        I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who cried at the thought of moving in with a significant other. I was really looking forward to it, but I was also really sad about leaving behind “the old me” by giving up my solitude. Living on my own (well, with roommates, but still on my own) really shaped me into the person I am today, and I’ll always miss that time. It made me into such a strong and independent person. I worried that moving in with my fiance, as much as I wanted it, would make me forget who I am as an individual. It’s only been a month, but thankfully it seems that all my worrying was for nothing.

        • Your comment struck me, because I find myself really missing the along time I had when I was living all by myself, I could spend time however I wanted, and I could decorate my space exactly as I wanted to. I’ve been sad that I’ll never be able to “go back” there now that I’m married and starting my own baby family. What you said about that time shaping you into who you are though, made me realize it’s not something you can lose. You carry that experience with you always. Cheered me up! Thanks.

          • Stephasaurus

            I always come back to this quote from “Reading Lolita in Tehran” because it really sums up how I was feeling as I was preparing to move in with my fiance (and it was also a few months after I moved away from the state I went to college in, so it was extra applicable):

            “You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”

            Whenever I get sad and start missing those days, I remind myself that I’m still the same person I was then….my environment has just changed a bit. And like you said, it’s something you can never lose. :)

  • This post is so timely. My newlywed husband & I lived together about a year before moving in, but were long distance for many months before that, and this is something we both struggle with. Especially me. Especially living in a small one bedroom. I’m a person who’s so so affected by the space I live in, and the time I have just for me, and he’s not so much. He’s fine being alone with me, doing our own things, and I want to be alone-alone. Whenever we talk about it, both encourages the other to take needed me-time, but it’s harder to put into practice.

    And it doesn’t help when we’re trying to be frugal and not go out much, because there isn’t really anywhere to go inside the apartment. Sometimes, in the sanity vs. the budget quandry, sanity needs to win.

    • Rymenhild

      Have you tried the public library? They’re usually free, quiet, and provide entertainment.

      • I spent 90% of my childhood at the public library, so I’m not sure why I haven’t yet. Maybe it’s for the same reason I don’t eat beans much – it makes me feel poor, cause that’s what we *had* to eat when we didn’t have a lot growing up. This is such a great suggestion though. So much of adulthood so far has felt like making peace with the things about childhood and the way I was raised that I rebelled against in adolescence and early adulthood.

  • Caroline

    This is something we sometimes do well on, sometimes poorly. I just started nursing school, and surprisingly, it’s helping. One thing I’ve struggled with in our open plan studio is finding enough aloneness and an special space to meditate and pray. It helps me to have a special, quiet, alone, pretty space to do so, but there is little room for single use spaces in our apartment. Having the chapel at school, has thus been a big help. Also having a “school desk” which is my space and not shares space and if you use it you better leave it how I left it, though I think we need to create a little bit of space just for him.
    Something I really want to so is travel alone. I’d like to also travel with him, but I especially want to travel alone some. We’ve been living together (and too poor to travel much) since before I was mentally stable enough to travel safely alone. I’m looking forward to doing Birthright Israel and then staying over there hopefully a month, maybe two afterward. Exploring Israel alone sounds wonderful to me. (if we can afford it, maybe a month alone and a month together, but probably not. Birthright pays for your airfare. A plane ticket for him is probably too expensive.

  • JEM

    After a 5.5 year long-distance relationship (only seeing eachother on weekends for 4 years and then once a month or so for about 1.5 years ) we are now a year and a half in to living with eachother and still negotiating the nuances how we allocate our time.

    I am a planner so I can say “I have plans Wednesday night from 7:00 – 11:00 and I’m doing x, y, z on these days.” He is very much different in that he is much more spontaneous and is more likely to say “oki’mleavingnowanddoingsomethingBYE!!!” which sometimes makes me feel neglected and sidelined. We have to get used to the fact that we actually have more than 48 hours to see eachother and MUST MAXIMIZE TIME and our new arrangement with a few nights a week apart are ok.

