Alone time? How to get it and give it in a loving way.
April 11, 2013 1:09 PM   Subscribe

People who need a lot of home all alone time – how did you get used to (if you did) living with a spouse or partner? What was the adjustment period like? Also, can you get enough the alone time you need if the other person is in the same house, but not in the same room? What advice would you give to each person in this type of relationship? Anecdotes welcomed on cohabiting with a person who needs lees or more alone time than you.
posted by Lescha to Human Relations (29 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
I think the most important thing is to be able to communicate. "Hey, it's not you, I just need some space, so I am going to be in the other room doing $activity. We'll watch a movie later."
posted by desjardins at 1:19 PM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Mr. Orangutan is one of those people who needs a lot of alone time.

He obviously loves me and wants me around a lot, but he definitely needs time to decompress or work or whatever... away from me.

Part of living with someone is about compromise. I am very extroverted. I work in a fairly isolating job (think cubicles). When I come home, I want to interact and relax with Mr. Orangutan, but he comes home wanting to decompress after teaching his two or three hour long classes. Since we were in an LDR for a long time -- we still kind of are, but we are in the same house about five days a week -- this wasn't an issue, but when we started de-facto living together, we worked something out.

Since his work ends before mine, he takes his alone time then. I come home, and he's ready to talk to me for an hour or so, before he goes off to get some work done or do his own thing. I fill that time by seeing my own girlfriends, catching up on documentaries, reading and having long phone calls with my best friends in DC and London.

Sometimes, though, he does have late-night classes. And on those nights he comes home and it's like he avoids me thoroughly. This is why I prefer not to be in the house with him on those nights, because it's annoying to have to come home to someone who would prefer not to interact with me.

Mr. Orangutan considers his alone time fulfilled if I'm in a different room or not interacting with him. However, even if he's slightly down or depressed, I notice his mood improves immensely if I give him space and go out. He lives in a bigger city than I do, so when he REALLY needs to be alone (which happens less and less frequently, I think he's adjusting to life together) I just take a walk, or pop in at Barnes and Nobles. The trick is to have a routine in which neither person feels like they're significantly disrupting their lives in order to make the other person feel comfortable. Before the LDR there was a lot of resentment, but I think being alone helped me adjust to my own interior monologue, and being alone helped Mr Orangutan actually learn to feel lonely for a change.
posted by orangutan at 1:21 PM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

In my previous marriage, I didn't understand the need I had for this, and I didn't get much, if any, time alone. Now I have learned that I need a great deal of it to stay a sane and pleasant person.

In my current relationship (2+ years), we have decided to live separately. I am not certain I would get the time I needed if we lived in the same house. I'm very fortunate that my partner has similar needs for time alone; if he didn't, I'm not sure it would work as well as it has. We were forced to reevaluate this recently, due to housing arrangements, and we are still very reticent to move in together. We're youngish, at least, so perhaps we can keep up our separate household ways for the foreseeable future.

Early in the relationship we negotiated how to be blunt and let the other know that we really needed alone time to recharge. Now that that system works there's a minimum of disappointment or hurt feelings -- we both know that it has nothing to do with how much we like each other, it's just a basic need to recharge separately.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:23 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was worried about this, and we talked explicitly about how we wanted to respect each other's need for alone time, and that we would monitor our needs. But I find that with the right person we can get alone time with the person in the same room, each doing our own thing. Everyone once in awhile we retreat to separate rooms, but mostly living with a partner is pretty easy when that person is respectful of your need for space.
posted by ldthomps at 1:24 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

The trick is to have a routine in which neither person feels like they're significantly disrupting their lives in order to make the other person feel comfortable.

Oh, yes, this is very important. We have standing dates (Wednesdays/Sundays I do yoga by myself; Thursdays we usually go to a crafting meetup together) so there are expected times to be together and expected alone times. Mondays we recover from the weekend.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:25 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my case, both being a person who likes alone time and her seemingly being a bit of one of those people as well, what solved it was differing work and sleep schedules.

