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Finding Time on Your Own
Thought for the fortnight
I note from time to time that I am happily married (see, for instance, A Sixtieth Wedding Anniversary). My husband and I very much enjoy each other’s company. We talk a lot and laugh a lot. And each is the go-to person when either of us want to discuss some problem – large or small.
In this, I never forget that we are extraordinarily lucky. Especially as we married much too young many, many moons ago.
BUT even so, even so, we do sometimes want to have time on our own. Preferably in our own home. Time when the house is completely empty except for one person – me (or, in his case – him).
Time on your own
This is not a new wish – indeed, I have recognised it for years. And when I admitted the fact to said husband, he admitted he felt the same. There is nothing shameful about wanting a period of time away from a spouse, but it is an issue that could be sensitive and is not often discussed.
I suspect we are not unique. Many married couples, however much they like to be together, do want time alone, apart. And for those who are less happily married, the need must be even more pressing.
Not to mention those living with additional people in their house, such as adult children or elderly parents.
Yet the older we get, the more difficult it is to achieve such alone time. There is no longer the regularity of trips to work or other events. Moreover, growing health problems of one or both may preclude regular activities or meetings with friends outside the home.
A sense of freedom
There is something very special about time on your own, compared to time with other people in the house. It can be frightening for those who are not used to it. But it can be very liberating for people who rarely get it.
Whatever our response, it feels very different, especially if it lasts more than a few hours.
When we live with someone, they tend to have certain wishes about the regularity of mealtimes and, indeed, sleeping time. They may want the radio or television on all day. Or not.
They may like to potter around the house or garden, making their presence felt. Or they may ask our help from time to time. Indeed, they may want to talk to us about what they are reading or just their thoughts in general.
None of these habits require obedience, but normal good relations within a household tend to mean that tacit agreements are developed on such day-to-day issues.
But when we are on our own, we are suddenly free. Every decision is taken at our own pace – when to get up, when to eat, when to go out, whether to watch TV, when to go to bed. Not only that, the lack of anyone else to make these decisions forces us to do so.
For example, we don’t have to eat healthily (if the other person tends to). We can do whatever we want. We can make a nice meal for ourselves or we can pig out on ice cream in front of the television.
We can get up exactly when we want and go to bed when we want. Perhaps stay up late at night. Many couples come to a compromise on these issues, which may not be exactly right for either.
Moreover, we aren’t distracted by requests for help or even enthusiasms that whoever is around wants to share. No one tells us anything.
(By chance, as I write – unusually, with my husband nearby – he is trying to tell me about an interesting newspaper article he wants to share with me.)
Alone, we have to find our own thoughts. We have to think what we want to do. It is a time when we are somehow free and therefore grow.
I wrote about a similar issue in Travel Time.
How to find time on your own
How to gain some time to oneself depends on the habits of the person you live with. If he or she goes to work or has some other regular daily plans, you may have the house to yourself all day.
But once we are retired, that tends to be a rare situation. Perhaps the person (or people) you live with has interests that take them away for part of each day or even some days.
I would say ‘grab it’. Don’t make plans for this time, but enjoy the time on your own at home.
Longer periods are even better. They give you time to settle into the time on your own. When my husband used to travel abroad for work, I found that the first hour would feel very empty. Then I would realise how nice it was, relax and enjoy the ‘me’ time.
Some couples take separate holidays – and this is one solution. Certainly, the occasional weekend away on your own (or their own) – to visit relatives or simply to pursue a particular passion – provides a reasonable period for couples to enjoy time on their own.
Indeed, some couples take this even further and live under an arrangement often called ‘together apart’. This means keeping two separate establishments but meeting up whenever they wish. I know a few older couples who choose this solution.
It would not suit me, but I can understand why they do it.
Everyone must find their own way.
A version of this article was initially published by SixtyandMe.com