  • Katy

    Rilke says it very well in a letter to Emanuel von Bodman, August 17, 1901

    “It is a question in marriage, to my feeling, not of creating a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries, but rather a good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude …

    “Therefore this too must be the standard for rejection or choice: whether one is willing to stand guard over the solitude of a person and whether one is inclined to set this same person at the gate of one’s own solitude …”

    I asked my brother to read from this letter at my wedding because it captures what I wanted out of marriage – independence while being right next to my husband.

    • Wooo. I’d read this before, and forgotten it, but Rilke is basically good for everything. Thanks for sharing!

  • I take lots of business trips, that seems to help. I also walk to places that are far away- like the gym or the grocery store. That seems to help too.

  • You know, reading through these comments, it really suggests to me that it’s based on how you’re wired.

    I am an introvert, but find my partner to be fully accepted in my space basically all the time, but I can’t bear to spend more than a few days with any one else, friend or family. (The last family vacation ended with yelling, stomping through the airport and collective vowing never to do this again. True story.)

    I moved in with David after 4 months, but then got my own apartment in the building a month later, just in case. I used it as a storage closet until his lease was up, and we both moved in to the un-used apartment. (It was complicated.) We lived in a one bedroom apartment for a year and a half, and it was just fine. We now live in a large enough house that physical solitude would be easy, but we still spend all of our time together. It’s just how we work. I don’t have alone needs as much as I have solitude needs, and I can find solitude while sitting two feet away from him. Give me a book or some oil paints and I’m totally happy; give him some computer projects and a hockey game and he’s totally happy.

    But that works for us, and doesn’t have to work for anyone else. There is nothing wrong with needing physical alone time, or solo date nights or whatever, just as there’s nothing wrong with not needing those. Different strokes, and all that.

    • Dawn

      “I am an introvert, but find my partner to be fully accepted in my space basically all the time, but I can’t bear to spend more than a few days with any one else, friend or family. ”

      Exactly! Early on in my relationship with my boyfriend I knew that we had the potential for a really great relationship because he didn’t drain me. I am an extreme introvert and being around people is just exhausting for me. Even when I adore them and really enjoy their company, I’m tired aftewards. My boyfriend was the first person I ever met who didn’t just make me tired. We did the semi-long distance thing for a couple of years (seeing each other on weekends) and it was amazing to me that I could spend an entire weekend with someone basically attached at the hip and just feel energized afterwards. So I’ve found that even after he moved in with me 6 months ago, I don’t need as much pure alone time as I thought I would. I can be ‘alone’ while reading a book while he sits right beside me on his laptop. Even though we have plenty of space in our house, we’re still usually basically attached at the hip. And it works for us.

      Then again, he went away for a week earlier this month and it was awesome to have all the space completely to myself again. I spent a few days actually starting to worry that there was something wrong with our relationship that I was enjoying myself so much with him gone (eat whatever I want, watch whatever bad tv I want, sleep on the couch with the kitties if I want). Then I realized I was being stupid, especially since when he came back home I realized that as much as I enjoyed my completely alone time, things were so much brighter when he was there.

  • Meg, as always your posts seem beautifully timed. Tomorrow I am moving in with my fiance and although I’m really excited about it, the big thing I’m worried about is losing my alone time. No matter how happy I am with him, there are times when I literally crave solitude. We’re going to have to work on it, because he works from home, but I know we can do it. Thanks for your thoughts, and I’m glad you got the time to yourself in New York.

    • Rymenhild

      Good luck and may you adjust happily to each other’s lives.

      As I commented above, I’m in the same space you are. The partner is moving in on Sunday, and life will change drastically, hopefully amazingly. We’ll see. Anyway, we can do it!

  • You know, recently my husband went to Vegas with a couple of his college friends, and several people reacted as if I hadn’t been invited. “He’s going WITHOUT you? To VEGAS?”