She goes to bed early a few nights a week and i almost always stay up until after midnight. I take that time to read, listen to music, catch up on TV shows, work on projects or music stuff, etc. Similarly she has days off that i work on once or twice a week and heads out to do things solo, reads, cooks/bakes things she had been wanting to try out, watches stuff, you name it.

When i was first starting out with it, before we had settled in to this type of routine i was convinced we'd be at eachothers throats within a month from basically being trapped in a can together. That never happened, and it was because of the shifted schedules. I realized that even if our schedules later became more synchronized i'd make a point of shifting things up like this at least a bit.

But I find that with the right person we can get alone time with the person in the same room, each doing our own thing.

This, sometimes it works out as "alone time" for me with her sitting on the couch reading, and me sitting at my desk 8 feet away. Somehow it still scratches the same itch even if we randomly end up talking to eachother.

Oh, another thing i found really important thing that took her longer to realize than me, is being able to head out of the house and do things alone as well. You don't have to include the other person in every plan you make, nor do they with you. Going out and doing things solo or with friends regularly can also help keep things "charged up".
posted by emptythought at 1:35 PM on April 11, 2013

You just need to be able to have honest communication and trust that the other person is telling the truth when they say, "I love you, but I need to have quiet time by myself right now." In my experience, once you get over the initial hump it becomes second nature and not a big deal at all. After 14 years of sharing a household, I can (and do) say to my husband, "ok, get out of here," and there is no offense taken whatsoever.
posted by something something at 1:36 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Basically, desjardins had it -- you just need to talk about the degree to which you need solitude, the degree to which it's predictable, and how best to achieve it in your home/routine. Do you need to take turns having nights out, so that the other person can putter around the house, or is a couple of hours in different rooms working on projects sufficient? or regular weekends out of town? Do you need a code word for nights when you come home hating all of humanity and don't want to splash that all over your partner? Can you be sort of solitary together -- e.g., watching TV while doing computer stuff on different couches -- or does it have to be whole hog?

I don't think there are any right answers, other than to find a balance of together and apart that allows you to feel whole as individuals and connected as partners. I can imagine personality combinations that make that hard, but with commitment and chat, it should be discoverable.
posted by acm at 1:39 PM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Mr. Telophase and I agreed before moving in together that we would both respect "I'm going to the bookstore. You're not invited." (Oddly, it turns out that we don't need that as much as we thought we would.)

Anyway, our primary reminder to each other that we're enjoying our own space at the moment is earphones, combined with a verbal notification.

It helps that we both understand each other's hobbies and our anticipation of solo playing/reading time for something. The Mr is a hardcore gamer, while I'm a bookish sort of person, and when he gets a game he's been anticipating, I leave him alone to enjoy it while he leaves me alone to read books that I've been waiting to get. We also schedule that sort of thing in advance--I knew before Mass Effect 3 came out that I'd lose him to it for several days. We also have 2 televisions and 2 DVRs so we can get mutual alone time while catching up on each of our favorite shows.

We've got separate offices, too, so we can retreat into our own space and do our own thing if necessary.

on the opposite side, iPads have helped us have a bit more together-time, because we can spend time in each other's company while doing separate things--one of us can be watching TV while the other reads or surfs the web. (if all of our together-time had to involve continual interaction, I think we'd go nuts. Being in each other's presence is often all that's called for.)
posted by telophase at 1:39 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

[Disclaimer: I have not lived with a partner/spouse, just family and friends. Disclaimer 2: I am someone who needs alone time/quiet time.]

-"I need more alone time." NOT "You are invading my space".

"I would like to spend more time with you in the evenings." NOT "You spend too much time in your room."

-When the introverted person is having alone time, the extroverted person should not kick this off with an exasperated sigh, or give the introverted person a time limit. It will make them feel rushed and restless, like they have to get in THE ULTIMATE ALONENESS EXPERIENCE before you start hanging out again.

When the couple are hanging out together/out on a date, the introverted person will occasionally wish they were alone. Provided this is in fact only occasional, they need to suck it up and pretend they are having a good time. Hanging out with someone who clearly doesn't want to be there and is making no effort to pretend otherwise is a vacuum that eats joy.

