There is very little division between home and work.
When I was talking to my therapist, she asked how I transition between working and not working. I hesitated, looked at her through our Zoom session, and said, “Well, I close my computer.”
This…was not the right answer.
This lack of separation we’re all experiencing escalates a problem I’ve seen throughout many of the coaching sessions and classes I teach: people need alone time, and they are not getting it.
Picture this: you close your computer for the day because you’re working at home. You walk out of your office (if you have one – or the space you’ve been working in because you’re working from home for the foreseeable future!) You need just a few minutes to not be needed: your partner, whom you love so much…and the same partner that talks so much the moment you walk into the shared space. You find yourself losing patience, getting tired, and snapping at the person you love so much.
Sound familiar? Maybe you’re a teacher, work in the service industry, or a people-centric field – and you are happy as can be in your relationship but just need some alone time. How can you tell your partner that you need this space to breathe and not hurt their feelings? Here are a few tips and prompts to focus on being empathetic and getting what you need.
Have a conversation before
…Or after. Do not, I repeat, do not have a conversation when you are losing patience and about to explode into a rant about you never getting time to yourself. Make sure that conversation happens before you need the time or after – like, considerably after – you realize that you need to have the conversation. It’s important to separate yourself from the high emotions you’re probably feeling around the space you need. Since conversations are incredibly influenced by emotions, you want to be sure you’re not bringing negative ones into the mix. Give space between the need and the ask.
When you are voicing something like this (a clear boundary), it’s important to take an assertive route with your communication. While assertive communication is commonly misunderstood, true assertive communication happens when you are seeing a mutual “win” – that is, you’re looking for the negotiated middle. Maybe you want three hours of free time after work to binge on your favorite Netflix show. Your partner wants to talk to you right away. So perhaps the middle is an hour of quiet time before you immediately run into a recap of the day.
When you present this, tie the action to a feeling. Say something like, “I feel overwhelmed when you talk to me right after work. I need some quiet time to myself. Can we work on that?” You’re not telling your partner that they are overwhelming – the action is. You’re also calmly expressing what you need and opening it up to more conversation to find that middle.
Uphold your end
You need space, right? How are you taking the space? Are you just rushing into a conversation because you don’t want to hurt their feelings? Stop! Stop devaluing how you feel and what you need, and pushing their needs above yours. When you realize that you do need and deserve this time to have a healthy and happy relationship, think about what you’re going to do to take the time and not just wait for it to come to you. Are you going to walk into another room? Close a door? Walk away if you need additional space? Be sure to share this with your partner! The communication, more than anything, will keep this situation in a place of calm versus a place of stress. Good luck!