    I could very well have gone, but I went the year before, with him and the same people, and I really didn’t like it. Vegas isn’t my thing.

    We pretty much have it down how much time to spend or not spend with each other, but what surprises me is the number of people that (a) feel it’s any of their business or (b) think I should be hurt that my husband is off doing things without me. (Which gives me the apartment and my days entirely to myself.)

  • Stephanie

    My husband and I have had many honest and open discussions about this. Alone time is VERY important to me–both having alone time in the apartment and out of the apartment. We came up with a quasi-plan whereas I give him alone time in the apartment a few times a month so he can just be (which gives me alone time or girl time) and he leaves me alone in the apartment a few times a month too. Instead of screaming at each other to get out, we just tried to be honest about how we both need to be alone. And now it’s kind of scheduled and much easier. A girl needs her SATC reruns in peace!

  • Annearky

    I learned the hard way that not having my own space is a dealbreaker for me. So when my fiance moved in (back when he was my boyfriend) I made sure that we each had a space we could go to in the apartment where we could close a door or a curtain and be alone. Mine is the small second bedroom (I’m an artist and I work at home a lot), Fiance’s is an alcove next to the kitchen (He’s a nurse so he works at home less, but still appreciates having his own little space.) He has a wall made of bookshelves, and a curtain he can close if he needs to.

    Also – being the same level of neat/messy somehow helps me feel more at ease with sharing my space. Another “hard-way” lesson learned: I can’t live with a slob, no matter how sweet they are.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    We don’t live together, though he spends Friday and Saturday nights at my place. We need about the same amount of alone time, BUT he works from home, and I’m a lawyer with a 1-hour commute who frequently stays at the office past 11pm. That means that the only time I have for my personal life is the weekends. For the first few months of this routine, I felt guilty. There are people who work full-time too with bigger homes, longer commutes, and CHILDREN, and they still manage to get all the laundry and cleaning done during the week. Why couldn’t I handle my career and a one-bedroom apartment without bringing my then-boyfriend into the chores? Also, if the living room blankets stayed unfolded, and the spots stayed on the bathroom mirror, and 5 meals worth of dishes stayed in the sink, and I got stressed and irritable, did that mean I was becoming my mother, ’cause such things never bothered me until sometime after I turned 25?

    But as the routine deepened, I realized a few things. 1) Stepping out for literally just a few minutes to do the laundry was not really taking that much time from him or us. 2) Apart from the laundry, most of the messes I was so anxious to clean were from the weekends, which were the only time anyone really lives in my apartment, instead of just sleeping there. Since he was there for the weekends, asking him to help by cleaning his own dishes, etc., was actually quite fair, even if his name is not on the lease. 3) Our moms are right about things, and sometimes we need to hit our late-twenties to figure that out. When we figure out that Mom was right that the calm that comes from a clean room may be worth the hassle of cleaning it, it does not mean we have become our mothers.

    We still haven’t quite figured out the alone-time issues. He’s looking for an office job, so we eventually won’t have such different work-week routines, and I won’t be so resentful about the 10+ hours more free time he has each week. I try not to get defensive when he suggests things for me to read and I can’t imagine finding the time, and super-serious reading is the #1 thing in our relationship.

    Extended alone time is still really tricky. There are times I wish he would take a business trip so I can clean out my closets or whatever. His back was out a few weeks ago, and for the first time since we started dating, I got to spend all afternoon at the mall. I (mostly) cleared my head. I finally remembered to buy the things I kept forgetting on weekend errands made as short as possible to maximize together-time. I got to look at girly stuff for hours without feeling too guilty depriving me of his company.

    Also, in the background to all this is my parents’ marriage narrative. They got married because they wanted to spend all their time together. They WERE spending all their time together, apparently, apart from classes and sleeping. So I approached romantic relationships thinking that that’s how I’m supposed to feel. It took me awhile to realize that’s their paradigm; it does not have to be mine. [See, I’m not my mother.]

