Post Lockdown Life, Love and other stuff | The return of personal space

Never has space been more relevant than since we went into lockdown. We’ve probably thought about it more than ever, either about keeping our distance or about not having enough of it.

The one thing I’ve heard from so many clients (and friends) is the frustration about the loss of their personal space or time alone to think.

It’s one thing to live with your partner, kids, or both in the normal world. But during normal times, you would all be more spaced out (you know what I mean). Everybody would be in the place that they needed to go to, and you would know that you had that time to get on with whatever you needed to.

But with us working, learning, and spending our downtime all under the same roof, all those little annoyances that we would normally let pass, start to stockpile and fester.

If you receive my weekly #TuesdayTonic newsletter, then you recently read about my client who emailed me about her partner driving her up the wall.  Things that were silly or even funny at first had become stress triggers for her, without having her usual alone time to decompress.

In the short term, her strategies were small and simple things like meditating in the bathroom instead of the bedroom – as behind that locked door was the only place she could get complete peace and quiet. But now that restrictions are relaxing and we can begin to do more things outside of the confinements of home, how easy is it to start to feel like we are really living our lives again?

I had a Zoom session with her recently and we discussed her frustrations, with her permission, here’s an edited snippet of how it went:

What was your life together like before the lockdown? Really happy.

How important is this relationship to you?  Very important, we were even looking at buying a place before but I don’t think that will happen now.

Do you think that it’s the relationship or the pandemic that is the problem? Not sure, all I know for sure is he’s just getting on my nerves all the time.

Before lockdown, how would you have resolved any problems like this? It’s never really felt this bad but I suppose we would have talked, maybe gone out for the day to clear the air, we would have been honest with each other and we would have sorted it out.

Have you spoken to him about how you are feeling? No, I don’t think that I can.

I encouraged her to talk to him and the upshot is that they did speak and they were amazed at how similar they felt.

They are used to leading quite different lives during their working week and usually have regular childcare as she sometimes travels for work too. They had never spent so much time together, without any break. They both felt totally stifled and believed that this was the sign of something really broken within the relationship.

Neither of them wanted to bring up the subject of how much they were getting on each other’s nerves, afraid of what it might mean.

Often we expect our partners to be mind readers about what we want or need and when we are disappointed that they aren’t getting what we mean (even though we aren’t telling them) we can become critical of their habits, often withdraw from conversation and it builds from there.

My client and her partner are now back to being happy again and are planning to have a few separate weekends away later this year, just to get a bit of healthy space. I’m really pleased that she felt able to broach this topic with her partner, and they can now take the space they each needed without feeling guilt about it. 

The bottom line is that it’s perfectly okay to need space from each other in a relationship – it doesn’t mean you don’t love each other. It just means that you are an individual with your own needs.

If you’d like to read more about how the people I help are coping with current issues, then I’m going to be sharing more advice like this once a month in my #TuesdayTonic newsletters. Register here, and I hope it helps you too. Soon I will be inviting my readers to submit their own questions – confidentially, of course. So if you have a burning question that you don’t want to ask a friend or family member, then watch this space.

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