Ask the therapist: How can I tell my husband that I need more space without hurting him?

In the “Consulting Therapist” series, I will answer all your questions about mental health and psychology. Whether you are struggling with a mental health condition, coping with anxiety about living conditions, or just seeking the insights of a therapist, you can submit a question. Please pay attention to my answers to your questions in the Healthy Mind newsletter every Friday.

A reader asked

Since the pandemic began, my husband and I have been together almost every day. If I go to our room alone to find some time alone, he will follow me because he thinks something is wrong. How can I tell my husband that I need more space without hurting his feelings?

Amy’s answer

It is understandable that you want some time of your own. Being together during a pandemic can make you feel a little suffocated (to say the least). Although your husband may feel that he does not need more time alone, it is important for you to communicate your needs to him.

Alone time is essential

Everyone needs a certain amount of time alone to perform at their best (even extroverts). It takes a little solitude to review your life, adjust to yourself, and plan for the future.

It sounds like you need to be alone more than your husband. The pandemic may make your needs more obvious because you have to work harder to make time.

Therefore, it is important to ask what you need. Getting the loneliness you need can charge your battery and help you feel your best.

making plans

Telling your husband that you “need more space” is unlikely to be effective. You may have very different ideas about the reasonableness of alone time, and you may not agree on how and when to get it.

The more specific you can get, the better. Communicating your needs accurately-and your plan to achieve this goal-can prevent a lot of hurt in the future.

Before you talk to your husband, think about how much alone time you want and how you can best get it.

For example, do you want to go to the room for 15 minutes without interruption several times a day? Or would you prefer to have a few hours each night so that you can go for a walk and do things around the house without your husband following you?

Communicate your needs

The way you express your needs will make a big difference. Saying: “You always follow me!” will be different from “I need some loneliness to feel my best state”.

Make it clear that you want to be the best person and the best partner. Time alone is a key factor in achieving this goal.

Assure your husband that your need for space has nothing to do with him or your relationship. It’s just that your character needs to be alone more than him.

If you tend to go to your room to make room when you are upset, please be honest. Explain that when he follows you, things will get worse.

You can make a plan together, say you will calm down for a few minutes, and promise to show up when you are calm enough to talk.

Help with peace of mind

When you disagree, reassure your husband that you want to solve the problem—but you can’t do it when you are too excited—may help him deal with his pain better when you seek a little alone time.

Take responsibility for your feelings, not his

It is important to communicate your needs in an honest and respectful manner. After all, you don’t have to be responsible for your husband’s feelings.

Although you do your best to convey your message in good faith, he may not accept it well. This does not mean you did something wrong.

When you want to be alone, he may feel abandoned. When he starts to imagine what he did wrong, his anxiety may start to rise. Or he may feel uneasy about himself because he thinks he should meet your every need.

If he is unhappy, please sympathize with him and show compassion, but stick to your own boundaries. Over time, he may realize that your need for space is related to you, not to him.

Setting boundaries with someone and sticking to them is one of the kindest and most loving things you can do. You are establishing a rule that will help you feel and do your best. Your husband does not have to like or even understand it. But this is what you are doing because you know that this is the key to a healthier relationship.