How to focus on the things you want to do when your SO is around
September 20, 2015 3:44 PM   Subscribe

I have a couple of good habits I'm working on instilling in myself (exercising and working on my art), but I never seem to have the time or energy when my SO is in town. What strategies do you use to carve out time for yourself?

I'm still trying to figure out why this isn't working, but when my SO leaves town, I finally have time to take good care of myself: clean my room, get my car maintained...and exercise and work on my art.

I don't know where all the time goes, but I think first it's give me a ride home and then it's dinner and then won't you watch this show with me and can you tell me what you think of this or that and then it's almost 9 pm and I'm exhausted and it's dark out and I don't end up exercising. In the morning, it's the same: let's have sex, let's eat breakfast, etc. etc. He's a morning person and gets up before I do and often wakes me up. We live together and work at the same place, as well.

I've wanted love all my life but all of this closeness is driving me batty.

My ideal would be to spend an hour a day on exercise and art, preferably in the morning. Then go to work and then spend time with friends in the evening. And then maybe a weekend day of pure focus. Every time he leaves town, I do this by myself, and vow to maintain it when he comes back, but I never do. When I tell him what I need, he says, of course, yes, and then it's Wednesday and he wants to fire up the grill and he's already got things going so of course I can't go out to the gym...

- Do you have this problem?
- What are your tools and techniques for focusing on yourself when in a relationship?
- How do you get time for extended periods of focus?
- How do you negotiate this with your partner?
posted by 3491again to Human Relations (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My ideal would be to spend an hour a day on exercise and art, preferably in the morning.

Wake up an hour earlier than you do now. Waking up at 6 am is the only way I would ever be able to get to the gym, so that is what I do.
posted by Tanizaki at 4:00 PM on September 20, 2015

Like Tanizaki I have found that the morning is the only time I can truly carve out for myself. Even when I plan to do something immediately after work, my motivation is too easily led astray by a better option coming up. Even if the 'better' option is just chilling with my partner because I feel 'bad' that I 'never spend time with him' because I 'have' to do other things-- my tricksy brain trying to get out of studying/working out.

Morning is truly the only time where I have no other commitments, and no distractions, and my willpower is at it's strongest because it hasn't been exhausted by a thousand choices already over the course of the day. I am not a morning person! Every morning is still a struggle with the alarm clock. But it's the only time I can be sure to get this shit done.
posted by roshy at 4:13 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

You do this by saying no to him on things that are important to you, acknowledge and accept that he will be disappointed or sad, but power through that and say no anyway. There are two people in a relationship, and your need is just as valid as his. If left unchecked in the long term, this imbalance may bother you more and more, so best set your boundaries early and often until he learns them.

Saying no doesn't mean you love him any less, just that you value yourself and your own life as well, and needs time to attend to those too.

Best of luck.
posted by enlivener at 4:56 PM on September 20, 2015 [23 favorites]

I book my "my" time several times a week. Hubby knows that certain nights a week I am going to be doing my painting or whatever. The particular days shift so we can watch our shows together during the various seasons but the time marked on the calendar is pretty much sacred. He better be on fire or bleeding to interrupt me. He actually has gotten to enjoy the space & goes off & does his own thing, mostly playing DoTA without me interrupting him. Of course in return when he's wanting to do something on his own I support him.

It is very easy in the early bliss of new relationships to think you have to do everything together, but each of us having some me time is great. I make him admire what ever I've created or tell me how awesome I am for doing what ever I got done, and I hear how he played Mid & turned a game around (I still have no idea what that means). It gives you something to talk about which is great.

I can see that getting up early might be a problem if he's a morning person, but you can of course set your "you" time when it fits in easiest for both of you.
posted by wwax at 5:02 PM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Is the relationship (or the cohabitation) new? I had the same problem when my husband and I first started living together and honesty, it did work itself out for us over time. There just came a point where exercise/projects/self-care started to take primacy in my brain over spend-all-my-time-with-someone-I-love. We worked out a balance that was right for us.

A few things that help me:
- Set specific goals and get your SO on board with them. So it's not "I really should exercise today..." but instead "I have to do X workout today or I'll never meet [insert goal here]." And encourage him to get invested in goal, and be proud of you for working to reach it.
- Make specific dates to do particular projects, let your SO know well in advance, and stick to them. Imagine it's like you have a class to go to at regular times. Say, "I'm not going to be able to have dinner with you on Wednesday next week, I'm going to spend X hours working on an art project." Mark it on your calendar. Remind him the day before, and stick to it.
- Try to schedule things before or after work so you don't have to go home and then leave the house again to do them.

