I love you but I need to be alone (sometimes).
February 28, 2017 2:56 AM   Subscribe

I’ve been living with my SO for seven years in a 154 ft square flat. I love him dearly but I sometimes need to be alone when he wants us to be together and don’t know how to express this without hurting him. And what scares me is my visceral reaction to this loneliness need.

Sometimes, it’s almost as if I were physically suffocating. Example : my SO enjoys sleeping till noon on Saturdays. I usually wake up at 8 and unless I am tired I won’t manage to sleep any longer. So I get out of bed & go for a run / go to the gym and then go back to bed. This is something I love -and need- to do, but my SO told me he’s sad when I get up while he's still sleeping. He’d rather have me stay in bed and wake up with me at his side… when I comply there is something screaming inside, I am antsy and usually end up angry, in addition to guilty and shameful.

Yesterday night was even more spectacular (and prompted me to write this AskMe) : I got back from work, engaged with SO / we prepped dinner together / had a great, happy, relaxing, joyful dinner / had a shower… and at that point I felt that urge, that need to have some alone time, to have some agency before going to bed. I was hoping, I don’t know, to be able to spend 15 minutes on my own, reading, drawing, sewing or whatever, but at that moment my SO (unaware of my emotional state, he was in the other room) kindly asked me to join him to bed. The reaction was visceral (and silent) : there was this bout of anger I can’t even rationally explain to my BF. I don’t want to hurt him, he’s not responsible of this, I love him and want to spend time with him. But I’m to the point where I’m starting to question my happiness with him : if the timing isn’t right, that is, if I am at a point where I need some alone time, him suggesting we spend some time together makes me scream. I feel awful…

I’m not sure how to proceed. Can I request alone time, now, on the spot, when I need to? When I tried in the past my SO was seemingly hurt. But I can’t just do as if this anger was nothing. There’s something happening in me, but I feel at a loss…

Some info that might be relevant (or not) : I work in an open space, spend more than 2 hours in overcrowded trains everyday. Both situations are a bit stressful in terms of minimal vital space… Also, I almost never have the flat / the bed on my own.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Ifite to Human Relations (49 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Can I request alone time, now, on the spot, when I need to?

You can, and should. 154 square feet is an incredibly tiny space for one person, let alone two. You need to make it clear that when you need alone time, he has to give it to you.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:01 AM on February 28, 2017 [48 favorites]

It's not reasonable at all for him to expect you to stay in bed until noon when you get up at 8! I think that's quite controlling. He shoukd want you to be happy, not bored and stifled while he is asleep. I think that is a red flag. Your needs are completely reasonable.
posted by bearette at 3:06 AM on February 28, 2017 [100 favorites]

Your anger is reasonable as well. He is trying to control you. I think you need to talk to him. If he's unwilling to" give" you anymore alone time, or acts 'hurt ', you may need to reconsider this relationship .
posted by bearette at 3:08 AM on February 28, 2017 [19 favorites]

I need alone time too so I totally feel you!

What about scheduling some alone time every day? Even if it's just something like, "Sweetie, after dinner during the week I am going to [curl up with a book / go for a walk / do some yoga / whatever] for about 20 minutes. I just need some time to decompress! But I'll be ready to [go to bed / talk / snuggle / whatever] afterwards!"

If you set aside time every day for this, hopefully you can avoid getting to the point where you desparately need alone time right this minute.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:14 AM on February 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

Why can't your partner understand or happily oblige when you voice this simple regular ubiquitous human requirement? Everyone needs alone time. Have you been direct? If not, be direct.

Couples therapy for this issue so you guys can hear each other and work this out amicably. I think you're angry because he's not listening to you.
posted by jbenben at 3:17 AM on February 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

If your SO complains about you getting up and going for some exercise on weekend mornings, ask him why doesn't he get up at 8 too and go with you? It's not just you who is making choices for your own well-being that affect both of you, he is doing it too (so therefore you both have the right to do so).
posted by heatherlogan at 3:19 AM on February 28, 2017 [33 favorites]

It is completely and totally okay for you to want alone time.

For me, that sort of visceral almost-anger thing you're describing means I've been neglecting my alone time needs way too much. If that need is generally getting met, then it's not a big deal if on one particular day I can't get that downtime because my partner especially wants to do something together. It's only when I am already very close to the end of a very frayed rope that I react at badly.

In your shoes, I think I would try to have a conversation at a less fraught time about wanting to plan more alone time for myself to recharge. You can frame it as both something you simply want and need for yourself, and also something that will let you recharge enough that your couples time can be better too, if that will help.
posted by Stacey at 3:27 AM on February 28, 2017 [24 favorites]

Just to clarify, you definitely mean 154 sq ft, not 154 sq m, right? We stayed in a 400 sq ft flat for two years, and by the end of the two years, we were definitely craving more space. Small things annoyed me, like the laundry hanging up in our living room and the toaster on the counter, because there was just not enough space to live. This was despite the fact that we had a bedroom and a living room. 154 sq ft would be just a room, I imagine.

I think that while managing alone time is an issue for both of you, you would probably find your mental health improved if you had a larger space, and things would probably bug you less. 154 sq ft is inhumanely small, let alone for 7 years. If I had been in such a situation, everything would annoy me.
posted by moiraine at 3:29 AM on February 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

You wouldn't want to scream if you felt able to talk. Your frustration is expressing itself as quiet, seething anger because that's the only channel it's got. That doesn't make you a bad person! It makes you a person who needs to give yourself some better options for expressing your totally normal, totally reasonable needs and preferences and your feelings about your partner stomping all over them.

