Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


"Alone Time" Keeps Relationships Healthy

Being okay with yourself is essential to being okay in the company of others.

Source: stockfour/Shutterstock

When we think about the phrase “intimate relationship,” we usually think about the presence of intimacy between two people. Intimacy is about transparency, authenticity, and vulnerability. It’s about taking down the mask you wear and the fortress you’ve built to protect your heart, your self-esteem, and your feelings. It’s about letting someone get the full 360-degree view of who you are, where you stand, and where you tremble. And it’s pretty normal to find it challenging to allow others to see us as we truly are — faults and all. It’s a relational risk, and so there are a lot of people who hold tight to their defenses, because of the power that letting them down give others to affect their own feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors.

However, there’s another type of intimacy that can be just as difficult for some — self-intimacy. This is about making time to reflect on who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. It’s about letting down your guard and giving yourself permission to stop telling yourself the lies you think you need to hear. It’s about acknowledging the fears that limit you, the self-beliefs that keep you from truly believing in yourself, and the imagined obstacles that keep you from attempting to reach the goals you value.

Self-reflection also helps you reconnect with the person you are (or were) when you show up in relationships. Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Am I someone that I’d want to be with?” If not, maybe you should. Recognizing the aspects of yourself that get in the way of your relationships with others — and yourself — is the first step to removing them. It’s the old truism, “The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one."

Making time for healthy solitude gives you space for honest self-assessment as well as self-acceptance — even for past choices you now wish you hadn’t made.

It's About Moving Forward, Not Getting Stuck in the Past

Self-reflection and healthy solitude are not about ruminating over the negative experiences in your life. They're about accepting what is true, and determining what you want to be no longer true and what you want to carry with you along your personal journey through life. As for the “baggage” that each of us carry — from relationship to relationship, place to place, or moment to moment — we are the only ones who have the power to accept it or to let it go. They say that happiness is a choice — and choosing to let your past mistakes and failures weigh you down in the present moment is also a choice that you are intentionally making.

Think about it . . . by taking time for some healthy solitude and giving yourself time to figure out what you are willing to carry and where you want your destination to be.

Is “Alone Time” Self-Indulgent? Not at All

How do you make time to do something that others might consider self-indulgent? One habit that encourages healthy solitude is a daily reflective walk — whether you log 10,000 steps or just a few hundred. When your body is in motion, you are spurring the creative process and fighting any tendencies towards depression.

Another opportunity is found at the beginning or end of your workday. Get to work a little early or stay a little late. Using this space for quiet self-reflection can help you identify the goals that are truly worth your pursuit. Whether you’re in your car, on a bench in the lobby, or at your desk, let yourself catch up with yourself and reflect on where you’re going and what’s the best “next step” to get you there.

Creating a space for journaling also provides a dedicated opportunity to turn over the rocks and stones of daily life to see what’s hidden underneath or building up within. Some of the most powerful moments in counseling sessions occur when a client says something “out loud” that they had only thought about or reflected on before. It’s amazing the power that words spoken aloud or journaled into reality can have on a person. Whether the words are simply about stating a truth or crystallizing a plan, once you name an idea, you have given yourself the power to move past the past or towards the future by being present in the company of an expressed idea.

Vision boards and dream boards and gratitude lists and all of the ways in which people are encouraged to map out their hopes are similar activities to journaling in that you are giving a space to feelings or thoughts that you have not yet crystallized into shape or form.

By giving yourself the opportunity to develop a stronger level of intimacy with yourself, you are also giving yourself a boost into the depths — or heights — you can take your relationships with others. If you can’t look yourself in the eye and see yourself for who you are, you may have a hard time accepting another’s faults or foibles. It’s okay to be human: It’s a condition we all share.

As technology and our daily tasks grow increasingly intertwined, making time for healthy solitude becomes increasingly important for making sense of our place in the world.

More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today