how do you balance a relationship with the rest of your life?
February 20, 2013 6:27 PM   Subscribe

In my first relationship where I'm spending significant amounts of time with a boyfriend and need some guidance on how I can balance 'him' time and 'me' time.

I'm 25 and I'm in the first relationship in my life where I'm really spending a significant amount of time with the guy. We're about four months in and generally spend most of our weekends together and a couple weeknights as well. I'm super happy and really enjoy spending all of this time with him, but it's meant that I don't have a lot of time for the other things in my life. I need some ideas on how to create a workable and sustainable balance between him and everything else.

We have a pretty overlapping friend group so I don't feel like I'm ditching my friends to hang out with him since often when we're together they're also around. I don't live near my family but I have a short list of family members that I call each weekend and I've continued to do that. I also feel like I'm on top of the things I need to be doing like bills and such. However, a lot of other things in my life have fallen by the wayside-- reading, studying spanish, running, other hobbies that we don't share (we do a lot of cooking together and hiking and rock climbing, but the hobbies we don't share I don't do much of anymore). I also like to get up a few hours before I need to leave before work and stretch and drink coffee and do housework and that's not something I feel like I can do when he is sleeping over (which he does often). I work about 50 hours a week so a good chunk of my time goes to that.

so obviously I could just stop spending quite as much time with him and I know that he would understand and respect that decision but I really enjoy being with him and having him sleep over and hanging out with him all weekend. I'm just a fairly independent person in general and so it's a sharp decrease in ME time and I'm looking for ways of figuring out that balance. I realize it's sort of a 'have my cake and eat it too' attitude and there are only so many hours in the day, but I'm sure that many people have faced this dilemma and I'm looking for ideas on how to approach it.

I guess I also have this worry in the back of my mind that this is way too much time to spend with one person and we will be sick of each other soon (we also work together...our jobs aren't really conducive to socializing too much during the day but we're always passing each other as we work and talking on breaks.) What I'm trying to say is we spend a LOT of time together and I'm worried that it's not sustainable.
posted by sockypuppeteer to Human Relations (15 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should enjoy the surfeit of togetherness for another few months and you will likely find that it naturally reaches a better balance once the relationship is less new. You will of course still love being around your partner, but you won't feel bad getting up and vacuuming while he snoozes (for example). In the meantime, a couple more months of putting off running in favour of non-stop nookie is a good thing!
posted by Pomo at 6:31 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wonder, if you try talking to him about it, if he might reveal that he's actually neglected some of his own hobbies during this time and wouldn't mind getting back to some of that stuff a little too. Maybe you two could try planning time together during which you both sort of do your own thing for a little bit? This would work if any of these hobbies are portable. Reading certainly is. I've done this with my boyfriend a few times and it's turned out well since we both want to do our own thing at times, and it's nice to do that stuff with the other person around, even if we're not interacting.
posted by wondermouse at 6:42 PM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

Just as you are wise to be responsible before meeting your BF, the same instinct is kicking in now and saying this may be too much time. Trust your instincts.

Balance will extend the relationship in healthy ways, it will give it longevity. The current pace could kill the relationship earlier (".. distance makes the heart... "). The other activities you have suspended enrich you, which in turn, enrich your relationships. Find a way to bring them back into your life.

Balance and curtailing the amount of easy access your have with each other will never hurt the relationship.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:42 PM on February 20, 2013

the hobbies we don't share I don't do much of anymore... but I really enjoy being with him and having him sleep over and hanging out with him all weekend
Your time is yours to budget however you please. When you have a partner with whom you like to spend regular quality time, you're necessarily going to lose some of the time you used to spend on other things – you only have so much time in the day, after all – so it's up to you to decide what is important enough to set aside some time for. Take a look at your hobbies and interests and see what really is important to you. Do you need a four hour block every other weekend to go spelunking? Then tell your partner, "I'm going to be spelunking every other weekend, okay boyfriend?" and see what he says. You may not have endless amount of "me" time anymore, but you should insist on making time for the interests and hobbies that matter to you. Be explicit about what you need but let him know that you value your time together as well.
posted by deathpanels at 7:09 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I also like to get up a few hours before I need to leave before work and stretch and drink coffee and do housework and that's not something I feel like I can do when he is sleeping over (which he does often).