    Let me conclude by saying we’ve also experienced the antithesis. We need forced-together time, too. Wednesdays are date nights, and we often have deeper conversations when we’re forced to sit across a table from each other for a couple hours. On weekends, we can fill the time with activities instead of conversation. I also really like weekends away with him, where there’s enough time to just relax in a “home” I (we) don’t have to clean.

  • PAF

    I am struggling with this SO much right now. I have always been a bit of a loner, but found in my husband someone I can be around all the time and not want to murder (I tell him that being with him is like being alone, which he finds confusing, but really it’s a compliment). Anyway, we realized a while back that we needed more alone time for the sake of our relationship. We are together all the time on the weekends, and although it’s easy most of the time, I don’t think its healthy for us. Recently we moved to a very isolated place in the country (AMAZING but not helpful in this endeavor). Now we are alone TOGETHER and can’t just walk out the door to meet up with friends at the bar down the street. We have long commutes together everyday, and on weekends people tend to come and visit us, which means we can’t really do things separately, at least until these weekend visits die down, if they do. This morning I woke up extremely snappy, and when he asked a simple harmless question, I blurted out – I need more alone time! He hears this from me regularly now but we just dont know how to do it with our new lifestyle. Advice please!

    • Class of 1980

      PAF wrote: “I have always been a bit of a loner, but found in my husband someone I can be around all the time and not want to murder (I tell him that being with him is like being alone, which he finds confusing, but really it’s a compliment).”

      I think that is a huge and wonderful compliment. ;)

      Someone else I know said being around her husband is easier than breathing. Another great compliment.

  • This is one of the biggest things I/we struggle with.

    When I was in grad school it didn’t matter — we ended up being at home at different times and it worked out. Now we’re both working full time on the same exact schedule and HE IS ALWAYS HOME when I am. Luckily, I love him so this typically isn’t a problem. Except when it is. And then all of a sudden it is a huge effing problem and I tell him to go away. Which he doesn’t like.

    I have been experimenting with being in the same house, together, while getting alone time. It isn’t perfect being that we have a 1-bedroom, but the other day I utilized the heck out of that one bedroom by claiming it as my own for an afternoon. Well, mine, and my computer (which played me a girly-movie), my earphones (for better listening), and a cocktail (because girly movies are better with cocktails). Anyway, I found it refreshing and didn’t feel self conscious about crying at the really sappy parts.

    My love is also extremely into college football and it’s about that time of the year when it gets into full swing. I’ve never been so excited along with him. He’s excited to go to the games. I’m excited to have the house to myself!

  • Not Sarah

    I think this is what scares me the most about the idea of moving in with someone. My boyfriend is a crazy extrovert PLUS he has a roommate, whereas I live by myself in a 900+ sqft 1+den apartment. I greatly value my alone time, but honestly, one of my favorite activities “together” activities is to sit and do quiet stuff in the same room, like reading or computer stuff.

    He’s on vacation right now for a couple of weeks and as much as I miss seeing him almost every day and not being able to talk to him, I’m really enjoying spending the time in my apartment and having all of the personal space in the world.

    Another tactic that I have found immensely helpful is that if I’m feeling too overwhelmed by people, I will work from home one day a week. My manager is okay with this plan, so long as it is no more than one day per week. I’m a talkative introvert, but spending all day at work with my coworkers, eating lunch out with my coworkers, and then seeing my boyfriend in the evening is too much for every day. I also sometimes eat lunch by myself.

    I think that my personal space issues would be better if we’re living just us, not with him and a roommate, plus me, so I would hold off on moving in with him until it can be just us. He’s definitely in my bubble of people who I can hang out with when I want to be alone (most of the time).

  • Class of 1980

    I have always needed a ton of solitude also – more than most people as far as I can tell. Lately, I have been struggling with the question of whether I really ever want to get married again. As much as having a companion in life is a great thing, maybe even necessary for total well-being for most people, it comes with a price.