You need to talk to him and set out what you need, and not let either him or you allow his sadness about this to short-circuit that conversation. Because it is totally reasonable to want time to yourself, and it is not reasonable to insist that a partner who wants to do this stay in bed next to your sleeping self when they wake up first.
posted by Catseye at 3:47 AM on February 28, 2017 [20 favorites]

Waow. To be honest, the expecting you to stay in bed until he gets up sounds much worse to me. Definitely be direct on the need for alone time.
posted by ryanbryan at 3:54 AM on February 28, 2017 [11 favorites]

Could you move? That is such a small space -- two jail cells by US standards -- that it has to be messing with both of you. If one or both of you move, together or not, it seems likely that some of the desperation you're describing on both sides will change.

You're also 100% allowed to leave the relationship, btw.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:58 AM on February 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

He is trying to control you.

So the only one in the relationship who is capable of clearly stating his wants and desires is controlling? Rubbish.

OP, you have to understand that you have what amounts to a great relationship, but you need to communicate with your SO to make that work. So far, from your post, he's the only one doing that. Absolutely say if you need time out. From what you've written he'll be fine with that.

If you think he's hurt it's because you're not being honest with him and he's trying to figure out what he's done wrong.

If your self-care demands that you need this time by yourself tell him. He will understand. Just talk to him about your needs.

Also: move to somewhere larger if your finances allow.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:15 AM on February 28, 2017 [9 favorites]

Why are you living in such a tiny space? I don't even get how 150sf amounts to two rooms. They would be very small rooms indeed, and assuming you have a double bed that would take up most of one of them. The whole apartment is the size of an average suburban kitchen? I'd lose my mind in such a cage by myself, let alone for 7 years with another person. No wonder you're stressed.

Tell SO it's time to find a new place with a room you can call your own office.
posted by spitbull at 4:17 AM on February 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Can I request alone time, now, on the spot, when I need to?

Yes. Absolutely. And you should.

When I tried in the past my SO was seemingly hurt.

Well, it's not about him. Feel free to tell him that. He has to be a big boy and remember that you are also a person with feelings and needs and honestly he just has to get over it. You aren't a teddy bear that he gets to clutch to his chest in his cot.

Just be open with him that sometimes you need some you time.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:21 AM on February 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think your anger is not irrational at all: he is trying to control you and he is trying to keep you from doing things you need for your own well-being, so of course you're getting angry. The only thing that is surprising is that you haven't gotten angrier earlier.

And just so you know: it's totally possible to be in a relationship with someone who respects and understands your need for some alone time. There are plenty of people out there who will love you and enjoy spending time with you and who will also be deeply happy to have the afternoon to themselves if you go off and do things without them.
posted by colfax at 4:31 AM on February 28, 2017

Thanks for your replies so far. Regarding the size of my home, I messed the numbers &conversion. The flat is 500 square feet. My bad!!!
posted by Ifite at 4:39 AM on February 28, 2017 [10 favorites]

I agree with the folks above saying that your need for alone time is absolutely normal and healthy and that you need to talk to your partner about this without fear. But I also think that maybe the anger and visceral reactions you're experiencing aren't a direct result of anything to do with him in specific. People can feel that way because of displaced stress and trauma.

Are there things happening in your life right now that really stress you out, or worry you constantly, or are just chaotic and totally beyond your control? (Suggestion: if you live in the US right now you've got a big orange issue that is perhaps contributing to some of this.) It might be that because your relationship is so healthy and loving that you are comfortable enough to feel anger around and at your partner instead of in situations where your anger would make you unsafe. Of course you need to establish your need for alone time with him, but I think it might also be a good idea to sit with your feelings of anger and whatever else and try to unpack them a little, track down where they are coming from, and see if there is anything you (and your BF) can do to treat the source of the issue, if it isn't as direct a connection as you feel it is right now.
posted by Mizu at 4:43 AM on February 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

So the only one in the relationship who is capable of clearly stating his wants and desires is controlling? Rubbish

No, his request that she stay in bed with him while he sleeps until noon, when she wakes up at 8 and wants to go exercise, is controlling.

I feel like some people are not reading the whole question. This is a huge red flag.
posted by bearette at 4:55 AM on February 28, 2017 [55 favorites]

I had a boyfriend who forced me to stay in bed doing nothing until he woke up. Hours of my life, days, just drained away while he was literally unconscious. I asked if he could maybe text me when he woke up so we could cuddle then -- I'd gladly drop what I was doing for that! I like morning cuddles too! -- no dice. It made him angry that I asked this. He was being controlling.

In another relationship, my SO was holding me at arms length. We lived together but only spent time together twice a week, making dinner and watching TV before bed. Other nights he retreated to his office and played video games until 3 or 4 am. When we had first dated we went to bed together, but something changed. When I brought it up and said I missed our late night cuddles, and asked if he could tuck me in sometimes, because asking him to go to sleep with me when he was not tired seemed very unreasonable to me, he got angry. He called me controlling. This was a bad sign, and we broke up shortly after.