-Expectation of privacy: if the introverted person is alone in a room with a shut door, the extroverted person should knock and ask if it is okay to enter.

-Yes, it is possible for these two people to inhabit the same house (for values of "house" other than "studio/efficiency apartment") happily and even learn from each other the value of each respective mindset.
posted by capricorn at 1:48 PM on April 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Open communication worked for me and my husband. We lived together for about a year before we got married. He also stayed at my house for about a month in between rentals previous to that (in the same room as I was in a shared house.) We have now been living together for over 2 years.

We both are open and honest when we need space. He needs more space than I do, partly because he gets easily distracted when he is trying to work on something (ADHD). Therefore we just always try to have separate space. We now live in a 2 bedroom apartment that has an office and a dining space - unlike our last few places.

If one of us wants to do something, say I want to watch a dumb show that he hates, and he wants to work we will just do our own thing.

He was very open with me from the start on space boundaries and would be very calm with me and yet honest if he really wanted to be left alone to work on something. There have been times in which it has been difficult for me or I bugged him too much, but he has also done the same when I have been working - I work from home. During times like that we both try to just say, "Hey, can you give me some time? I'm in the middle of something."

Occasionally things could get a little rough and it took some time to learn each other's boundaries.

He (we) also never phrase it like, "Leave me alone." It's usually that we need space for a reason, even if that reason is "I just want to watch this dumb TV show or movie by myself" or read a book or whatever.

Talk about your space boundaries. Here are some things that helped my husband and I understand each other:

How often do you need space and for how long?
What terms or statements mean "I need to be left alone"? - Be Clear
What should you do if you need to talk to the person or invade their alone time for something?
Can you come up with a time schedule? - I will be alone for 2 hours after dinner tonight
Can we have alone time now and be together later?

It is also about compromise. Maybe you can have your alone time another day or later in the day. Maybe the other person can pick up a hobby or a TV show to fill time in which you want space.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:55 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

You get to talk about it all the time and ask probing questions.

Husbunny and I have separate bedrooms, this rocks on so many levels. I don't punch him in my sleep, I don't have to put up with him stealing the covers or the noise of his CPAP.

My bedroom is the command center of the house. I do the bills in there, watch tv in there, every night we all end up in there, Husbunny, Me and the cats. We have Pride time from 10:00 PM on, where we pet each other and watch random crap. At bed time, we all go to our respective beds (the cats are too much of a pain to sleep with.)

Sometimes we have an agenda. For example, right now we're very into watching a BBC Documentary on the history of Britain on the computer. So we both agree on a time when we'll do that, and we both hang out on the sofa, with the cats, and watch that.

Our conversations go like this:

Husbunny: So the Women's NCAA Final is on tonight at 8:30

Me: Great, so you'll be doing that until about 10:30?

Husbunny: Yeah, unless it's a blow out.

Me: Cool, set up the computer, we'll do the History thing now, then I'll go up and hang, and I'll see you at 10:30.


Husbunny: The fantasy baseball league draft is tonight.

Me: So you'll be a hermit until that's over

Husbunny: Yup.

Me: Good enough


Me: Oh! My terrible teenage shows are on tonight!

Husbunny: You enjoy that. I'll see you later. (Hightails it out of there be for the opening sequence of The Carrie Diaries can begin.)

Once you establish it, it's pretty easy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:04 PM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I need extreme amounts of alone time, always have. When married with a family, I had my own space I could retreat to as needed. I also took an hour bike ride early every morning and a 5 mile walk every evening. My husband at the time (long since my ex) didn't like it, but "allowed" it.

My current spouse and I spend 24/7 together in 275 sq. ft. living space. One room. We are rarely not in each others presence. And yet, it works. We can sit with our individual electronics/hobbies six feet from each other, and yet give each other the space we need. He is more social than I am, and talks to the neighbors on dog walks to get his needs in. Earphones are our friend -- we never listen/watch to anything without them. Even a movie we both like, we may not want to watch at the same time.