Why? At four months and with him over most nights, he's not a house guest and you don't need to treat him like he is. Get up, have coffee, run.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:20 PM on February 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

Well, joining a club or a meet up with a regular schedule really helps. My husband has tennis on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and he knows he can't miss it because the other people in the meet up/his instructor etc. will be upset.

Likewise, I used to volunteer on Saturdays and Sundays and I was in charge of a bunch of people who were counting on me, so I had to leave the house to lead an event no matter what. It was always on my schedule more than a month in advance.
posted by bananafish at 8:59 PM on February 20, 2013

I hope this makes sense: at some point after a few months together you kind of transition from doing things together to being able to each do your own thing, together.

So sometime when he wants to come over on a Tuesday say "sure, but I'm going to be doing a couple hours of Spanish homework tonight". And so he brings his own book, and you sit next to each other on the couch and you entertain each other during breaks, and you teach him how to say dirty words in Spanish, and then you go to bed. It still counts as couple time, but you get your own shit done too.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:29 PM on February 20, 2013 [16 favorites]

Yeah, I think you need to start scheduling in time to do your own thing. Like take a class or something.

This kind of thing is why I've tended to date people who are either busy or live elsewhere, actually--the time is scheduled in by default!
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:49 PM on February 20, 2013

1. When I started seriously dating and spending a lot of time with my partner, I had a similar "I don't have time for all my hobbies!" upset. I was spending a lot of time sewing, hand quilting, crocheting, gaming, and sketching (among other things). But then I realised I had all those hobbies to fill all the free time I had when I was single. Know what I mean? It wasn't that I didn't enjoy those hobbies, because I did. But the reason I had all of them and spent so much time on them was because I didn't want to spend so much of my time alone, doing nothing. I had/have lots of friends and was always social, but even then there was a lot of solo time that needed to be filled. Now with my fiance my time (and life) is really full and wonderful and interesting, without all the hobbies. Part of me felt guilty for not missing them more, or not being more upset that I let them fall by the wayside. We've been together almost 2 years now (getting married this fall! whee!) and a lot of those old hobbies are still absent, but I don't miss them. Doing things with him, interracting and takling and building memories together is WAY more better than hand quilting in silence. If I'm home sick or something I may pick up a crochet hook and make a pair of mittens or something, but it isn't something I feel I'm missing. I have kept up with some, though.

2. Before my relationship I spent a lot of time at the gym. I've had to change my gym schedule a bit to fit it in to our life together, but it matters so I do what it takes. My fiance knows that it matters to me too, so he is very accomodating and does whatever he can to fascilitate my getting to the gym. The biggest thing he does is that never grumps when the alarm goes off at 5:30am (I go to the gym in the morning before work). I'm sure he'd rather have the alarm go off an hour later, but he never complains or makes me feel bad for it. So this is where as a couple you find ways to work the hobbies/interests that really matter in to your life. You BOTH make it a priority.

3. Agreed with above that doing separate things with your partner can be really nice. Every evening my fiance and I read in bed together. We read separate books and we aren't talking or interacting (though we are always touching in some way, usually our feet), but it is nice doing it together. Also, my fiance's hobby is winemaking at home, so some evenings he'll be bottling or racking the wine while I play my videogame. We're in the same space, and we talk some, but for the most part we're doing our own thing. It is nice, too.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:43 AM on February 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'd go ahead and have wondermouse's discussion about building in some alone time & "together alone" time, just so that ground is prepared. You are already seeing a sharp decrease in ME time -- getting more time to yourself can be a hard sell to some partners (ask me how I know).
posted by travertina at 6:05 AM on February 21, 2013

Husbunny and I are both very independent and have a pretty high need for alone time. The weird thing is, we feel lonely if the other person isn't in the other room.