The key is always compromise. Your boyfriend needs to let go of this ridiculous desire that you act like a teddy bear every morning. You are a human being, not a stuffed animal for him to squeeze when he feels like it. He can text you when he's awake and you can cuddle him. Expecting you to lie there until he is around is incredibly controlling. The fact that he will not compromise is a gigantic red flag. Coupled with his controlling behavior... I'm worried for you. This isn't about him articulating needs. His needs are unreasonable and turn you from a living breathing woman into a stuffed animal for his comfort. (This metaphor is used in a book I read once about abusive relationships, by the way; it hit so close to home to recognize the first guy's exact behavior written in black and white. He was, indeed, abusive, but that's a story for another comment.)

Take care of yourself. A bigger apartment might help but it probably will not. It sounds like he has serious control issues. No amount of space is going to solve that. Because this isn't your problem, and you can't fix it. It's his.
posted by sockermom at 5:13 AM on February 28, 2017 [26 favorites]

When I tried in the past my SO was seemingly hurt.

Why is it unacceptable for you to do anything that might hurt your SO, but it's acceptable for you to be hurt on an ongoing basis by his preferences?
posted by emilyw at 5:17 AM on February 28, 2017 [66 favorites]

Hey, I totally understand the desire to have your sleeping partner there when you wake up. It can be a pretty damn empty feeling realizing they've gone before you even woke up when you went to sleep together. There is nothing wrong with vocalizing that feeling, FFS. If his actual expectation is that you lay in bed for hours when you'd rather not do that, then that is unreasonable, if that is in fact what he is asking/expecting. Sharing one's feelings with your partner is a large part of what they are there for, though. (Assuming reciprocal sharing is welcome, of course!)

It seems like communication about the situation is what is lacking here. OP, advocate for yourself! Explain that you need alone time and take it. If that blows up the relationship, there are underlying problems that make it untenable in the long run anyway. I doubt that will happen, though. He may resist a bit (and that's OK..he is allowed to have his own feelings!) just because it is a change from the status quo, but if he cares about you he'll get over it shortly. If he doesn't, then you need to think about other steps, but only then.

Point is that you need what you need, so do what you need to do. If that turns out not to be compatible with his needs, that sucks, but you can't live like that forever. If it does, and I expect it will, you'll feel better and so will he in a week or two.
posted by wierdo at 5:31 AM on February 28, 2017 [10 favorites]

What you're asking for and what your SO is asking for are all reasonable things that people want in their relationships. If you can pick a good time to talk about what you both want, and how to balance those things, it seems like there should be a good chance for a compromise.

My wife likes to get up early. I like to sleep later. On weekdays it's not an issue, because we're both getting up early anyway - but on weekends, I kind of miss her presence in bed. So we talked about that, and resolved to make time together in the evenings / at bedtime - while she takes early mornings to herself. If you can assume goodwill & the joint desire for everyone to get what they need, there's a way forward that won't make you angry or frustrated.

On preview: what wierdo just said.
posted by rd45 at 5:33 AM on February 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hey, I understand where you're coming from! My partner and I are generally more aligned on this kind of stuff that you and your partner are, but there were a few months when he was out of work and I NEVER had our open-floorplan apartment to myself and it drove me up the wall, but I felt like I couldn't complain to him because he was already stressed about being out of work, etc. etc.

You don't specify but I'm going to guess that you're a woman (as am I)? Because this is a trap that women (including myself) tend to fall into - there was a comment on a very similar question earlier this year that really spoke to me, particularly the following quote:
I think he's probably just oblivious to your needs, but I also think that women train men to be oblivious to our needs by not saying anything, from goddamned birth to goddamned death. We make ourselves small and unintrusive, we do the work of "well, am I bothering him?" when he's not doing that same work, and it's awful, and it's one of the ways that sexism steals our lives.
posted by mskyle at 5:44 AM on February 28, 2017 [41 favorites]

my SO told me he’s sad when I get up while he's still sleeping. He’d rather have me stay in bed and wake up with me at his side… when I comply there is something screaming inside, I am antsy and usually end up angry, in addition to guilty and shameful.

It can be hard, in a relationship, when partners who are usually supportive for each other wind up with desires that conflict. You are not wrong for wanting alone time (of course). Your partner is not wrong for saying he'd prefer having you in bed. However at the point at which you do something for yourself and he sulks is when things are off the rails.

1. you should not accede to your partner's wishes if it's going to make you angry
2. your partner needs to know that just because a thing makes him sad (hey, he feels what he feels) does not mean it's ok to have YOU be the one to fix that for him. He may just need to learn to sit with his feelings
3. You guys need to find compromises. Maybe some days he gets up with you, maybe some days he wakes up alone. No one should feel like they're living "correctly" and the other person isn't.

My SO is a little like yours. He loves to sleep in, would love it if I did that with him. However, I don't. We make all sorts of compromises based on the fact that we are on wildly different sleep schedules and we really like each other. But if he's feeling blue he can get pouty that things aren't "just working" because he's a little too in his own head about his life.

Part of this, to my read is you need to ask for what you need and... tell your SO to lump it, a little. "Hey I need some alone time right now, I've had a really stressful day and I just need to be in my own head for a bit. Let's check in at 8 pm for some tv okay?" And part of it may be that the smallness of the apartment means you need to go for a walk or send him out for groceries or something so that you guys get some physical separation.
posted by jessamyn at 5:46 AM on February 28, 2017 [17 favorites]

This is all in your power to change. Just say no. No, I don't want to watch you sleep, I want to get up. No, I love you but I want to be alone. No, I don't want to talk right now, I want to read.

