“I Love You and I Need Space”

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed and want to hide from your loved ones? Are you finding yourself even starting arguments, having an accident, or becoming ill so that you can have some time alone? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a constructive way to have that need met?

As a Marriage, Family Therapist for 26 years, I have heard the cry for alone time from many clients. Especially in these busy times, it is very important to have a way to satisfy that need, and not at the expense of others or your body.

For example, Dean and Kathy, who were in my office for marriage counseling, were complaining to me about their frequent yelling bouts. When I asked them the time of the day that most of their arguments occurred, they replied, “We have a fight practically every evening when Dean comes home from work.”

In their common scenario, Dean would arrive home around 6:30 pm., after what he described as a stressful day at the office and on the road in rush hour traffic. Kathy would greet him at the door, stressed from a full day of looking after their two active young children, and their dog and cat.

Fiasco is a good way to describe what happens when two stressful people meet with different pressing needs. Dean, exhausted and drained, desires time alone to decompress from the pressures of his day. Kathy was also burned out by that time of the day from the many demands from her family, and she wants Dean to help her with the children. She also desperately wants to speak to an adult, but is frustrated because Dean is not listening.

To help them resolve their problem, I suggested to Kathy that she take at least twenty minutes for herself before Dean comes home. Then she would be better able to be relaxed and undemanding at that crucial time.

Then I told Dean that it would be a good idea for him to briefly greet his family and then to spend at least twenty minutes alone to regain his composure. Dean loved the idea and decided to hide in the bedroom, to change his clothes and to stretch out on his bed while listening to soothing music.

Both Kathy and Dean were able to hear how each other felt during the twilight hours. With understanding and compassion, they were ready to solve their problem. By the end of the counseling session Kathy and Dean felt acknowledged and satisfied with the plan.

When the couple returned the following week they were very excited with the results. Kathy and Dean realized that they both mistakenly believed that the other person did not care about them. Now they accepted the truth that they deeply cared about each other and just needed some space.

The loving couple were experiencing smooth transitions during what was previously a “witching hour.” Dean was able to switch gears and be the loving father and husband he wanted to be. Kathy succeeded in shifting into becoming the patient, loving wife she truly was.

Dean and Kathy also followed my suggestion of putting a sign on the closed bedroom doorknob that said, “I Love You and I Need Space.” They agreed to display that clearly communicating sign whenever they felt the need to be alone in order to relax and re-group. The children also had their signs ready when they needed them.

At the next session, the couple reported fewer arguments, accidents, and illness. The family, including the dog and the cat, were much more harmonious.

No matter what age you are, it is a wonderful gift to yourself and others to explain what you need so that you can be supported. To make sure that they get the clear message, post your sign, “I Love You and I Need Space.”