    There is something so delicious in not consulting someone else on how you live – and in not having to juggle the needs of someone else along with your own. – and in the total relaxation of unselfconscious solitude.

    I am not particularly a fan of Dr. Phil, but he addressed this on a recent show. He said … “Every relationship has a price of admission.” You exchange total freedom and the need to only please yourself to gain the benefits of the relationship.

    It was kind of a relief to hear it put that way. I would think that knowing this up front would help me to be stronger in negotiating some boundaries for BOTH. I always managed to find some solitude within relationships in the past, but I think I could do better in the future knowing how necessary it is for me.

    At the same time, I did have one relationship that involved both of us having so much time apart that I now realize it was a symptom of problems that led to the final breakup.

    There has got to be a happy balance where you know you’re a team, but you honor your status as separate people too.

  • Totally feel you on the tiny apartment situation. Weirdly, though, I think one thing that works for us is this: Joe cooks, and LOVES to cook, and would prefer that I not help him cook (it’s… um… not my strong suit), and our minuscule kitchen is the perfect size for one person but not two. So most weeknights we get some alone-time by default—him cooking away in there (listening to music or an audiobook or whatever) and me doing whatever on my own in the rest of the apartment. If the kitchen was bigger I might be tempted to loiter while he cooks but that’s basically physically impossible, so we’re kinda forced into temporary solo-time. Bonus: we get awesome food out of this arrangement.

  • Alexandra

    Thank you for this post! I’m not married or engaged. I’m in the difficult break-up stage of a relationship but I can’t agree more with this post. It’s come at the perfect time for me. I never realized how much down-time I needed until I felt overwhelmed with committments with my boyfriend. I felt like I was seeing too much of him. And negotiating time apart became difficult. Partially because neither of us wanted to be apart but also because I’d fill my night’s off with chores and not relaxation.

    The word “Balance” has become increasingly important to me these days. But there’s a thin line between balance and juggling. Juggling is chaotic and draining. Balance is refreshing.

    Thank you to everyone for knowing I’m not the only one who needs to sit and do nothing. Sometimes more often than I think.

  • As someone who left a very oppressive marriage, I value that alone time so highly. About three months after my soon-to-be-husband (October 8th, here we come!), I drove from our home in Wisconsin to visit my Aunt in Georgia, alone. Mike would have come with but his schedule did not permit it and it was something that I steadfastly wanted to do alone. My first husband would never have “allowed” me to do something like that. I was 26 years old and had never been anywhere without my mother, my husband or my best friend. It was important to me to go alone.

    I drove the entire distance, 1800 miles, alone in my car in just over 18 hours. I listened to my music and some books on cd and arrived at my aunt’s home around 4 in the morning. I spent the next 2 weeks enjoying the overwhelming heat of coastal Georgia in July and did what I wanted to do. Because I was teaching at the time and on summer vacation, I didn’t have to be home by any set time and because I was staying with family, my expenses were minimal. I simply enjoyed the freedom and the alone time.

    I journaled the trip with my camera and a stuffed penguin named Bebe. I took her to all of the beautiful places that I went and told the story of my trip through her, and then posted those photos to facebook, where Mike was able to see them and be a part of what I was experiencing. It was a wonderful experience for me and one that I cannot fully express the value of.

    Now, two years later, I am beginning to feel the desire to make another trip. Because of a bad financial existence over the last few years (hello grad school) and the expense of planning our wedding this fall, I haven’t been able to make a big trip like that again. I find time alone every day, though, and the precedent that it set in our relationship has been invaluable. We both realize how much we want and need that space. Right now I’m enjoying some time alone in my office while Mike is at his first night of football practice (he’s a coach for 7th graders). I’ve been reading and now I’m taking time to read APW. It’s amazing how grounded and good I feel after having time to myself.

  • Marina

    For the first six months we lived together, we shared a twin-size mattress in a small room, in a house we shared with 4 other people. That was too much.

