How to Find Time Away From Your Partner When You Share a Space

There’s always room for alone time, even in the smallest of spaces.

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Your partner could be incredible, flawless, perfection incarnate — and still annoy the hell out of you after too much time together. This has become readily apparent since the coronavirus forced us to hunker down in our homes with our significant others for months on end and, in turn, spiral into close-quarters madness like shipmates wrecked on a deserted island.

We all need some privacy, after all. 

But hey, don’t freak out too much. In fact, you can always make time for yourself, even in the smallest of spaces. Here are some suggestions:

Clean up and Do Your Chores
Keeping your place tidy might seem like it has nothing to do with alone time. But psychotherapist and counselor Erin Wiley says clean spaces result in fewer negative roommate interactions, and therefore more chill time for yourself. “There’s always one person who’s not as neat as the other, and it’s a source of constant irritation,” she explains. “You have to be really conscious about how you’re treating your space if you’re stuck in it.” She also suggests making a chore chart — that way, you can get your stuff done without having to bicker about who does what.

Designate Personal Times and Spaces
Telling your partner you need time alone in a different room may feel disrespectful, but Wiley says, “Finding a way to help each other find time alone in the space is important. It’s also important to ask for what you need.” For example, she says you can make schedules for the bathroom, where you can enjoy some alone time in the tub. Or, if you both work from home, she suggests designating spaces for the two of you — in separate rooms or at different desks — and treating it as if you were still working in your own offices. That means not walking in on each other randomly, and perhaps even sending each other texts if you really need something.

Etiquette expert Elaine Swann seconds this approach. “Adopt what I call a ‘personal zone,’ and introduce the concept to your roommate,” she recommends. “Your personal zone can either be a space in time that you set aside and designate in advance, or it can be a physical space in the place where you dwell. Have this conversation with your partner, and let them know what it means.” In Swann’s office, for example, she has signs available for anyone to grab that signify they need alone time to focus on their work, and therefore shouldn’t be disturbed. Because everyone has the opportunity to use them when they need them, nobody necessarily feels left out.

Pick up a Hobby
Even if you only have a small space to work with, engaging in a hobby can help transport your mind to somewhere else. “I’m a dorky fish person with a fish tank, and now I have an online fish club meeting where we talk about who has what fish and what our tanks are set up like,” Wiley says. “It’s good, because it’s just for me, not my husband.” It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, either. Wiley says occasionally chatting with “your old high school bros or catching up with your college girlfriends” can offer a nice mental escape, too.

Go for a Walk, Silly
Staying home during the pandemic is real and important, but that doesn’t mean you can’t walk around your neighborhood, particularly when you’re feeling cooped up. “You’re allowed to leave your apartment,” Wiley emphasizes. “You can still go outside.”

So if you’re feeling cramped and overwhelmed, go hang out under a tree or something. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll feel better.