Learn when and how to ask for space
After living together for some time, you’ll inevitably have moments of friction. The key is not to bottle up these frustrations, and instead learn how to ask for personal space, time apart, or whatever else you need.
Duh, communication is important. Everyone knows that. What you might not know is that sometimes rumination is more important. You don’t need to always talk about everything if you can meditate on it for yourself. Sometimes you just need to cool down on (or warm up to) a point of contention.
Dr. Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and researcher at the University of Michigan, found during a 25-year study of married couples that 29% of spouses reported not having enough privacy or time for themselves. The solution is to ASK.
The way to ask for space is hugely important, though. Walking into the living room and dropping an “I need space!” is a sure-fire way to trigger a panic attack. Experts instead advise you to be specific: say things like “I need some alone time this weekend.” Explain why you need the solo time, so that they’re not left guessing.
And then, perhaps most importantly: enjoy it. Spending that time feeling guilty is counterproductive.
Be honest about their friends
So maybe their friend Dave from high school comes over and puts his shoes on the couch and spouts off wild political hot takes. You’re not Dave’s biggest fan, and that’s ok! Chances are, you probably have a couple friends who rub your significant other the wrong way, too. Better to be tastefully honest (non-judgemental) about their friends and work around that.
The first step is admitting you have an issue. First, talk with your partner about their friend and tell them how you feel, non-judgmentally. Focus on your own perspective, and be empathetic to their responsibilities as a friend. Be clear that you can tolerate them without making them feel uncomfortable. In an interview for CNN, behavioral scientist Christine Hartman explained it’s best not to antagonize their friend, since, “To insult a partner's friends is to insult your partner.”
Instead, try to understand why they like this person. If you can stomach it, make an effort to get on this person’s good side, and be patient about building a positive relationship with them. Who knows? Maybe the issue was your personality quirks and not Dave’s “Let’s abolish the government and become anarcho-primitivists” platform.
If all that fails, Hartman says, better to just use the opportunity to get some time apart from your partner: “Go out with your friends. Have a great time! And tell everyone I said hi.” See? Killing two birds with one stone.
He doesn’t need to like yoga, you don’t need to like kneading dough
Being in a couple means getting into really weird hobbies together, like brewing craft beer in your home or speaking a private language that creeps out your friends. But while you both might get really into canning beets, it’s healthy to have some hobbies that the other person isn’t into.
If you were into #yogaSaturdays when you two first started dating, he might just have to accept that he won’t see you till after brunch. Find out what hobbies work well to share with each other, and which ones you can do separately. Just like when asking for space, you might have to be honest about what you’d prefer to keep to yourself -- if your boyfriend doesn’t know the difference between a full house and a flush, maybe shoehorning him into your weekly poker game isn’t the best idea, either financially or romantically.
The nuclear option: have separate beds/rooms
Sometimes a little fission is the answer to your con-fusion. Other couples might give you a strange look when you bring up separate beds, but this can be hugely helpful for couples on different schedules. One of the couples interviewed for this piece even mentioned they had separate rooms, saying “Most people we tell think it’s weird, but it’s been so healthy for us to each have our own space.”
Physical space can allow for things like maintaining different levels of clutter, playing your own music, or just having somewhere to go that’s only yours. Sure, you might catch some judgement from other couples, but they don’t know what they’re missing out on: having the blankets all to yourself. The only judgments you need to worry about are your own, and if you realize you hate it, you can always combine beds -- it’ll be just like moving in together, all over again. Relive the excitement!