Solo dates will give you the alone time you need — and when you’re reunited with your partner, you’ll both benefit.
“Mom, I want MORE!” my three-year-old screamed from the living room table while her one-year-old brother went digging through the recycling bin again.
“Ugh! Get out of there!” I gently nudged him back out of the kitchen as I smelled something burning. THE TOAST! I tossed the burnt crisps of bread into the trash as my husband came running around the corner searching for his keys, mumbling something about being late for work.
“Mom! MORE!” (The toddler hasn’t forgotten that she needs more cereal — stat.) The toast, the cereal, the keys… and did I mention the smell of my hair that hasn’t been washed in seven to 10 days (do I even remember how long it’s been?). I was on the verge of screaming, “EVERYONE, FEND FOR YOURSELVES!”
And that is when I knew: This just wasn’t working.
Have you ever found yourself simultaneously pushing people away and then also begging them to help meet your needs? This is the great tug-of-war feeling that many introverts have in relationships.
When I can’t figure out how to get enough alone time, I become resentful and frustrated. It makes me push people away. Yet I also want them to understand how deeply I need my alone time. It’s nothing personal.
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Introducing the Solo Date
I recently read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, in which she encourages readers to have a weekly Artist Date with themselves. It’s a two-hour scheduled appointment you make with yourself to do whatever brings you joy. (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it.)
When I read about Artist Dates, my immediate thought was, “Wow, that sounds amazing! Two hours to do whatever I want, by myself, every week.” Which was immediately followed by the thought, “That’s just so impractical though. I don’t know how I could ever do that. I have a family and responsibilities, and right now, going to the grocery store alone is the only time I have that even remotely resembles alone time (minus the enjoyment part).”
But Artist Dates are part of her 12-week program, so I decided to try it, ever so timidly. My dates weren’t extravagant — usually just to a coffee shop and a walk along the river. And I admit, they came with a rather large dose of guilt. The first few times actually weren’t even relaxing because I kept thinking about all the things I needed to get done and what some people might think about me taking so much time for myself.
But, eventually, the guilt and uneasiness wore off, and it started to feel amazing. It was usually quiet and peaceful and allowed me to relax in a way I hadn’t done all week. (I guess maybe that was the point.) These dates left me smiling, breathing deeper, and looking forward to returning home to my extroverted husband and two little kids.
Even if you’re not married and don’t have kids, I recommend Artist Dates for yourself. In this fast-paced world, we introverts could all use some more me time, right?
5 Reasons Introverts Should Date Themselves
1. It will make you more patient and kind.
The Artist’s Way isn’t explicitly for introverts, but Artist Dates are something all introverts could benefit from adding to their weekly routines (in my humble opinion). When I consistently went on my solo dates, I noticed that I was more patient and kind with my spouse, and more understanding of our differences (which can be vast when it comes to extroverts and introverts).
Alone time is what enables us to give back in our relationships. We introverts need time alone to recharge so we’re best able to show up for our friends, family, partners, and kids. Recharging and filling our own well, as they say, will even benefit the relationship you have with yourself.
2. It will help you create boundaries, which are a great relationship-builder.
Scheduling weekly dates with myself was a great exercise in creating boundaries with my husband. I found that it helped to explain why I needed this time and what I was trying to accomplish. My husband understood that the solo dates were an important self-care practice for me and not just a random activity.
The best way to enfuse health into any relationship is to set boundaries. It’s particularly helpful for us introverts who decided to marry extroverts. We have different needs — and it’s important that we communicate what that looks like for each of us. For me, it’s my weekly dates and uninterrupted time to myself. For him, it’s time spent with friends or participating in an activity he enjoys (especially one that allows him to be around people).
Boundaries are the tie that binds in a good relationship. Solo dates help establish the boundaries that prioritize your time and needs. By communicating your boundaries to others clearly, there’s no question or confusion. Just like putting a doctor’s appointment on the calendar, scheduling your solo date lets everyone know what the priority is on that day and time.
3. It will help others understand you and your needs.
Dates with yourself not only help us introverts get what we need, but it also helps extroverts understand how we operate. This one’s for the wildly brave introvert who decided to marry an extrovert. An extroverted spouse might struggle to understand what you need, so it’s vital to let them know — whether you need alone time each night in your introvert sanctuary or to enjoy a morning cup of coffee alone on the front porch instead of in the dining room (while he watches TV and the kids run around screaming for more cereal).