There would be something controlling about insisting that you stay in bed with him while he is asleep just so you will be there when he wakes up several hours later. But there is nothing controlling about asking you to. He is saying what he wants. You can too.

I am you, and my SO is your SO. The nice thing about insisting on solitude is that when I am done reading or walking or earbud-podcasting or meditating or binge-watching or cleaning or whatever in silence and solitude, I am then *happy* to see him. He wins that way too, because he gets to be missed, and appreciated more.
posted by headnsouth at 6:21 AM on February 28, 2017 [8 favorites]

My husband and I are clearly off the end of some scale here because between workouts, work, kids, the dog we had before we had kids, etc. I cannot remember a time we expected to lie in bed waiting for someone to wake up (!) or did not respect each other's needs for personal down time several nights a week.

Your needs are completely reasonable. I would be livid if I had to put my plans for a whole morning (!!!) on hold because my spouse didn't want to have to text or come find me in the morning. He would probably keel over if he didn't get introvert time. We are each other's partners, not security blankets. You're on edge because you are burnt out! It's not a statement on how much you love or value your partner if you just need 15 minutes - or heck, 2 hours - alone some evening.

We have been married 22 years & are still kind of crazy in love.

I am trying to think how to phrase this...when my husband is up making pancakes with the kids, or working out late, or at a meditation retreat, I occasionally of course miss him. But I also can feel a warm, loving, connected glow that he is off finding his way to being the incredible, passionate, engaged, introverted, physically active person I married. Our relationship exists not just in the moments we are physically touching, but in our capacities to spend time alone to support the other person while they are out doing. (Of course we need time to connect too.) Also then we come back to each other with so much to share.

Maybe if your boyfriend thinks about these times you need space as when he demonstrates how much he loves you, not you-as-teddy-bear he can feel the warm glow of knowing you're not in the bed because you're spending that time being amazing you.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:22 AM on February 28, 2017 [16 favorites]

I love my spouse and we spend a lot of our free time together. We typically have both a sit-down breakfast and dinner together everyday, spend all of the evening together, and spend all of our mutual day off together.

But boy do I love my space and time alone. I need time by myself (ideally without her even in our tiny one bedroom apartment). She also needs time by herself. The way our schedules work out, she's got one day at home by herself and I've got two and it is so good for my mental health.

I completely empathize with your feeling of suffocation. It is not an easy thing to state your needs when you are also worrying about his feelings. But your needs are important. He is completely entitled to his emotions but they are not your problem. Which is not to say you should trample all over him feelings, but state your needs and don't be ashamed of them and don't try to manage his feelings. I have had that problem, too. I still regret stopping a music thing I used to do once a week because my then-girlfriend said she was lonely when I was gone. She didn't ask me to stop, but I didn't want her to feel bad. Don't do that. He's got his needs; you've got yours and it's okay if they don't always agree.
posted by carrioncomfort at 6:42 AM on February 28, 2017

500 square feet is much better than 154! But yeah, it's still a small space for people to find alone time. When Herr Vortex and I were looking at houses, we wanted one that was small but still had two living spaces so that we didn't have to be together if we wanted alone time. Luckily, we found a little house with a living room AND a sun room. We spend most of our off-work time together anyway, but it's really nice to have "alone space" if needed.

Is there a way you can carve out a nook in your current house, so that you can have your "alone space"? Even a window seat or a comfy chair with a lamp, just a place that is yours?
posted by Elly Vortex at 6:59 AM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm reading the book Attached right now, at the recommendation of many MeFites, and it might help give one framing for this dynamic. I thought about it as soon as I saw your question on the main page.

Your question read to me like your partner is expressing his needs to feel comforted and together with you, and you're expressing your needs, but there's something not meeting in the middle. I think it's okay that you both feel hurt; I mean, definitely get to a space where you are feeling hurt less often, but it's good to be able to name your emotion. The next step after feeling hurt should just be something more like, [for him] "Okay, I feel hurt, and lonely, but I know that she loves me and she is doing what she needs to function well and be in a good place to hang out with me later, so I'm going to go with that and just let my hurt feeling exist for a while. And maybe set up a time to cuddle later." And [for you] "I feel angry and engulfed and I accept that I feel that way; it's not bad or good; it's just a feeling that's letting me know where my work is."

To find a space of compromise perhaps you can:

1) Plan proactively to get your alone time. You sound like you're in introvert burnout mode all the time, and no wonder. I would be going bonkers in that situation. Get alone time every day, for a little while, several times per day. Maybe when you wake up, during lunch, and right when you get home, or while dinner is cooking, etc. Plan it ahead. Also get a big chunk once or twice each week and perhaps a weekend retreat/sabbath day all by yourself every month. Plan these with your partner in advance so you will be less likely to reach the end of your rope in the moment; and so when you do go off to be alone, you can refer to the plan, which you created together in love as a support to a healthy relationship.

