I love you. Now leave me alone.
May 12, 2011 10:11 AM   Subscribe

How to create/preserve a solitary brain-active morning routine when living with a distracting partner.

My s.o. and I moved in together some months ago. It's going beautifully so far, but for one thorny issue. I miss my mornings alone terribly. My s.o. is wonderful in the mornings -- super-cheerful, playful, a natural mood-brightener -- but by the same token chatty and in need of attention. It's sort of his play time before diving into a long, intense work day. I want him to have that, and so participate in the random cutesy shenanigans, but don't actually want to. (This isn't about sex, at night for us, but affectionate, child-like physical/verbal goofiness.)

Quiet mornings have always been important to my mood, creativity, and productivity. When living alone, I'd brainstorm/sketch/journal for about an hour over breakfast, right after getting up, before showering and preparing for work. I can rarely do that now. When interacting with him instead, I can feel my elusive, early-morning mental brightness fading away. And because he's not a brainy person in the morning, attempts at stimulating conversation usually become frustratingly jokey-pokey. Other partners I've lived with either had morning habits similar to mine, or got up significantly earlier / later than me, so this conflict is new to me.

For the super-brilliant consistently creative person I imagine it wouldn't be a problem. But I already have difficulty concentrating throughout the day, and am out at events or with friends in the evenings, so that morning hour feels crucial. I've gently explained the situation to my s.o., and while he understands, he can't help his natural behavior and so hasn't changed, and I don't necessarily want him to. Increasingly, though, I feel like I'm humoring him and counting the minutes while desperate for him just to leave for work already -- and when he does, I'd feel stressed and brain-empty anyway.

I need to resolve these feelings before they ossify into resentment. I tried forcing myself to get up an hour earlier, and that worked for about a week, but my body wasn't having it. I will keep trying, however, because I can't see any other solution. Can anyone else?
posted by taramosalata to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You say you've "gently" explained the situation -- how about escalating from "gentle" to "polite but a bit more firm"?

The easiest way for you to get your alone time is to insist he let you have it. He knows you need it, he's not doing that now. You have the right to enforce that. It's just an hour, he surely can let you do that. Or should.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: EmpressC- I guess I treasure the time together with him a bit too much to impose a no-talking rule. It just seems cruel, esp. as his working day is longer and often more tiring than mine. Perhaps I should also be clear that I'm not seething with impatience 100% of the time during these interactions. Most of the time am just slightly panicky, mournful, and conflicted inside....
posted by taramosalata at 10:24 AM on May 12, 2011

Can you have intimate, playful couple time Mon-Wed-Fri, and creative, restorative alone time Tue-Thu-Sat? Sunday varies?
posted by teragram at 10:27 AM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Well, you either need him to do something different or you need to give up the expectation that mornings are creative time. There isn't really a middle ground, here.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:27 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wake up earlier! It's not the most comfortable situation in the world, but really, if you need to be alone and undistracted, and he needs to be sociable and jovial (in the morning, which is just unnatural)...then it seems like the only real solution that doesn't make him sad or you sad, is to push that spot for yourself back an hour or so.
posted by mittens at 10:28 AM on May 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

Would it be helpful if you could have 30-45 minutes just to yourself in the morning instead of the original hour you used to have? I bet that if you explained to your S.O exactly what you've told us -- that you personally require silence and solitude to help you get started each morning -- he'd be willing to respect that need for 30 minutes, thereby giving you the opportunity to collect yourself either before or after you engage in the morning cheer he wants/needs.
posted by patronuscharms at 10:29 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Perhaps you could take a walk--is there a park nearby where you could go with a travel mug of coffee/tea and a packable breakfast and your notebook for an hour? Or a coffee shop where you could hang out for an hour or so? Then come back, and have social time with him before work, or something like that.
posted by tully_monster at 10:31 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Then it sounds like maybe the person you need to speak to about enforcing your alone time is yourself. I wasn't implying that you were "seething with impatience;" however, you clearly were concerned enough about this to ask us for advice. "Asking him to respect your wishes, especially when you've already expressed them" was my advice, is all.

Although, you've reacted a bit strongly to that, so I'd also suggest that you may want to look at also being a bit more stern with yourself as well, especially since you know this is somtehing you need.

Look -- I get it. I have trouble getting a good night's sleep too when I've got a schmoopie in my bed with me too. But I also know that if I don't get a good night's sleep sometimes, I'm braindead, so I just create that boundary, and my schmoopie has to respect it -- but so do I. I can't say "leave me alone for an hour" and then when he says "okay", I don't say "okay, maybe just fifeen minutes," because then he won't respect that boundary any more.

So I'd remind him that you've asked for that hour, and then also stick to it yourself. Because you know you need it (otherwise you woulnd't have asked us for help, right?)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:31 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Essentially, something has to give. You've constructed a situation where that thing is your wake-up time.

Seriously, just wake up half an hour/45 minutes earlier than he does. Eat and brainstorm to your heart's content. When he gets up and is ready to be playful, you can join in.
posted by muddgirl at 10:39 AM on May 12, 2011

Just saw your last paragraph: in addition to getting up earlier, you'll need to go to bed earlier.
posted by muddgirl at 10:45 AM on May 12, 2011

Sigh. I know that this is standard AskMe advice, but.... print this out and show it to him.