If you find yourself resentful toward your significant other and constantly fighting to get your needs met in the relationship, try going on a solo date just once a week and see how different you feel.
4. It will cultivate a sense of self-worth.
There’s something profound in making a commitment to yourself. Taking myself on regular dates gave me a sense of self-worth, as well as the time I needed to recharge so I wasn’t pushing everyone away, desperately grappling for a shred of alone time. This became even more vital to my well-being once I became a mother. Having two kids in two years (not to mention a pandemic and then moving our new family of four across the country), meant there was no lack of stress, stimuli, and sleep deprivation. I started to lose my sense of self and found it challenging to even remember how to meet my own needs. I learned very quickly that there is incredible value in making a commitment to myself.
There is also value in bringing a sense of self-worth to the table in a relationship. No one wants to be another person’s sole source of esteem, and putting that kind of pressure on your partner can be damaging to the relationship. Cultivating that sense of worth within yourself requires that you make yourself a priority. This is also a great opportunity to engage in activities you enjoy (yet your significant other may not be into), like yoga, painting, or deep sea diving (hey, you never know — this is your chance to explore your own interests!).
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5. It will draw people to you instead of pushing them away.
A lack of alone time tends to make introverts fight off everyone around them — not the best relationship builder. When I don’t get time alone, I don’t particularly want anything to do with other people, including my husband. It feels like I can’t get enough space to move or air to breathe, and I’m probably not at my most kind in these moments.
However, when I get enough time alone and am able to refill that internal energy reserve, I’m a whole different person. I can socialize like a normal, nice human being, and even enjoy it! Most introverts do actually like to interact with others — we just need to be alone first (and maybe for a while afterward, too). Getting a proper amount of alone time will do wonders for your relationships.
Make sure your solo dates are actually… solo. Resist the urge to call a friend to meet you at the coffee shop or get lunch with your sister. There’s a time and place for those things, but this isn’t it. Take a long walk by yourself, get a fancy coffee and drive around listening to your favorite Taylor Swift album, or wander around your local art museum pretending to be a tourist.
How to Find Time for Solo Dates
It can feel incredibly impractical to have a solo date every week, but — like most things — what we prioritize is what will happen. It might mean other things take a back seat, like that laundry you need to fold or the errands you plan to run. Or it might mean asking for help — asking your partner to run those errands or teaching the kids to fold clothes. Whatever it is, deciding that your alone time to date yourself is important is the first step.
Secondly, talk to your partner about it. Communicate, communicate, communitate. The only way someone knows what you need is if you tell them. And scheduling weekly dates with yourself will most likely mean getting their support in one way or another. Getting them on board is key.
Stay open-minded — they might even have some ideas of how to make it happen within the structure and schedule of your life. For example, when talking with my husband about what we’re going to do during an upcoming weekend, he’ll offer to take the kids out for a few hours so I can be alone at home. Or he’ll ask if I want to hang out at the coffee shop Sunday morning while he has breakfast with the kids at home.
One great idea comes from Laura Heck, LMFT, host of Marriage Therapy Radio, who suggests the 3 X 3 X 3 Rule: Each week, you should spend three hours nourishing yourself, three hours respecting your partner’s alone time, and three hours together. That way, each of you have time to fill your own cup as you prefer (spending time alone, going out with friends, etc.) and the boundaries are clear. It also encourages specific time spent together, which is always important for growing together in a relationship. It’s a win-win-win!
Act Like Your Marriage Depends on It
At the end of the day, we all know that introverts need alone time to recharge and be their best, healthiest selves. The most successful relationships are those in which each person is able to thrive. For introverts, that means spending time away from their partner, as if their marriage depends on it.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you struggle to make the time or even to come up with ideas that sound exciting. Start small — maybe a half-hour each Wednesday to walk around the neighborhood or take a trip to the local bakery each Saturday morning.
At the beginning of my 12-week journey, following The Artist’s Way, I had a hard time sticking to my solo dates (and still do sometimes). But I have found that just the intention to do it, and talking to those around me about my need for it, has opened up time and space to make it happen. Eventually, it will become another routine weekly activity.
So go ahead introverts, put yourself first.
You might like:
- Why Do Introverts Love Being Alone? Here’s the Science
- How to Stay Married to an Extrovert When You’re an Introvert
- How to Survive Parenthood When You’re an Introvert Who Needs Alone Time
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