Being Alone to be Better Together

written by Erin Garwood, M.A.

As you continue settling into a routine of online classes, Zoom parties, and delivery food you may have noticed how much time you are spending at home with your partner(s). As you are living, working, and playing from home, it will become increasingly important to understand the coping styles of yourself and your partner(s). Knowing more about the different ways people cope with stress may help avoid increased strain on your relationship.


Some personality traits that may be associated with coping styles are introversion and extroversion. While these traits are more complex than having or not having, it can be helpful to know that these traits impact coping styles. Some individuals may feel recharged after being around others, but some may need to be alone to regain energy and cope. This alone time can help people slow down and connect with their feelings while also restoring spent energy. This coping style may be difficult given the current nature of working and living from home, especially if living with a partner or partners. You may find it difficult to create a space in which to be alone and away from others.


Communication. Regardless of the style of your recharging strategy, the most important skill is communication. It may seem like a simple task but being able to communicate with your partner(s) may greatly improve everyone's ability to cope and recharge in the most helpful way. Have a conversation about what you find helpful and what you need to recharge yourself, and ask your partner(s) the same. It may also be important to ask how you will know if your partner would like alone time or would like to spend time together. Having conversations about coping styles and creating a plan for how to implement this coping will help avoid confusion or misunderstandings later.


Physical space. Finding the physical space to have alone time may also be a challenge when living with others. While spending time outside and going for a walk is helpful, you may need to get creative about how to construct a personal space inside. This may include communicating with your partner that you would like to be in a different room by yourself. It may also include creating separate spaces within the same room that are designated for alone time. Again, regardless of how you create the space, the most important tool will be communicating with your partner(s) about what you need.


Your relationship may be experiencing new and unprecedented joys and achievements as well as complexities and stressors. It is important to remember that these new experiences for your relationship will also require new understandings and communication of coping styles and boundaries. You may need more alone time than you ever have before, and finding ways to communicate that to your partner(s) may help strengthen your relationship in new and exciting ways.