    For the next 6 YEARS we lived together, we got two-bedroom apartments. This was initially something my husband insisted on and I shrugged and went along with, but it was really smart and well worth the money. Having the ability to put a door between us was really valuable.

    Now we live in a one bedroom, and do a lot of the “alone in the same space” that other people have mentioned. The ability to say, “Hey, I’m gonna put on headphones for a bit, please don’t interrupt me unless it’s important” is definitely crucial. And I gotta say, as an introvert, I love emailing him a funny link and then watching him giggle at it. It’s all the benefits of interaction without any of the tiring parts.

    That said, I do wish there was more time I had the whole house to myself. He works night shift, so there’s a lot of time when I’m alone while he’s sleeping but I can’t exactly put on loud music or start home improvement projects. He’s switching to evening shift soon, which means we’ll see less of each other but I’ll get more time entirely to myself… I’m trying to keep looking at the bright sides. :)

  • Mel

    It was very difficult for me to move in with my husband after living by myself for four years. I still enjoy having my summers off of work, and my husband being gone all day. I am quiet person so it’s nice to have noise free house every once and awhile. We purposely bought a bigger house so we could have our space to do the things we enjoy, especially during the winter months when we are trapped inside.

    With that all being, I miss him when he is gone.

  • This issue, more than any other, I have struggled with these first two years of marriage. In fact, I’ve thought about writing a Reclaiming Wife post on it once I wrap my head around it.

    My husband and I have gone from a 1-bdrm, 2-car situation when we were engaged, to a studio and 1-car when we moved to Hawaii right after marriage… then we returned and lived in a friend’s bedroom for 5 months and now we live in a van as we travel around the country.

    Did I mention we both work remotely so are together most of the 24 hrs of every day? Yeah… alone time is tough to come by.

    We are remarkably adept at dealing with the closeness, but there are times when I find I have a HARD time asking for space when I really need it. For some reason, I feel like I’m saying “I don’t want to be around you” when while that’s true to an extent, it sounds horrible to me. And usually, when I want to be alone (especially since we’re on the road), I want to be HOME (aka in the van). Alone. Which means I effectively have to kick him out. Which just isn’t fair.

    He’s wonderful and understanding, but STILL… it’s really, really hard for me!

    And now we’re heading toward the end of our “adVANture” and I wonder what in the world will in be like when we have our own space again? I imagine a time when we spend tons of time apart and maybe, just maybe he’ll prefer that… which totally scares me. (It’s an irrational fear, I realize, but there it is.)

    Thank you all for your comments… I am bookmarking this post and will come back here (again and again) for tips and suggestions when we are settled.

    For now, I am working on finding my voice and taking time alone when I need it. And actually, it’s working pretty well to simply work from separate tables at Starbucks (or other local indie coffee shops) during our workdays. I can see him, but for some reason, having that space helps.

    I totally relate to needing alone time to renew and find my WHOLE self again… so I can give my whole self to my marriage. Thank you for the reminder to make sure I take that time (guilt-free) and for helping me feel not so totally alone. :)

  • Word, Meg. And solitude is particularly important when you’re a creative person who doesn’t want to share your process! Moving in together pretty much killed my songwriting. I simply can’t compose when he’s around. I have to fight tooth and nail, really with myself, to get that creative time … wait … I’m home alone; what am I doing on the internet? To the piano!

  • We find solitude in our schedule differences, which actually keep us apart more than they allow us to be together. With him being a cook, he doesn’t get home until nearly midnight. I’m usually plopped on the couch by 9 at the latest. So I get nearly 3 hours of Christen time, be it to blog, read, cook, drink or whatever. I go to work at 1:30 or earlier, so he gets between then and his 4:00 start time to have his own time. We generally get about a half-hour in the morning and two hours at night (if I can stay up). And one full day per two weeks. I spend a lot of time missing him, but it allows only child me to have the solitude I’ve become so accustomed to.

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