I guess what I am saying is that with an understanding of each others needs (gained through effective communication), and a respect for those needs, alone time can be had even in the presence of each other, whether same room, different room, yard. It's really all about the relationship, respecting each other, and mutually wanting each other to have their needs met.
posted by batikrose at 2:30 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's often alone-enough for me to put on my iPod and listen to podcasts while doing chores or cooking. The hubby can be elsewhere in the house, or even in the same room with me, but if I'm just listening to my podcast, doing my thing, I don't feel the pressures of having to keep him company. This can be a godsend when we're traveling and are crammed next to each other on an airplane or cooped up in a hotel room.

Separate home offices are pretty excellent for many reasons, if you have the space.

Sometimes I need more intense alone-ness, so I flee to work. (Lucky for me, my office is a few blocks away from home.)

I try to plan ahead, and when I start to feel squirrely, I say, "I'm going to need some iPod-alone-time for a little while," before I hit the ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod leavemethehellalone stage and flip out.

When we travel, I need to explicitly schedule time when I'm going to retreat to some private space with a book. If we're traveling with other people or visiting someone's house, I describe this as a "nap," which people are usually pretty chill about. If we're going to a gaming convention, I designate which afternoon slot is going to be my "down slot," and make sure nobody else is going to be in the hotel room.
posted by BrashTech at 2:41 PM on April 11, 2013

I've had success with this by simply owning it as my own need ("I need alone time, it's just the way I am and doesn't have anything to do with you or how much I love you") and manifesting it in ways that are compatible with the partner I have at the time, including:

- doing engrossing activities that take my focus from the other person
- doing something in a separate room
- walking the dog
- working on something in the garden or garage
- going for scenic drives solo
- taking a weekend to go hiking/camping by myself
- on shared vacations, sleeping in while my partner goes off to do something else

Obviously this all is more successful if your partner needs alone time too, or if they're at least understanding and respectful of your need. If your partner refuses to accept/respect your need and your approaches to fulfilling it, you won't find a solution you can implement to fulfill your need until you address the larger problem.
posted by davejay at 2:56 PM on April 11, 2013

What was the adjustment period like?

Difficult, because my partner is more of a "together" person than an alone person. It took some time to communicate that "I need some private downtime" did not translate to "I'm sick of you, get out of my sight."

Also, can you get enough the alone time you need if the other person is in the same house, but not in the same room?

For me, no. I don't really understand this, but there is something qualitatively different for me between being totally alone in the house and being alone in a room while someone else is in another room. I'm sure it's a deep-seated psychological issue, but there's something about not having any feeling at all of observed, responded to, reacted to, demanded from, or needing to be aware of others in any way that is truly relaxing, and I can't quite get into that zone with anyone in the house. You can get closer - like, if I'm on a deadline I will say "I'm working in the kitchen, and I need to focus and don't want to talk or be disturbed" or if that's not working, "Since I have a paper due Monday, you might want to call some friends and make plans to go out this week.

What advice would you give to each person in this type of relationship? Anecdotes welcomed on cohabiting with a person who needs lees or more alone time than you.

Like everything in relationships, it's just communication. Discuss the issue of aloneness/togetherness and what it means for each of you. NEgotiate time when you can have the house to yourself, if you need it. You don't need a reason other than "I need it." If there's a long time when you won't have the house to yourself, it's not crazy to take a weekend trip by yourself for some quiet downtime.

People have been known to adjust their sleep/wake schedules and work schedules to secure the private time they need, too.
posted by Miko at 3:56 PM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am an introvert. I lived with another introvert for eight years, and we managed our time alone well by me leaving earlier and returning earlier than him - he got his alone time in the morning, I got mine in the evening (a couple of hours each way). With this situation we were also able to 'be alone together', do our own thing in the same room without unnecessary talking as we had that time to recharge. At the time I had a job that involved lots of interaction with people, and those few hours to myself each evening were imperative to my mental health. Then he started working from home full time... we are no longer together, for quite a few reasons, but lack of alone time for me was definitely one of them.