None of it reflects badly on either of you. Some folks are morning people, some folks aren't morning people, and some folks are other kinds of morning people. This will not make or break your relationship -- I promise.

I'm sure that the two of you can work out some mutually-agreeable situation that prevents the two of you from constantly bumping into each other, but allows him to still get some "quality time" with you before leaving for work.

Also: I know that this is probably a long way off, but if/when you have kids, neither of you will have the morning schedule that you desire. It's one of those tradeoffs, and being able to control/schedule your morning activities is a pretty rare luxury for many folks.
posted by schmod at 10:47 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it really is just about explaining it more firmly, with lots of reassurance on how it's not really about him at all.

I have a similar issue - when I first get home at the end of the day, I really need to decompress in front of my computer alone, quietly, without being interactive for the first 10ish minutes or so. After that, I'm happy to talk. When my partner and I first moved in together, he would chatter at me as soon as I got home, and it drove me nuts! I really had to explain to him that this is just one of my quirky needs and that I'll be much better company later in the evening if he lets me do my thing in peace first. It took a while for it to sink in to the point where his habits changed to accommodate me, but we got there eventually. I'm confident that you and your partner can manage that, too.
posted by Eshkol at 10:51 AM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: I enjoy "messing" with my SO. I often do this when I'm tired, as the playfulness of it wakes me up (early or late). I am aware that I can do this too much, too often, and take it too far sometimes.

It is all in good fun, but there are times where I can tell it's a strain on her. I thoroughly enjoy acting like a ten-year old sometimes, especially around her, as I find it amusing, she finds it amusing/aggravating, and I honestly don't think she wants me to necessarily change it either. With that said, it's not really all THAT important to me, I can obviously switch it off, or I wouldn't be able to hold a job.

While I think it's a little odd to put specific limitations on when someone should be playful or serious outside of common situations requiring gravity, I recently have been trying to make a concerted effort to rein some of my behavior in whether or not she's "in the mood" for it. I think it's just something I'd like to do to take her feelings into consideration. In doing this, I inadvertently found that shared activities can help. Doing crossword puzzles together, starting an semi-adult conversation like 'How is that work project going?', or anything that engages some thought really helps, as it forces my brain to switch gears from: "LALALALALA WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!" to "Well, the meeting went pretty well, and my boss was impressed with...." or "Hmmm what IS a five letter word for..."
posted by Debaser626 at 10:52 AM on May 12, 2011

This might only add to the distraction, but do you have pets? Maybe your partner could express his/her playfulness with a trip to the dog park with Fido, or play with the kitten in the bedroom while you have quiet time in the kitchen? Sometimes introducing another variable can help when you think you've run out of options.
posted by stellaluna at 11:00 AM on May 12, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for for all the suggestions so far! Sorry to get all kneejerk-defensive to your response, EmpressC. It's true that the outward gentleness + inner ambivalence combo isn't helping, and that I ought to be more decisive. I suppose the issue is partly that his goofy outlet needs my participation, whereas my creative outlet needs his non-participation, which has made me feel that I need to "be there" for him, and just "find" a time for myself when he's not there. But I guess it is reasonable, too, as you say, to ask that he actively "not-be there" for me.

And yes, if I really want that creative hour badly enough, I guess I should also be able to wake up earlier. So I'm in agreement also with everyone who underscored that clear simple solution. I know there are good AskMeFi threads on waking up earlier. Not a very-early morning person, I've consulted them before and will do so again.

Debaser- I love that glimpse into the frolicky male morning mind. The "LALALALALA WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!" part feels especially familiar! And it's encouraging to think that he can be quieted without feeling stifled.

Maybe the suggestions of halving the week, and/or splitting the morning into private / shared, could be incremental steps toward that quieting....

stellaluna- I wish we did have a pet, and he'd love one, too. I really believe it'd help resolve this. Unfortunately our current apt./schedules aren't ideal conditions for having one.

I'd be grateful for any further thoughts / accounts of similar experiences, too.
posted by taramosalata at 11:52 AM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: I've had a similar experience. My SO is very task driven, so most of the morning chatter is about things to do, which really derails my morning time. I forced myself to wake up earlier, and so even if I manage to get at least some writing (in my case) done, the rest of the morning/day goes a lot better. I also considered myself a night person, but the morning time has its own advantages.
posted by dhruva at 1:12 PM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: Very similar situation in this household and I feel for you. Today is my 15th anniversary and I have never been able to get through to Ms. Yuck about this. She is who she is and I am someone else, so I started getting up 45 minutes earlier and waking her up with a cup of coffee and some chat. That worked really well.

Then we had a baby. And all that "I need this and you need that" stuff just vanished.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:03 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two possibilities: if getting up earlier isn't working for you, can you get up later? Like, after he leaves for work? That's what I do.

Alternatively, what about going out for a long walk first thing? Jump out of bed, throw on some trackpants and head out the door. Hell, if you don't feel like exercising, head to a coffee shop and sit with your back to the room for a while. When you feel ready to face other people, come home.
posted by lollusc at 4:53 PM on May 12, 2011

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