2) Consider other ways to meet his Saturday cuddle need as well as your get-out-do-things need. How much of a need is his cuddle need? Is it making him super resentful not to have you cuddle, the way it makes you super resentful to stay in bed? If not, then maybe you agree that on Saturdays you will get up but you will both commit to some other gorgeous close warm contact another time of the day. If his need is pretty high, then maybe you can get up and do your thing, then go back into the bed so you're there when he's really waking up. Maybe you switch off every other week. But try to meet your general space/alone time needs before doing this, so you know that you aren't just operating under a perpetual deficit.

3) Consider coming up with signals you can give each other to indicate how strong your need is at that moment. Like, "Red alert," to signal that you really need alone time. Give the signal politely and firmly and have it all hashed out in advance so you each know what to expect when that happens. If it feels bad or hateful or icky, wait a few days, and discuss it later to improve the plan for next time.

I think part of the issue is how urgently you NEED to be alone. Getting yourself some space through meeting that need proactively may calm your brain/heart down enough to be less reactive and more planful. Then the need is less urgent and he will be less surprised by it. I'm a bit of a brat when I get to a crisis level with introversion needs and I know now that I have to either let people know in advance what's coming ("I am not going to talk to you for a day, I'll have my headphones in, I don't hate you") or I have to do what feels, in that moment, a superhuman amount of explaining and politeness to let people know what is going on.

4) Consider what may be under the surface here, like a feeling your independence is being threatened or you don't have the autonomy you want in other areas. Maybe chat with a therapist. -- you both could try this.

I don't think it sounds like you should break up over this now. It sounds like you have huge unmet needs of alone time and you can perhaps work together to give you both more of what you both need, and see where you can compromise.
posted by ramenopres at 7:01 AM on February 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think perhaps also your need trumps his preference. I hear that he feels sad, he might feel hurt, he'd rather you stay in bed... while you are needing space, wanting to scream, etc. Those sound really different to me.

Let him feel his feelings. You don't have to rearrange your life to prevent him from feeling discomfort.
posted by ramenopres at 7:11 AM on February 28, 2017 [14 favorites]

my SO told me he’s sad when I get up while he's still sleeping. He’d rather have me stay in bed and wake up with me at his side…

My husband also likes it when we cuddle together half-awake before getting out of bed. Of course, he'd also rather sleep till 9, and I have a job to get to. Our compromise is that I set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier than I need to get up, and when the alarm goes off, I shove him into half-awake and cuddle with him for 15 minutes from 6:30-6:45. Then I get up and he stays in bed. This is enough to scratch the "morning couple time" itch, he has woken up with me at his side, not my fault he didn't stay awake. Everybody's different, a past boyfriend was very much a "do not disturb" kind of sleeper, so I had to re-adjust to this one wanting me to wake him up. But the key thing is, he said what he wanted (cuddle time), I said what I needed (to get out of bed with no more than 15 minutes of being awake in bed with my brain spinning) and we formed a new habit based on that communication.

Less specifically, you need to be sure you've discussed what you want. If your SO is unwilling to let what you want/need be as important as what he wants/needs, then yes, he's being unreasonable. But first, you have to communicate. Try to take some time when you're not on the edge, you're actually feeling comfortable and cozy and wanting to spend time with him, and bring up that this feels really nice and it doesn't always feel really nice living in 500sqft. Important to have this conversation when you're not feeling squeezed and upset, though. Talk about types of moods/anxiety that you commonly have and when those moods occur, and then the two of you can start talking about ways to avoid that situation (for example, you get 20 minutes unperturbed right after you get home from work) or ways to recognize that situation (whatever words the two of you want to use to describe when you need some introvert space) and ways to solve it (maybe he needs to take a walk or go to the store or some other not entirely necessary errand so that you can be in the apartment alone occasionally).
posted by aimedwander at 7:36 AM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Okay, so I'm you. I lived with my husband and step son (so three people, not two) in a house only sightly larger than yours (it was 800 square feet, but that included the shed, no attic, no basement, no second floor). I went from living alone in a big spacious apartment to living in a tiny house with two people. Granted, they are two people whom I love more than breathing, but holy shit, give me some fucking space, guys! More than once I tumbled headlong into major panic attacks just because I was so over stimulated and so completely unable to get the solitude and alone time I so desperately needed. It was messy. Like you, I didn't know how to explain to my husband that some times I just needed to be left totally and completely alone. He's an extrovert so he really didn't get someone's need to aloneness. I also felt guilty for needing time alone, especially being a step mom. I worried that my kid would feel rejected by my needing alone time.

First, you need to come to terms with the fact that needing alone time is NOT selfish, rude, or uncaring. Needing time apart from loved ones does not mean you love them less. Remove the guilt. Remove the barriers you have put up that are keeping you from taking the space that you need.