And, compromise. It sounds like you guys just may have differing "alone time" needs. Keep talking about what you both want and find some way to meet in the middle.
posted by cpatterson at 5:15 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Honestly, it sounds like you're giving a lot in this relationship. Are you getting what you need in return? Does he really support your goals, or is it just lip service?

I personally require a lot of space and latitude for my personal projects. An hour or two rigorously scheduled here and there doesn't cut it. I need to know that I have breathing room to do what I want to do, when I want to do it.

Your life and your goals are precious. Set firm boundaries and make it clear that you'll be happier in the relationship if you can consistently follow your bliss.
posted by delight at 10:45 PM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

First of all, congratulations on realizing the importance of self-care and good on you for having a clear idea of what you want in your life. That is a Big Deal. Many people have a hard time accomplishing that and once you hit the point where you know what you need and are determined to get it psychological barriers are easier to overcome. So let's look at what you want.

My ideal would be to spend an hour a day on exercise and art, preferably in the morning. Then go to work and spend time with friends in the evening. And then maybe a weekend day of pure focus.

Instead, you live together, work together and feel smothered. This problem is too big to be solved by getting up an hour earlier or negotiating some "me time." While you do say you want love, I'm also hearing you say that you need time for personal development, not just for an hour a day but also all day once a week, and if you're going to socialize, you want to prioritize your friends. So I can't help but think this might not be the best time in your life for a relationship! Living together and working together is intense and even very dedicated couples would struggle with that. As it sounds, his requests don't really seem that unreasonable for a couple: let's have a meal together. Let's do something together. Let's have sex. Let's have a conversation about something. It's totally okay if you don't have the energy for that right now. But I also don't think it's a reasonable expectation to be able to confine your relationship with a cohabiting partner to one day a week. A cohabiting partnership is kind of an everyday deal. If that doesn't work for you at this time, that's fine--but do both of you a favor and end this because I doubt he'd be happy with a weekly date, which you've made clear is what you want.

In a nutshell: This isn't just about exercise and art. You're not ready to settle down and need more time for what matters most to you. End it, and date someone who you see once a week and that's it. Now that you know what you want, don't make the mistake of overcommitting again.
posted by zeusianfog at 11:51 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ok, the way we solved this is plan the week ahead of time. If partner wants certain nights to do his art or hang with his friend, he lets me know ahead of time so I can plan accordingly. I do the same. We both try to spend at least one night a week doing separate things, and this works for us. It's definitely an important conversation to have. If you keep caving in to his wants, you'll just build up resentment over time. Set aside a night for your art, another for hanging with friends, and let him know so next time wednesday comes around, he won't ask you to grill because he'll already know you have plans. Another way to do it is to plan which nights you are going to hang out, then all other nights are non-obligatory.
posted by monologish at 7:30 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

So is this a new-ish relationship, and your SO spends a significant amount of time out of town / away from you? If so, that in itself can cause issues, in that you might be feeling an obligation to do "us" stuff to make up for the time spent apart.

And I wonder how young the relationship is, because as the relationship ages people will tend to feel more comfortable with not spending every moment with their partner. A lot of people have made some good suggestions - and it never hurts to communicate, so telling him that you have these things that you need to spend time on would be a good thing - but I think that much of this will tend to work itself out over time.

(the behavioral psychologist in me wonders if your SO leaving town / coming back might be prolonging the 'honeymoon' phase of your relationship like random intermittent reinforcement can prolong extinction).

The one red flag I saw was "We live together and work at the same place, as well." I hope you don't actually work together, or within close proximity of each other. This isn't really the question you are asking to have answered, but I'd warn you against working too closely with your SO.

One last thing: to me, there's a difference between having a scheduled hour or two to myself, and having a big fat unstructured glob of time with no planned start or end. Scheduling 90 minutes to hit the gym - that might work. But working on art? I'd want (say) "Saturday" for that.
posted by doctor tough love at 11:08 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've wanted love all my life but all of this closeness is driving me batty.
My ideal would be to spend an hour a day on exercise and art, preferably in the morning. Then go to work and then spend time with friends in the evening. And then maybe a weekend day of pure focus.

Two thoughts:
* If you want time for yourself, schedule it. Put it on a shared calendar, whether that's on a whiteboard or, Gmail or whatever. Then, everyone is clear on what's happening.
* I don't mean to throw shade on your situation, but if your SO leaves town and you're on your own, and he or she comes back and you want to be on your own just as much, consider the possibility that the two of you have very different ideas about how much together time you need in a relationship. There's no right or wrong answer to that, but a mismatch can be very problematic. Frankly, I know multiple people who've been divorced over this exact issue. I'd consider having a conversation that's more than just "I want to go to the gym on Wednesdays."
posted by cnc at 12:45 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

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