Now I have a different job, working from home full time, and I am so, so happy. My current partner is an extrovert, and occasionally fills the air with way too many words - but as i'm alone most days, for most of the day, it's great. We are also able to 'be alone together' in the evenings, and if he's talking too much I tell him so. We also live with a toddler who tires us both out, and that is a great shared drain on both our energy. We haven't really talked about it because we have found our groove without needing to, but if necessary I would tell him I need space and I am sure he would understand. Having a job that requires little face-to-face interaction with other people has been fucking awesome for my introvert self, though, and if you are asking this question because you don't get enough alone time I highly recommend it, if at all possible.
posted by goo at 4:23 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had to explain to my husband just a couple of weekends ago that the saturday afternoon I spent at my computer at the kitchen table didn't end up feeling like alone time because he kept reading me pieces of his book, asking me questions, popping into the kitchen and puttering around making snacks and trying to share them with me, etc. He felt like he spent the whole afternoon alone, because mostly he was sitting in the living room reading, but I felt like I spent the whole afternoon not-alone because I was interrupted every 10 minutes. Not claiming that I handled the whole thing very well, just saying that it's important to define what "alone time" means, to make sure you actually get what you hope for.
posted by aimedwander at 5:04 PM on April 11, 2013 [15 favorites]

Lots of good scheduling/communication advice above. As someone who needs lots of alone time to stay sane, every now and then I use a sick day at work in order to just be in my house by myself. It is deliciously rejuvenating.
posted by corn_bread at 7:11 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's a great TED Talk about being an introvert - watching it together would be a great way to start a conversation.

My partner and I are both introverted, albeit me more so. We schedule a lot of down time... we're hardcore homebodies. "Alone time" for me means my partner is not home, or I am out and he is home (or at work or something); it's okay if he's home but asleep. I get flex time at work and sometimes use that, and sometimes stay up later than him. I am realizing I need more alone time than I've been getting, and have been thinking a scheduled weekly/monthly "morning out". My husband seems more okay with being in the house together doing seperate things (it "counts", whereas for me it doesn't).

His work has generally been shift work, so he often gets odd hours at home to himself.

I telecommuted for a while, which was great - even boardering on too much time alone (which I didn't think was possible).

I have a job where I am kinda a "lone wolf" - I sit by myself and do research and send emails - don't interact with people much. This helps enourmously.

Also, we've occasionally had to go away for periods of time independently... a two week course, a trip to visit my parents (overseas), etc. I'd love to do this once a year or every other year - it helps too.
posted by jrobin276 at 7:35 PM on April 11, 2013

Staggered sleep schedule does wonders. My husband wakes up early and drinks his coffee staring out the front window in silence. I stay up late and watch bad TV, take a bath, surf the Web. It works for us.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:12 PM on April 11, 2013

I think the TED talk mentioned above may be from Susan Cain. I saw that and then ordered and devoured her book. Recommended, definitely. No connection whatsoever to Ms Cain except being an introvert.

I need a lot of time to myself and I've mostly been in relationships with other introverts - some live-in, some not. I need a certain amount of "no one else in the house" time - it's not precisely quantifiable, but is enough to make me dubious about ever sharing a house with someone. I am also fine with time spent in each other's presence but not interacting with each other - this comfortably counts both as alone time and as company time for me. I am okay with people articulating that they need more alone/no contact time as long as they can also articulate that it's not a relationship thing, it's just a mental sanity thing. I am not okay with being ignored or not being told what's going on, particularly if there were other expectations (eg planned dinners, events etc) that the other person suddenly finds they just can't cope with.

