Dear Thelma: I love my girlfriend but I crave alone time too

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Dear Thelma,

I have recently felt the need to be alone more frequently.

I am in a relationship whereby my partner and I are living together. I am still very much in love with her but recently we have been in disagreement a lot more, mainly due to my lack of ability to communicate my feelings at an early stage.

At the beginning of our relationship, I always gave in to my partner and spent time doing the things she wanted to but there were, of course, times when I would've liked to do the things I like too. But I kind of "bottled it up", with the thought that this was a small matter and I was doing it out of love.

Over time, these "small matters" piled up and eventually came to a point where I broke down and "locked myself up" emotionally. My partner was confused as I could wake up in a bad mood and treat her coldly when I had been nice the whole time prior.

We eventually talked about it and our solution for it was to do the things I like, and so we did. For context, one of the things I like to do is watch TV quietly at home at night.

My partner is aware of that and it eventually got to her that I was doing this more often and spending less time with her.

We see each other all the time except during work hours. Sometimes I feel the need to spend time by myself while my partner would like to be with me every moment possible (assuming this is the general nature of males and females respectively).

We sat down and talked about this and recently our solution was that I go away and spend time alone physically. Although this is the solution for me, I know my partner is unhappy that I am away from her even though she does not say it. I understand we cannot deny our feelings and I empathise with her.

I would like to know if there are any other possible solutions or advice that I may take note of for this situation.

Need my space

Thank you for writing such a clear explanation. You described a quarrel and have identified your different needs as the issue. I think that's only part of the problem.

The other part is that you told your partner you were happy when you were not, and when she took you at your word, you punished her for not divining your true needs.

My dear, nobody can read minds.

As there is no hint in your letter of this viewpoint, I suspect this hasn't occurred to you. It is a common dynamic, so don't beat yourself up about it.

The key to making effective change starts with self-examination.

Your need for alone time is perfectly OK. Some people like lots of company and some don't. I'm not sure why you think this is sex related; it's a personal preference.

The question is why don't you express yourself? I can think of two commonplace reasons.

First, there's the perception that a good relationship is about wanting the same things.

It is not. As you have discovered, hiding needs leads to resentment.

A good relationship is about discovering where you match, and about respectfully doing your own thing where you don't.

A second commonplace reason is that your past experiences have taught you that stating your needs invites trouble.

This can happen if you come from a family where your needs were sidelined or you had previous romantic relationships with that dynamic.

Maybe it's both? Whatever fuels that behaviour, the first step to happiness is to teach yourself to be comfortable with talking openly.

The step beyond that is to learn to be OK with disagreeing.

In healthy relationships, mutual respect and love means we accept each other. You don't need to be clones to be happy! Work out ways to disagree nicely.

Next, your behaviour may have changed how your partner views you.

She may worry she doesn't know your true emotions. Also, she may be frightened of making you angry. Those feelings prevent open communication.

As you believe your partner is unhappy and hiding her feelings, I think you need another sit-down. Start with an apology, and then have a warm, open conversation.

The key to a reasonable compromise is that quality relationship time is important, but healthy relationships don't involve adults being joined at the hip.

An independent personal life is a must for mental health. I suggest you have your time, her time and our time. Define these periods clearly and stick to them.

For example, you may want time every day to yourself and a portion of weekend or holidays.

There are no rules, each couple sorts it out according to their needs. And be prepared to tweak because your needs and resources will change over time.

For example, you say you are currently needing more time alone. Maybe you're stressed because of the time of year? So many people are super busy right now, that you may be a bit overwhelmed.

Whatever is going on, communication will lead to resolution.

In fact, it is entirely possible that you will get a pleasant surprise. You think she's unhappy but the truth is that you don't know because you haven't talked yet.

She may be unhappy because of something that has nothing to do with you. Like a work issue.

Or she may not be unhappy at all. It's entirely possible that you are projecting your own feelings on her because of the quarrel.

So go give her a hug, have a heart-to-heart and work it out. Wishing you lots of happiness, and a very Merry Christmas.

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Relationships , communication , dating , me time


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