Taking Time for Myself: How Space Can Strengthen Relationships

My boyfriend and I have been together for two years, but we’ve only lived in the same city for about six months. Now that we’re both living in New York City and only a short walk apart, we can see each other as often as we want. 

At first, this was a total thrill. Dinner together every night? Walking me to work every morning? Grocery shopping together? Sign me up! But after a month of hanging out 24/7, I began feeling weirdly burnt out whenever my boyfriend would come over. I first noticed this change during one of our movie nights. I should have been paying attention to the film we were watching, and instead, I was distracted on my phone. After reflecting on it, I realized this was happening on most work nights, sprinkled with a few moments of feeling easily irritated and just flat out exhausted. 

This was really unlike me, so I chalked it up to stress from work and the pressures of everyday life. And while those may have been contributing factors, there was definitely more at play. What I really needed was “me time” — I just hadn’t realized it yet. 

It was actually my boyfriend, who, clearly knowing me better than I know myself, suggested we take a night or two each week to spend some time alone. 

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At first, I was skeptical. Aren’t I an extrovert? Don’t I love hanging out with my boyfriend? How would time apart fix anything? But after one night of having dinner solo and reading my favorite book by candlelight in my room, I couldn’t believe how refreshed I felt. And after another night of just vegging out on my couch with my phone and a bag of chips, I knew this was exactly the mental reset I needed. 

Despite my initial hesitation, I can now say that a healthy dose of time apart is the reason our relationship is so strong. We love spending time together, but we also really value cultivating our lives as individuals. If you think you may be in need of some solo time as well, read on for three ways to incorporate alone time into your relationship. 

Make time for your own hobbies.

In the midst of balancing a full-time job, roommates, friends, and my relationship, I didn’t leave much time for things I enjoy on my own, like reading or journaling. Instead of viewing time apart as “time away from my boyfriend,” I started framing it as “time with myself and my hobbies,” aka, totally not a negative thing! 

If you’ve let something you enjoy fall to the wayside, carve out time in your schedule to re-introduce it. Chances are, your partner might be feeling the same way about one of their hobbies. It’ll even give you something new to talk about when you do see each other! 

Maintain relationships that are special to you as an individual.

This one is a little harder for my boyfriend and me because we went to college together and have a lot of the same friends. We love double dates and group hangouts. But it’s also important to maintain friendships that existed before, or outside, your relationship. 

For me, it’s making time to visit or FaceTime with friends who have moved out-of-state. For him, it’s making time to travel back to Philadelphia to see childhood friends. And though we miss each other when we’re apart, we both agree it’s important to maintain those close friendships that add value to our lives.

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Remember that investing in yourself will benefit both of you.

Take my sleep schedule, for example. I am a morning person and rely on eight hours of sleep every night to feel my best. When my boyfriend first moved to my city, we were hanging out late every night, which resulted in me being exhausted and starting off most mornings on the wrong foot. Once we started incorporating solo nights/space into our relationship, I started getting comfortable kicking him out at 9:30 so I could do my nightly skincare routine in time for bed. Full nights of sleep 100% made me a better girlfriend and person to be around.  

Intentionally setting aside time to decompress and nurture your interests and hobbies will only make you a better individual and stronger partner.

Originally published on April 13, 2021. 

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