How To Tell Your Partner You Need Alone Time (Without Getting In A Fight)

Clinical Psychologist By Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist
Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist based in Sonoma County, California. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and a master's in counseling from Sonoma State University.

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It’s easy to “get lost in a relationship.” Without meaning to, we stop investing time and energy in nurturing out own interests and ways of being.

When life gets busy, partners often unconsciously create hyper-dependent patterns. Daily routines and stressors leave partners feeling exhausted and frazzled, and it can be tempting to chronically default into dependent-type behaviors that create a sense of safety and security. But the more the patterns create dependency and eliminate personal freedom and growth, the more self-limiting the behaviors become. And if these dependent-type behaviors become the norm rather than the exception, one or both partners may ultimately feel suffocated.  

It’s okay to want alone time in a relationship.

In fact, the healthiest of relationships allow for a solid amount of couple time and also a healthy dose of alone time. The concept of healthy interdependence—being able to depend on a partner while also being self-sufficient in key areas—is a cornerstone of successful relationships.

If you’re worried you don’t have enough “me time” in your relationship, don’t worry: You can absolutely carve out more alone time without creating havoc between you and your partner. In fact, the below tips will not only help you avoid a fight—they may leave your partner craving a bit more alone time, too!

  1. Be sensitive when approaching this conversation. A request for more alone time can leave a partner feeling rejected, fearful, or worried about the health of the relationship. It’s important to be aware of this issue—and to honor that these areas may be unconsciously triggered—as you prepare to talk with your partner.
  2. Avoid blaming or shaming your partner. Orient the discussion toward what you want to create in the relationship moving forward; avoid a blame-oriented focus on any negative habits you or they or both of you might have formed in the past.
  3. Come to the table knowing what you want. Before having a discussion with your partner, take some time to reflect on your wants and needs with respect to more alone time. The greater clarity you have, the more likely your partner will understand and appreciate your desires. Be as specific with yourself as possible so that you know what would make you feel good. For example, you may want a few hours alone each week to exercise, read, or pursue a new creative outlet. Whatever it is you want and need, be prepared to discuss it openly with your partner.
  4. Pay attention to your feelings. Once you’ve evaluated your wants and needs, focus on your inner feelings. Does not having enough alone time leave you feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or irritable? If you know how you feel, you’ll be able to express to your partner more fully how more alone time will alleviate negative feelings such as anxiety or stress.
  5. Emphasize how much you love your partner. Expressing your truth simply and honestly will help your partner feel loved while you’re asking for what you need. For example, you might say, “I love you and our relationship so much. I wanted to talk with you about a personal need I have.”
  6. Use “I” statements. As you move more deeply into the topic, be sure to use “I” messages and include your feelings. This strategy will help your partner feel safe and secure during the conversation. For example, you might say, “I’ve realized that I’ve gotten into a bit of funk by not doing some of the things I love to do. I’ve started feeling anxious and depressed—as if I’m not talking good care of myself in a few key areas.”
  7. Get specific. At this point, you can now move into discussing your specific wants and needs. For example, you might say, “It would make me feel so good to take guitar lessons. I’ve found a class that I’d like to attend for two hours Saturday morning. I also feel a solo run at the end of each work day—about 45 minutes—would do me a world of good. Having a bit of solitary time to de-stress each day would feel great.”
  8. Make it about helping them get more alone time too. Your partner may also enjoy knowing that you’ve considered their needs. For example, you might say, “I know you’ve been wanting more time to connect with your friends and do some online gaming, so perhaps we can free up some space for you to get your needs met, too.”

If you feel a bit stressed or anxious about having such a conversation with your partner, take a bit of time to do a practice run in the mirror or with a friend. The stronger and more relaxed you feel, the better your delivery will be.

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