Talk to your partner.
He needs a crash course in introversion. Try to find ways to explain it to him to make it clear it isn't about him. For me it was explaining to my husband that I only have so much ability to be around people and be really present before my people battery drains.
- Some people (like my husband) have an endless supply of ability to be around others. Other people (like me) have a very limited supply. My brain needs time alone to recuperate.
- Once the battery is drained being around ANYONE, regardless of whether or how much I love them, gets more difficult and less enjoyable for me. With a drained battery the decisions I make are often rash and based more around my need for space and less around how I normally and actually feel. With a drained battery all interactions are strained and more difficult for me, which creates an negative tinge on the relationships. With a drained battery a HUGE amount of my thoughts are focused on how quickly I can escape and be alone again, and therefore I'm not really present or engaged.
- Having a drained battery is physically, mentally, and EMOTIONALLY unpleasant for me. I feel distressed and anxious and on edge.
- With a full battery I feel more comfortable with people, I feel happier in relationships, happier with me, and am better able to reciprocate love and express how I truly feel. With a full battery I can live "in the moment" and appreciate things and people. With a full battery I genuinely appreciate being around others and WANT to be around others.
- Different things drain by battery at different speeds. Awkward or socially taxing activities (like large crowds or being overnight guests at someone else's house for a few days) will drain my battery in record time. The more battery draining the incident, very often the longer it takes for my battery to fully recharge. I have had to literally take a day off work to recuperate after visiting family for 5 days, I was so completely drained and used up.

My personal coping techniques:
- working from home/taking a day off work to carve out alone time.
- Baths. When we lived in the tiny house (all five years of it...) I took a HUGE number of very long baths because that was the only way I could ensure I would be alone and left alone. Sure, sometimes I was disturbed and had my kid knock on the door to tell me about something cool he did in minecraft, but over all I got the mini breaks I needed.
- claim the bedroom for extended periods. Sometimes on evenings/weekends I would tell my husband that I really needed some alone time and that I was going to be taking over the bedroom for a few hours. I would bring in a drink and some snacks and just hide in the bed alone watching you tube videos. My husband knew to leave me alone and not even knock on the door. Common language was "I don't exist for the next 2 hours. See you at supper time."
- see if you can get your partner to run errands for a couple hours, leaving the apartment empty to you for a while. Every saturday my husband does the grocery run, and if I'm needing space I stay home and just bask in aloneness. If my battery is charged I will go with him.
- encourage your partner to go out with HIS friends without you, leaving you some time to yourself. Every tuesday my husband and kid go out for supper together, which is awesome for them (father son bonding!) and awesome for me because I have recurring alone time in those evenings. I have more than once resorted to contacting my husband's friends asking them to invite him out for wings and pool.
- if there is an out of the blue time where I just NEED alone time, yes, just ask for it. To soften the blow, it can help to include your taking your alone time with a promise of joint time. This really works well with my kid. ie. "Honey, my battery is empty, I need a couple hours of proper alone time. Once I'm recharged a bit, maybe we can watch a movie later?".



you're an introvert. This is okay and normal and you aren't being a jerk for needing personal space. You can explain this to your partner and be sensitive to his needs, but you do also need to prioritize you and your needs as well. You need your alone time to be the best partner possible to him. It is in his best interest to respect that.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:50 AM on February 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

One final thing, we moved from the tiny house last year to a new much larger house, and one of the key benefits (for me) is that I now have my own room in the house. Technically it is my home office (I work from home often) but it also has a super pillow-filled day bed with a poofy duvet and pink curtains and girly happy happy stuff everywhere. It is my sanctuary. It is the one room in the house that isn't shared space, that isn't boy space. This is my space and it is girly as fuck and I fucking love it. That is now where I go to "hide" and carve out some alone time that I need. When I'm all worked up and on edge I declare that I need some sanctuary time, and everyone understands what that means. Sometimes I nap, sometimes I knit, sometimes I craft, sometimes I cry, sometimes I just sit quietly at my desk and do those stupid grown up colouring books. it is so awesome.

So if you ever move, see if you can't get a second bedroom to allow yourself a "home office"/sanctuary. Dead serious.

(It also bares stating that my husband also got some personal space (ie. a home movie theatre) in the new house as well.)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:59 AM on February 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

I am NOT an introvert, but when I lived with four other people in 900 square feet (including sharing a bed with up to four of them at a time and never once sleeping alone I thought it was heaven (compared to the previous 300 square feet shared by three of us) but after a while I was going a little bonkers because my husband refused to ever let me have alone time or stop constantly touching me. It is possible you have simply out-grown your current space and need to look at a larger place with "a room of one's own".
posted by saucysault at 8:03 AM on February 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

I get that it's kind of flattering that he likes having you nearby all the time but this is how this conversation should go:

"I'm sad when you're not there in the morning when I wake up!"
"babe, I can't stay in bed all morning while you're sleeping. Do you want me to wake you up for a cuddle before I go out?"

if yes then do that. If no then meet him at a prearranged time for brunch. In no case should there be pouting or guilting from him. Ridiculous.

And yes, if you can afford it, get a place that has an office for you or at least a second bathroom so you can claim the bathtub for the private time you need.

And yes, if you don't express and honor this very fundamental need you have for alone time, you will wind up hating him for forcing you, even if he hasn't really forced you. He can ask and you can say no. So say it clearly and act on it before it gets to that point.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:23 AM on February 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is going back some years, but... when it finally dawned on me that EVERYONE BUT ME had their own space- sometimes more than one!!- and I had ZERO, plus I was constantly cleaning up and managing others' spaces... I blew a major gasket. I finally understood why I was always on edge and never relaxed, in my own damn house.

