The importance of making time for yourself in a relationship

Just because the two of you live together doesn’t mean it’s impossible to prioritise alone time. PHOTO|FILE

Summary

  • Everyone needs me time, even those in healthy, loving, and committed relationships. No matter how much you love your partner, you need some time to yourself, and so do they. The ability to spend time apart, both alone and with friends, is one sign of a healthy relationship.

Everyone wants to be loved, whether it’s by a spouse, partner, child or parent. When it comes to romantic relationships, we love the attention, care, and company our partners offer. Nevertheless, we all need some privacy once in a while.

This is because as partners you may have different hobbies and interests, and this requires understanding and acceptance. When the relationship is new, everything looks perfect. There is frequent communication, and efforts to please one another. However, with time there emerges a danger of losing the sense of self, as one prioritises their partner. It is at this point that an individual needs some privacy, the ‘me time’, to regain the sense of self and address personal issues.

Me time is often confused with taking a break from a relationship. On the contrary, me time is all about re-evaluating your life, reconnecting to the self, and engaging in activities that uniquely add value to your life.

“The first time I got into a relationship with a certain lady, we created a routine of texting and calling each other on a daily basis. I later realised that part of the motivation for this wasn’t just love; it was fear of disappointing her for not saying those night and morning greetings. The more we dived in, the more I realised I had forgotten to entertain myself and enjoy my own company,” says *Emmanuel, a bachelor

No matter how awesome, how giving, how sweet, and caring you might be, you do have some limits, and respecting those limits isn’t selfish. We all need to recharge on a regular basis, according to relationship experts.

Ayubu Ramadhani, a Dar es Salaam resident equates me time with spicing the food to make it appetising.

He says “giving yourself some me time, nurtures the relationship. Some problems in relationships are caused by loss of the sense of self from the beginning.”

Dar-es-Salaam-based psychologist, Dr Isaac Lema, does not believe in the ‘alone time’ concept. For him, ‘me time’ is a foreign culture. He says solitude is okay but argues that the more we practice it, the more we become mean to our partners because it reduces the closeness between partners.

“Mostly, those who ask for me time spend it with their friends, something that could lead to misunderstandings.”


What to do during me time

It is important to strike a balance between the time spent with your partner and the me time for a healthy relationship. When having time for ourselves, we should give all the energy that we share to others. Give yourself a moment that will bring self-care.

According to Agnes Mlawa, me time makes her feel younger, stress-free and rejuvenated, as it is the time she gets the chance to enjoy being in the company of her friends. It also means taking a break from daily routines. She says spending time alone allows you to revisit your long lost feelings of freedom. Being in love is wonderful, but self-knowledge needs to be maintained as well.

Juma Masoud concurs. The young man who is in a serious relationship spends his me time doing what he enjoys doing, coding.

“I spend most of my time coding. When creating a certain product you need to focus. We all want someone to hold us close and make us feel loved, but there are times we need to be alone,” he shares. Masoud is of the opinion that relationships are for building and strengthening one another and that there should be no room for co-depending nor complaining.

“Me time is something that needs not be taken for granted because our mental health relies on the time we take to reflect, relax and decompress.”

Ijiya Mkindi, an architect is of a different opinion as he considers the me time trivial. He prefers frequent communication between partners, and openness in order to iron out the differences once they arise.


Should you inform your partner?

Having your me time should not be an excuse to avoid some responsibilities in your relationship. When the me time isn’t discussed, it raises suspicion. Alphie often quarrels with her baby daddy because of this. Sometimes she prefers to be alone without informing him. However, she thinks it’s important to make them aware.

Nevertheless, demanding me time could be misunderstood and raise suspicion that one is losing interest in their partner. This prompts many to remain silent on the matter.

“I usually let my husband know whenever I feel like losing myself; requesting for some privacy, in order to reconnect and enhance our connection,” Salma Abdul shares.

Edwin Kilima insists on talking and clarifying things for the sake of keeping the relationship and family strong. “I think it’s important to have discussions with your partner, talking and reflecting on what you need with regard to solitude,” he explains.


Importance of alone time

For a relationship to thrive, partners must be committed not only to each other, but also to themselves and their own personhood and development. Living together doesn’t take away the need for privacy.

Denis Elias, a father of two girls, says parenting can be so draining that one needs time to be alone or with friends or just take time away from the daily parenting duties. He says failure to do so could lead to one being rude to their children or family out of frustration.

However, when living with your partner, having alone time can be hard because of some challenges like doing routine things, as well as playing your part in the relationship.

At times your partner could be a stumbling block. Take *James for example. The father of one doesn’t support the me time idea because he thinks it’s a selfish act.

“When someone starts to demand privacy, it could be because they are fed up with you.”

Tamasha Ally on the contrary thinks having me time in a relationship is important because relationships are characterised by some challenges such as heartbreaks, infidelity and quarrels, to mention but a few. In such cases, someone needs time to breath.

“I think it’s healthy to have me time, especially when you feel like your relationship is getting out of control. It’s good to think about yourself for a moment,” she reasons.

Onno Jacobs concurs saying there are instances in life when a person needs to recharge. “Making time for yourself is important because each individual needs time to focus, and to develop love for themselves and for others.”

When you choose to give yourself priority, it implies that you understand and respect your own needs. When you don’t value yourself, others will not value you as well, and they may take advantage of you, Onno believes. A relationship is more of a work which needs effort, that’s why others call it a full time job without vacation. But sometimes to participate fully in a job, you need to make sure you give yourself some privacy. Below are some important things that having me time can bring into our lives.


Reconnecting

Forgetting who you are in the relationship is one of the indicators that you’re in unhealthy relationship. Nobody wants a relationship in which only one person dominates. Me time can help you create quality time alone and think about your own goals.

Alone time can bring partners closer and give room for discussion. While discussing things, it is important for both of you to share and talk about the things you love doing. Every relationship is different because each person has different ideas on how much time is needed to spend with someone. When spending a lot of time with someone, it can become harder to spend time without them, as their absence could make you feel both anxious and neglected. If that’s what you feel, then you do need time alone because you’ve become dependent on your partner and it’s not good for your wellbeing.


How to tell them about your ‘me time’

While others suggest that it is important to tell your partner about the time alone, it’s good to set the mood before bringing up the topic of having time alone.


The conversation

It’s better to start the conversation when your partner is in a good mood, otherwise they may feel that you’re tired of being around them. In your conversation, make it clear that having me time doesn’t mean you’re not going to spend time with them. Tell them that it means making time for yourselves as well.


Avoid the blame game

While discussing the matter, assure your partner that the idea is basing on good faith, and it is not triggered by anything negative whatsoever. Educate your partner on the importance of having time to be alone.


Time for the relationship

Always make sure you keep in touch with your partner and don’t let the me time spoil your good relationship. Make sure you check on each other, arranging dates and making special plans in a good way to ensure that you are looking after both yourselves and your relationship.


* Names have been changed