My advice would be for both parties to try to figure out what they need and what works for them (kind of like I have done above) and how each person's needs/preferences can work together. Separate spaces are good, shifting schedules is good. Be creative and don't get hampered by conventional expectations - eg if you're really living together and in a relationship you must always sleep in the same bed together. Talk to each other and find a way of dealing with it on the fly as well as advanced planning. But as mentioned, I'm pretty leery of ever being able to live with someone full-time, so I'm reading these suggestions with a great deal of interest too!
posted by Athanassiel at 9:31 PM on April 11, 2013

My fiance and I have discussed this multiple times. We discussed it very very early in our relationship because I was someone who needed a lot of alone time when in a relationship and I didn't want to hurt him for needing it and he wanted to make sure I got it. (As it turned out I didn't want or need the alone time with him.) We discussed it again shortly after we moved in together because he was feeling burnt out and he really needed some space to recharge. We have discussed it other times too. For a while it was me that needed the space. Then it was my fiance that felt he needed the alone time. Right now we're both totally content to spend every second together, so these things have an ebb and flow.

The way we talked about it was that we need the alone time to clear all the other junk from our brains so that we can really focus on and enjoy the rest of our time together. Without the opportunity to be alone and decompress and destress all those stresses and worries occupy your mind when you're with your partner. No alone time can mean that you aren't being the best partner you can be. You aren't enjoying the relationship as much as you should, and you aren't able to fully focus on your partner the way that you want to. Alone time helps to make and keep us a healthy kick ass couple.

We have a small house and not a lot of refuge space, so we both had to sort of define what alone time was for each of us within the limitations of our home. For me it is either a long bath with a glass of wine and music while he and our kid play quietly in the living room (and our son knows and respects when it is "quiet PuppetMcSockerson time"), OR I take a "nap" (which our son also understands and respects as necessary quiet time). When my fiance needs alone time it usually takes the form of my quietly occupying myself in the living room while he cleans the kitchen or just putters about. He needs me to not ask questions or engage with him and for the house to be quiet. It usually only lasts 20 minutes or so, and when he is "done" he will come sit with me or ask me about supper or just engage me in some way. His other "alone time" is to go hide in the bedroom for a bit to take care of "paperwork" (our computer is in the bedroom). Othertimes he just sits outside.

basically, people in a relationship just discuss it, define what each person does for their "alone time", what the other person should do in that time, and how often you need it. It can be a set once a week thing, or it can be an on the fly tool you can use when you're worn thin. Discuss. Check in occasionally to make sure everyone's needs are met.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:41 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, you may both find that your ways of carving out time change. THis is super-true if/when there are kids, as kids are like a gas that fills up all available mental and physical space -- now I'd say that a key part of my alone time is the hour that I spend getting ready in the morning (while Spouse entertains Kid downstairs), with NPR and a friendly cat. That's really valuable stuff, but pre-Kid, we actually chatted while brushing our teeth together, etc.. Sometimes I think Spouse gets alone time while commuting (with work, or the paper, or an iPod game), or by getting out of the house for some shopping (with podcast), and we both find dishes + TV (while other person does bedtime) pretty positive. But the whole structure is entirely unlike what it was before. What has stayed the same is our mutual recognition that being "on" is draining and that some down-time is critical for both of our continued functioning -- we work it out as best we can from there.
posted by acm at 7:31 AM on April 12, 2013

Just wanted to add a few ideas from someone who needs less alone time but lives with someone who needs more. He has a noisy, stimulating, busy job with little alone time and he naturally needs more alone time than I do; I'm a college student whose classes are online, so I'm at home alone most of the time and naturally need less alone time. I have some rejection issues, so it's been a bit of an adjustment for me to learn that he needs his time alone to relax after work. We probably haven't talked about it as much as we should have, but we're working out a compromise; what matters to me isn't being in the same room as him, but him making room for explicit "us" time. So if he comes home from work and disappears for the rest of the night, that makes me unhappy. If he comes home from work and suggests that we snuggle in bed and watch a movie at X time, then disappears until X time, I'm happy. He's a long-distance cyclist (think 6-12+ hours on a bike on the typical Saturday), so he also gets alone time then; then we spend some time together on Sunday.

So I guess you have to think about what sort of "us" time the more "us" partner needs, as well as what kind of alone time the alone time partner needs; it's taken us a while to figure that out and find a way to make it work.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 12:23 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Communication helped us a lot. I think at first he felt a bit smothered by feeling like I needed him to do all this stuff for me (I need less alone time than he does.) It turned out I was fine with giving him the alone time as long as he was gentle about it and let me know what it would be. It's not just about him needing alone time. He has to be respectful of my needs too.