For example, if I have to out of town for work, he'll still be down in the basement watching You Tube and playing his on-line game. I'll be in a bed watching Bunheads, but if we're not under the same roof, we miss each other.

So. Perhaps you and your boyfriend can find a way to do your own thing, but together. For example, you read, he does his video games. You might be on the same sofa, but you're not engaged with each other.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:12 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

It depends on the relationship and time needs of each person. But, in general, compromises and sacrifices get made. Its part of life and relationships and even growing up.

However, once the first 'shiny new love' gets worn off a little, the relationship matures into something where you can budget time for X instead of just Us. (hopefully, anyway)
posted by Jacen at 6:23 AM on February 21, 2013

What I'm trying to say is we spend a LOT of time together and I'm worried that it's not sustainable.

You're not likely to "burn out" if you really click and the relationship continues -- either you'll just be a couple that enjoys spending most of their time together, or you'll shift gradually into a balance where you have a good amount of together time and some other time that's either spent separately or in companionable solitary activities, as described by other posters above. After all, even the biggest introverts can manage to have happy marriages, so there must be a way to work it all out!

Trust your enjoyment, but also trust the cues that you gradually pick up about yourself and your needs. You learn about each other, you learn about yourself, and you adjust how the relationship works to accommodate both. (And, by extension, sometimes you find that certain relationships don't work and others do; certain people fulfill/fit with many or most of the things that you value, others not enough; and so on. Learning is good!)
posted by acm at 7:18 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

First, as much as 1) you are learning about another person, you are also learning about 2) yourself in a relationship. There's no shortcut to learning how to balance your time – it's an ongoing process of balancing your own needs, your relationship needs, and time with friends. And it doesn't go away. Life is always dynamic – to say the least – and as you move forward in life, demands on your time will change. Thus, it may be best to consider that there is no end-goal of perfect balance, but that you're constantly going to be fine-tuning how you spend your time and moving things up and down in terms of priority.

Secondly, there were things that attracted him to you – the person you are (or were). New relationships can be intoxicating and there is the natural compulsion to want to spend A LOT of time with the new partner. That's all good, but just keep in mind that the relationship is a reflection of you as an individual. There are things you enjoy doing, and need to do, to be the person that you are – and want to be. Whilst you may want to spend all your time with him at the moment, please keep in mind that you had a life before him, and that life is important. Part of a relationship is being introduced to new things via the other person, that is part of the joy. Part of a relationship is introducing the other person to new things, as well. And in order to introduce the person to new things, you have to do those things yourself.

If you feel as if you're getting lost, take a bit more "me" time and sort it out. The right person is someone who understands your need both to be part of a couple, and your need to be an individual.

Thirdly, there's a funny thing that happens in relationships. In the beginning, you are learning how to be together. Then there comes a time when you have to learn how to be an individual again in context of the relationship. These are not things to be scared of, but to embrace.
posted by nickrussell at 7:51 AM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

I did. But the reason I had all of them and spent so much time on them was because I didn't want to spend so much of my time alone, doing nothing.

I don't think of my hobbies as something to fill the time so that I'm not alone doing nothing.

To the OP: Get up early and do what you gotta' do. Your boyfriend can deal with it. One of my greatest regrets in past relationships was not just putting my morning person-ness out there early on, and it became an issue, and we were both always grumpy. Get up, go for a run or whatever, and then sex up or cuddle with your man afterwards if you'd like.

I'm not sure if this aligns with your hobbies or interests, but I've found that when two people have similar (if not identical) creative goals, they can help each other stick to those goals. A friend of mine and her ex-boyfriend, for example, would each go to their separate studios and paint one designated night each week. Another friend of mine and his girlfriend do something similar. Maybe your boyfriend has a hobby/passion that he's been neglecting and you guys can study Spanish and do some woodworking separately but also sort of together?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:47 AM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

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