A secure, loving partner will not resent your needs and make it all about him. I hope he understands and realizes this is how you ensure you can be your best self, and get the mental re-energizing and de-stressing you need.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:50 AM on February 28, 2017 [17 favorites]

A secure, loving partner will not resent your needs and make it all about him

This, 100%. I love when my hubby and I spend lazy mornings in bed together. But 99% of mornings, especially weekend morning, he's antsy the second he wakes up. Staying in bed when he's antsy makes him *miserable*. So he gets up and does his thing. And when he's not antsy, he'll hang out and read or play on his tablet until I wake up.

On the flip side, on a good number of evenings, his preferences are for us to do a thing together - but if I've had a rough day at work, I need alone time to recover, or I'll be a hot mess for days. So I curl up in my corner of the couch, and he goes off and does whatever he wants to do.

Our relationship functions on this kind of respect - talking about each other's needs, meeting halfway (or all the way) depending on what the situation calls for. In your situation, it sounds like only his needs are being met. Advocate for yourself - have the conversations, find the places where you can meet somewhere along the spectrum of your needs --> their needs to support each other. Your need to be alone is just as legitimate as his need for your company.
posted by okayokayigive at 9:26 AM on February 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

Scripts? Scripts.

The general conversation:
When I spend time with other people, even people I love, without a break, I get drained and also rage-y. [#] minutes of solo activity really cuts that down and resets me. Name the feeling: When I say I need some (me-time, rage-slaying time, alone time) it's because I'm feeling that need.

When he's sad about snuggles:
I love morning snuggles, but I have to get out of bed and get moving. Would you like me to come in around noon and get back in bed for a few minutes? (or) When I get back we can get back in bed for a bit and I'll snuggle you like a handsy octopus.

Maybe it will take a bit while he learns that (a) his partner gets irritable and feels better with alone time and that (b) you're enthusiastic about seeing him after you're done. If you can make this contrast obvious it will help him understand.

There's a pretty similar dynamic in my house. I go to bed early and my partner lays with me until I get sleepy. Partner sleeps in and I get up. I come back in for snuggles in the horrifically late afternoon.
posted by meemzi at 9:37 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think you might need a short vacation by yourself -- maybe use visiting friends or family as an excuse. Normally I'd be strongly against using an excuse rather than communicating clearly about your real reasons, but it sounds like you've been trapped in that little space with so little time to yourself that it will be extraordinarily difficult for you to communicate non-hurtfully.

Anyway, take a break, breathe some fresh air, and reflect on what you need and the boundaries you need to set, and how you can present that to him warmly and lovingly.

Then, when you get back, you can enjoy how wonderful it is to see him again, reassure him verbally and non-verbally that you do love him and _want_ to spend time with him, be close to him, and tell him what you need.

I can't tell you how to present this information. You know him better than I do. I think if you had time and space you could figure it out best on your own.
posted by amtho at 11:20 AM on February 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Introvert early-riser in a relationship with an extrovert late-sleeper here.

I set two alarms: snuggle alarm and wake-up alarm. If my SO is soundly asleep when the snuggle alarm goes off, I sneak off and start my day, then return for snuggles either when he awakes naturally (weekend) or when the wake-up alarm goes off (weekday). If I am leaving the house before he wakes up, I wake him gently and ask him if he'd like a cuddle before I go. If I'm in a hurry, it's understood that I only have time for a hug & kiss.

I like having time alone at home sometimes, so my SO understands that I will say no to select outings so I can have that alone time. He can request that I attend one thing over another, with the understanding that if I need alone time in the coming day or two, something must give.

This was all negotiated by us during the course of our first year living together, through trial and error. At first, while negotiating, I was so stretched beyond my comfort level that sometimes I had to say "I need an hour to myself right now!" and I'd compromise (total aloneness) by popping in headphones and doing something in the next room, while he'd compromise (total togetherness) by staying in the other room doing his thing. Slowly this became less stressful for him and less immediate for me. I could say, "tomorrow evening while you're out doing X I'm going to stay in" and it feels comfortable for both of us.

Absolutely discuss this, lay out what your needs are, let him lay out what his needs are, and find solutions that work for you both. You've been together for 7 years, so this may come as a surprise to him, but provided he understands that you have Ifite-ways and he has Ifite's-sweetie-ways, and neither is better or more loving than the other, I'm sure he'll want to stretch to meet your needs just as you've been stretching to meet his. I was my SO's first introvert, just as it sounds like you are your SO's first introvert. He may take some time coming to an understanding, but reassurance and sticking to routines helped my SO grok that happy-loving-Pammeke is Pammeke with a little alone time every week (and yes, at first it was every day, because I think it is in introverts' nature to bend to the world seemingly built for extroverts).

Good luck!
posted by pammeke at 12:40 PM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I’m not sure how to proceed. Can I request alone time, now, on the spot, when I need to? When I tried in the past my SO was seemingly hurt.

It's interesting that you say your SO was seemingly hurt, which suggests you inferred their state of mind from their reaction, rather than getting an explicit response.

I think you can certainly request alone time now. Maybe you can manage to do it with the internal expectation that, since the request is perfectly reasonably and healthy, your SO will graciously accede to it.

You didn't necessarily misjudge your SO's response to previous attempts to negotiate some private time, but it's possible you did. A loving discussion of the issue, as free as possible from pre-conceived notions about the response you are likely to get, might be the first step in solving your problem.
posted by layceepee at 12:46 PM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

You are absolutely entitled to some uninterrupted time and space in your own home. Full stop.

