These days, couples are not only spending leisure time together but often working from home together and spending basically all of their time in each other’s company. But is too much of a good thing … bad?
There are no weekend trips away from each other, no escapes to friends-only outings and even the morning commute — where you may have had 15 minutes to sing solo at the top of your lungs in your car or listen to a playlist in peace on the bus or train — is nonexistent for many now.
So how does this intense togetherness affect relationships, and more importantly, how does one actually find alone time right now? TMRW chatted with Niro Feliciano, cognitive psychotherapist and host of the "All Things Life" podcast, to find the answers.
Know that it’s normal to feel stress in your relationship right now.
“I think initially there was a newfound appreciation for time together (at the start of the pandemic), but now we’re a year in, and it’s getting harder to experience that excitement about having time together,” Feliciano said. Pair that with uncertainty about when things will get back to "normal," and it can exacerbate the problem.
“It’s very stressful,” she said. “And when people are stressed, they tend to release that stress on people they know aren’t going anywhere.” In other words, people tend to take their frustrations out on their significant other since they feel most comfortable with them.
Have a check-in conversation with your partner.
“A lot of times when there is stress, it’s because we haven’t communicated expectations,” Feliciano said. “Clarifying what each person needs is important.”
She added that often in a relationship, there’s one person who needs their alone time and space more than the other. “Have that conversation and communicate what each of you need in terms of alone time and also time together.”
If you're the one who needs more space, you can remind and reassure your partner that you still care about them and want to be with them (most of the time). It's not a reflection on your relationship. “Explain to the person, ‘If I get that alone time, it’s going to make me want to spend more time together with you, and I’m going to be happier and more present in that time,’” she suggested.
Carve out your own space and time.
If you are working from home together, designate separate workspaces so you can each have your own areas as much as possible, Feliciano said. And set boundaries like, “No popping into my office (area) while I'm working to ask me a random question.”
Then schedule time to strengthen other relationships, like those with friends or family members who live outside of your household. Whether it’s a phone call, Zoom chat or a safe and socially distanced meet-up, spending time with others can actually help strengthen your own relationship.
“When I get together with my girlfriends, I get something from that and it’s different than what my partner can give me,” she said. “And that also contributes to me feeling whole and healthy. The more whole and healthy I feel, the better wife I’ll be.”
Another way to carve out some alone time is by exploring your interests, whether that’s practicing a hobby, taking an online course or listening to a podcast. Feliciano reminds us that we’re still evolving and growing as people whether we’re in a relationship or not. Doing things you like is important for your own personal fulfillment. Plus, it'll give you more to talk about with your partner.
Schedule special time together.
Once you start creating opportunities to be apart and actually miss each other again (woohoo!), it’s also important to schedule time together. And we’re not talking about another night of binge-watching Netflix (while fun, it doesn’t really allow you to connect and talk with your partner).
Plan a special date night for just the two of you. Feliciano said she and her husband have set up their dining room and gotten takeout to simulate a fancy restaurant experience. “If the weather is warmer, taking a walk is a great way to connect,” she also suggested. Or you could even listen to something interesting together, like a podcast, and then discuss it after.
And for couples who thrive on being around other couples, you could also set up a cocktail night on Zoom with your friends to bring that feeling back.