So we have developed a routine over time which works for us, where he will bookend the alone time with a few minutes of hugs, kisses small talk when he gets home (sometimes he'll eat dinner with me, sometimes not) and then for much of the evening, he'll do his own thing. But he'll check in with me from time to time and let me know where he's at. I can tolerate the video games, or baseball game or whatever a lot better if the time he spends on it is preceded by 'so, I am going to play two more games, then we'll watch a show, ok?' I just want to know he hasn't completely forgotten about me :-) We always end the day with some cuddle time in bed.

If he (or I) truly need alone time to such an extent that even that is too much, then that person takes it outside the house. That way, the person at home doesn't need to worry about accidentally stepping on toes by interrupting too early.
posted by JoannaC at 12:39 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Finding separate physical space for the introvert made a huge, immediate, surprising difference for us. Once we figured that out (and it took a long time), it was the only non-negotiable for both of us for our next apartment.

Communicating and getting your partner to intellectually understand your needs is a good thing. But honestly, as an introvert, the last thing I want to do when I'm not getting enough alone time is TALK ABOUT MY FEELINGS.

Having a place I can go to signal "I am having alone time now" -- without having to say or explain or justify that -- has made a huge difference in how relaxed I feel about living with a partner. As a bonus, the previously subtle distinction between "I am working on my laptop but totally interrupt if you find any baby penguin videos" and "I am working on my laptop and if you look at me I will cut you" is now immediately apparent to my partner based on whether I am in my office (which is just a desk in a pantry) or not.
posted by teditrix at 5:32 PM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Mr. Escapepod requires a fair bit of alone time, which worried me quite a lot when we got together because I didn't really think of myself as needing much alone time. We rented a three bedroom place, so we could each have a study where we can do our own thing, but share a bedroom and spend time together in the living room

This works really well for us - especially in our new place, where our studies are right next to each other, we spend most of our time separately, but talk (either aloud or on gtalk) frequently and visit each other for hugs. I've since figured out that I, too, need introvert recovery time, if a little less markedly than him.

We make an effort to have explicitly together time, while we eat dinner and in bed at night. I get a bit antsy if we don't get those

Understanding the reasons why an introvert needs recovery time really helped me adjust, as well as recognising the situations where he needs alone time most. I know at the end of a bad day he'll need to sit and drink a beer and catch up on twitter. He says that the longer we're together, the less that being together depletes his people skills.

We've also started talking about social energy in terms of mana - sometimes you use it all up and need to wait for it to regenerate before you can do anything else. Some actions (or people you're dealing with) drain your mana faster than others. When your mana is low, you can't perform the difficult "Hello I love you but I need to sit in a small room and not say anything for a while" spell, it's easy to mess it up and offend someone. So that might help, if either or both of you are of a nerdy persuasion.
posted by escapepod at 4:49 AM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Find ways to incorporate alone time into your everyday life, even if it's just an established routine.
I need a lot of alone time, but I'm also one year into an amazing relationship and we're madly in love.
I would spend every possible moment with my partner if I could, but I'm self aware enough to know that eventually I would go nuts and our relationship would suffer.

I walk to and from work everyday, it's one hour each way.
It is a normal part of our relationship that I have to leave early in the morning and I get home a bit later than if I took transit or rode a bike.
It's those two hours in the day where I get all my thinking done and listen to the boring podcasts that I love.

Also, don't think of your alone time as sacred. It's important to have your space, and to establish a good foundation for a long term relationship. But the only reason your partner could be annoyed by your alone time is because they love you and want you close to them.

Setup a routine that includes alone time so that it's no surprise to anyone that you're regularly by yourself. But when your partner breaks that agreement and needs to spend time with you, remember that they're doing it because the two of you are made for each other and just your presence can make another person happy.

I love that feeling, and every time I choose to forgo my solitude, it is a meaningful gesture to the woman that I dearly love.
posted by breakfast! at 7:05 AM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

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