Ask a Therapist: How Do I Tell My Husband I Need More Space Without Hurting Him?

Solitude Is Healthy But Your Husband May Not Recognize the Beauty of It

It's OK to tell your spouse you want space.

Verywell / Catherine Song

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A Reader Asks

Since the start of the pandemic, my husband and I are together almost every minute of the day. If I go to our room by myself to get a little alone time, he follows me because he thinks there’s something wrong. How do I tell my husband that I need more space without hurting his feelings?

Amy's Answer

It’s understandable that you want some time for yourself. Being together all the time during the pandemic can cause you to feel a bit stifled (to say the least). And while your husband may not feel like he needs more alone time, it’s important for you to communicate your needs to him.

Alone Time Is Essential

Everyone needs a certain amount of alone time to function at their best (even extroverts). A little solitude is necessary to review your life, get comfortable with yourself, and plan for the future.

It sounds like you require more solitude than your husband. And the pandemic has likely caused your need to be more evident as you have to work harder to get time by yourself.

So it’s important to ask for what you need. Getting the solitude you need can charge your batteries and help you feel your best.

Create a Plan

Telling your husband that you “need more space” isn’t likely to be effective. You may have very different ideas about how much alone time is reasonable and you also likely won’t agree on how and when to get it.

The more specific you can get, the better. Communicating exactly what you need—and your plan for making that happen—can prevent a lot of hurt feelings later on.

Before you talk to your husband, think about how much alone time you want and how you can best get it.

For example, do you want to go to your room for 15 uninterrupted minutes a few times a day? Or would you prefer to have a couple of hours every night when you can go for a walk and do some things around the house without your husband following you?

Communicate Your Needs

The way you express your needs will make a big difference. Saying, “You always follow me around!” will be received differently than, “I need some solitude to feel my best.”

Make it clear that you want to be the best person and the best partner you can be. Alone time is a key ingredient in making that happen.

Reassure your husband that your need for space has nothing to do with him or your relationship. It’s just that your personality requires more solitude than his.

If you tend to go to your room to get some space when you’re upset, be honest about it. Explain that things feel worse when he follows you.

You might develop a plan together by saying that you’re going to go cool off for a few minutes with the promise that you’ll emerge when you feel calm enough to talk.

Reassurance Helps

Reassuring your husband that you want to address issues when you disagree—but just can’t do it when you feel too heated—may help him manage his distress better when you seek a little alone time.

Take Responsibility For Your Feelings, Not His

It’s important to communicate your needs in an honest, respectful manner. Ultimately, you aren’t responsible for your husband’s feelings though.

There’s a chance that despite your best attempt to communicate your message kindly, he may not take it well. This doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.

He may feel abandoned when you want to be alone. His anxiety might start to go up as he starts imagining he’s done something wrong. Or he may get upset with himself for thinking he should be fulfilling your every need.

If he’s upset, empathize with him and show compassion but stick to your boundaries. Over time, he’ll likely come to realize that your need for space has to do with you, not him.

Setting boundaries with someone and sticking to them is one of the kindest and most loving things you can do. You’re establishing a rule that will help you feel and do your best. Your husband doesn’t have to like or even understand it. But it’s something you’re doing because you know it’s key to having a healthier relationship.

By Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.