Needing Alone Time -- Even From My Spouse
Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for 30 years. For the vast majority of those years, his jobs have involved a significant amount of travel, anywhere from 25 to 60% of his work days, depending on the job he has held. Sometimes he would be away for weeks at a time. Additionally, his workday when he was not traveling usually brought him home no earlier than 6 p.m. I typically get home two hours earlier.
Since COVID-19, he has been working from home, and he intends to continue to do so until he retires, which he has decided will coincide exactly with my retirement. Although there are definite benefits for both of us to his working from home, it has overall made me miserable. I almost never have even five minutes home alone. He can interrupt whatever I am doing (reading, listening to a podcast, cooking, watching the news, etc.) with any thought that comes into his head at any time I am home.
He made his home office right in the center of the house, and there is no way to put in a door, so I can't do anything that makes even the slightest bit of noise if he is on a call, which happens often and unpredictably. I have talked with him about how stressed it makes me and how it is not that I don't want to be around him; it's that I am not accustomed to having no quiet time at home by myself. After we've had these discussions -- at least 10 times in the past few years -- he agreed to work in an office we have upstairs after I get home from work. He also agreed to go into the actual office sometimes, but within three days of making that agreement, he reverted to his old behavior.
At this point, I have given up finding any solution other than me just sucking it up. I am now noticing that I internally cringe when he walks in the room, and I feel relief when he uses his home gym, which he set up during the pandemic. I feel the same even when he takes a shower because I get a few minutes to myself.
In addition, I have noticed that he now does all errands while I am at work, so he doesn't leave the house much while I am home. All of his hobbies are at home (home improvement, gardening, etc.). I really don't know what to do. This is turning an otherwise happy marriage into misery for me. He is aware, because he sometimes "jokes," making comments like, "I know you're sick of me, but ... "
I don't know if anyone can help or suggest anything else. I have tried to be clear and patient and flexible, and I feel helpless. By the way, I do things by myself outside the house often. I just want some time in my home undisturbed. It doesn't seem that's ever going to happen again, which makes me feel defeated and cranky. -- Home is Where the Stress Is
Dear Home Is Where the Stress Is: Your husband's behavior sounds overbearing, to say the least. It seems that he has no appreciation for the boundaries you are trying to set. He's acting like a big teenager with Mommy, semi-amused that he is annoying you, when he prefaces his comments with "I know you're sick of me, but ... " Marriage counseling could help you communicate to him how serious you are about your need for some alone time, about how that is what has helped the two of you have a happy marriage for 30 years.
"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.