I get the impression that a potential issue here could be that you both seem to be ascribing intent to the other where there may be none. He's taking your request for alone time as a form of rejection (is he an extrovert?), and you're taking his minor disappointment at your (EMINENTLY REASONABLE) absence from bed at noon on weekends as a pain on par with your own anguish and constant over-stimulation in your environment. It is not, and if he truly thinks that it is, that is a WHOOOLE other problem. (On preview: what layceepee said.)

The cure for that is open dialogue and figuring out between the two of you how to make sure both of your needs are being met, using some of the excellent advice above. Hopefully you can truly reassure him that your need for space has nothing to do with him and everything to do with how you're wired as a person and how little space outside of the home that you have to yourself, and hopefully he has the maturity to reassure you that you are NOT required to sublimate your own basic emotional needs in favor of catering to his preferences and that he'll try to take it easy on the pouty guilt trips now that he knows how seriously they affect you.

And even if he doesn't explicitly say this, then I hope that that is your takeaway from this thread anyway. You should never be afraid to advocate for your own needs! Especially with a long-term partner you care about. If they care about you, they should WANT to make you happy. If he tries to derail the discussion by pouting, you're well within your rights to point out that you see what he's doing there and do not approve.

Sidebar: Does your partner have any hobbies or interests that could take him out of the house one evening a week or so? When I was cohabitating in a 1br with my ex, my social life was considerably more active than his was, which meant that while he got the apartment all to himself at pretty reliable intervals, I did not. That was HARD. If he were to join a darts league or a tabletop group or something that had regular meetups, knowing that you'll have every Tuesday or something to yourself can be a powerful balm for the spirit.
posted by helloimjennsco at 12:49 PM on February 28, 2017

Introvert here. Not to the point where I must be physically alone but I do (and need to) spend a fair amount of my day focused on building something, writing code, reading. And when Mrs. TT is away I feel like my psyche can expand to fill the space in a way it doesn't otherwise. Our agreement is that if I'm staring at a screen and she needs to interrupt, she'll say "When you have a minute..." to which I'll just "Umm hmm" an acknowledgement and turn and say "I'm back" or similar when I can break without dropping (as many) balls. If I really need to not be interrupted (seldom), I'll ask her to "Wake me only for fire or blood." The way I get my physically alone time - and it's fairly seldom these days - is the mountain cure: a solo hike. Or for a shorter commitment - more usual - a strenuous bike ride. The point is, it's my need and my job to meet it. I'm lucky - and grateful - that she accepts that it's not about her, at all!, but just the way I'm wired. Oh, and I make a point to be willing to break off sometimes and take a walk, hike, drive, or do a chore together.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 2:35 PM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Stop doing his emotions for him. If he is sad, then he can manage that - you are managing your anger without screaming endlessly at him, he can manage his sadness without expecting you to be a lifesize teddy bear.

I just redid my schedule for the start of term. I have two days a week I have blocked for Just Me. It will include text chat with my friends, maybe being out, but even as a 'lay in bed for hours' type I would be noncompliant with 'stay in bed until I am satisfied and tell you that you can leave or I will be SAD AT YOU'. This isn't anything he has offered a compromise on, just demands. If he is not willing to do the work of compromise, of managing himself, then you don't have to do it for him.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:04 PM on February 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

My SO and I have a code, which I use quite a bit more often than she does: "I need a group of one." We say this when we're alone together or in some group of people and can't deal anymore. Put that way, it is less about the other person and more about your own needs at that moment.
posted by old_growler at 7:19 PM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

So I'm a gregarious introvert and I had to learn to get away from my husband and, later, away from my husband and my kid because if I was with them 24/7 it made me crazy. As my kid got older, I instituted quiet time for me, which meant that I got an hour of time in a different room and she needed to be quiet during that time. It took me forever to get that going and it wasn't at the same time every day, so it was flexible, but it was understood that I needed quiet time or I would have a meltdown. Not on purpose, but because I needed alone time.

My kid has always been super clingy so this was hard to engineer but I was able to engineer it by making it about meeting my own needs and being flexible so she could still get her needs met by having some say in when the quiet time happened. (This was during the week, when my husband was working and I wasn't.) Now, your SO isn't a kid, and I'm not suggesting he is. What I am suggesting is that it's nice to help people have reasonable expectations (I need X every day, plus if I get super overloaded I may need to take a break immediately) or whatever floats your boat.

I was miserable for years because I didn't use my words. Instead, I turned myself inside out trying to make sure no one had hurt feelings and everyone was happy–but me. Don't be me. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 7:39 PM on February 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

Lucinda Williams has a good song called "Side of the Road" about wanting to be alone while with a partner.
posted by Gelatin at 11:03 AM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

My partner of about 25 years needs significantly less sleep than I do. If he goes to bed later than I AND gets up earlier, I feel very disconnected. Our solution has been to choose one or the other, so that he either comes to bed with me OR gets up with me. This has worked for both of us.
posted by kch at 7:43 AM on March 2, 2017

Thank you everybody for your insights. You helped me realize I wasn't expressing my needs clearly enough, and when I had this conversation with my SO he was genuinely surprised. I took a day off from work and had the day for myself. Now everything is getting better and am much more relaxed.
So, my need to be alone was first and foremost a communication problem, surprise ;-)
Thank you again Mefites!
posted by Ifite at 1:17 AM on March 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

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