My long-term partner and I live in separate homes, which is what I need to thrive as a solitude-loving introvert.
Three years into my relationship with my partner, he started talking about us moving in together. I had been living alone for five years and, as an introvert, I enjoyed having what I considered the best of both worlds. I saw my partner a few times a week, and the rest of the time, I enjoyed my inner world, the company of my pets, and the occasional social activity with family or friends.
Also, my partner has two kids who were ages 14 and 12 at the time. They lived with him half of the week. This added another dimension: I couldn’t wrap my mind around sharing a living space with another person, let alone two extra people part-time.
All of these factors weighed heavily on my mind, but moving in together seemed like the logical next step for us as a couple. Deep down, however, I knew it wasn’t a good idea, but it seemed like what we were “supposed” to do.
It wasn’t until a year after moving in that I realized it wasn’t working for me as an introvert.
What Have I Done?
Even though I knew the situation wasn’t right, I stayed in that home for another four years because I was full of self-doubt. Was I being selfish for wanting my own space? Why couldn’t I just be normal and eat at the dinner table where his kids talked non-stop throughout the meal? Why did I retreat to my room most nights instead of playing games with them? And the financial implications were a consideration. I was saving money.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad. I enjoyed watching movies with the family and cooking together. But I need a lot of alone time, and I felt a lack of balance between spending time together and spending alone time. Everywhere I went in the house, someone was there.
The last straw came when my partner’s son repeatedly came over on nights when he was supposed to be at his mom’s house. He would bring friends over who played video games loudly and made a mess in the kitchen. I knew, then, that this situation wasn’t fair to me or to the other people living in the house.
Why Living Apart Together Works for Us
Google “living apart together” and you’ll find many articles debating the pros and cons of such a relationship. Critics say couples in this arrangement aren’t serious, while some psychologists say it’s a way to help keep the love alive in a relationship.
Whatever anyone else says, I know this arrangement works for me. And it isn’t one-sided. My partner recognized things weren’t working, especially as I became more withdrawn. So, thankfully, he was supportive when I brought up the possibility of me moving into my own place. Now that I live in a separate home, he gets more time to himself and more quality time with his kids. We’ve had many discussions about this, as adults in a healthy, serious relationship should do.
Here’s why living apart together (LAT) works for me as an introvert:
1. I gotta be me (and take the alone time I need).
Living alone means I get my much-needed alone time without having to share my space with other people. Because my partner’s kids often came over unannounced, I never felt at ease in the house — I always expected someone to come walking in the door. I think this kind of thing is especially hard for introverts because unplanned visitors make us feel forced to perform in a social situation when our mindset was in “me time” mode. At my own place, I know who is coming and going: me. It means I can wear my comfiest clothes and talk back to the TV, without judgement.
2. My home is my private retreat from the world.
I now have a space where I can decompress from the world. As an introvert and a highly sensitive person (HSP), I need a calm, inviting space that restores me after my daily interactions. Clutter, messes, and stimulating environments make me feel unsettled and stressed. Now, when I walk in the door, there are no surprises. Nobody has left a mess I need to either clean up or talk to them about.
3. I have less guilt.
Being introverted means I recharge my own battery. Sometimes this means listening to music alone, writing, or reading. Sometimes it means having day-long Netflix sessions with my dog. When I lived with other people, I felt like I should been doing something productive on my days off. I don’t make a habit of all-day Netflix sessions, but I realize I occasionally need those days to hibernate and recharge.
4. My relationship with my partner is stronger.
When I have time to myself, I show up better for others, especially my significant other. I feel less stressed because I don’t feel the need to be “on” for the people I live with, and most important, my urge for solitude is satisfied. That solitude makes me feel whole and enhances my sense of self. All of this enhances my relationship with my partner. I’m happier, so I pass that happiness on to him.
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What Living Apart Together Taught Me
Life is a continuous learning experience. LAT changed my day-to-day lifestyle, but on a larger scale, the situation taught me some important lessons:
- I need to listen to myself. If I’m not feeling comfortable with something, I need to figure out why.
- I need to tune out the “shoulds.” One person’s should is another person’s shouldn’t. Just because some couples move in as a next step doesn’t make it an automatic next step for me.
- Finally — and the biggest lesson for me is — there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me for wanting my space. Thinking I needed to change myself kept me in a draining situation for too long. I’m a caring and kind person who happens to need lots of alone time to recharge and practice self-care. Now that I know that’s what I need to be my best self, it’s a good thing!
If you have a high need for solitude, like me, or your current living situation is overstimulating or stressful, consider LAT. Once I made that decision for myself, I needed to find the courage to communicate my needs to my partner. I was nervous that he would react negatively, but it turned out he was supportive. And if he had a negative reaction, that would have led to an important conversation, too. If you decide LAT would be a good choice for you, talk to your partner about why you’re considering it and how it might improve your relationship.
LAT isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for me. I have the best of both worlds: a loving relationship with my partner, and space and time to myself. When I’m true to myself, I’m a better person and I’m happy. And that affects all of my relationships in a positive way.
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