Letting someone in on your routines
Since late 2019, I have been on a dedicated journey to learn how best to care for myself. Prior to that, I was a rogue college kid who operated more often on impulse than not. I didn’t understand what I needed in the most basic human sense— let alone myself as an individual.
As I incorporate more routines into my life, more and more of my daily habits encroach on time I set aside for socializing with people. Before, I used to completely separate doing what I need to do for myself from “hanging out” with others. This separation is reasonably appropriate for casual friends and acquaintances, but it becomes a bit more unhealthy when it happens with more close friends, romantic partners, or family.
A drastic separation of your own life from the time you spend with someone who is close to you mandates a division of who you are. The people who are the closest to you should have the opportunity to be with you as you do the things that sum to make up your life. I used the word “unhealthy” before because I think that this drastic separation requires either compromise of your self, or of the openness of the relationship.
If you are like me, you consistently sacrifice your own needs when you spend time with others. For example, tonight, I wanted to be in bed by 9pm to read and hit the hay. Instead, I’m still awake at 11pm as I write this blog post, which I aimed to do after supper. Why is my schedule so thrown off? I spent the day with a close friend of mine. He was in town this weekend for his “Comeback Commencement”; he graduated college in 2020.
One of my top frustrations with myself is my inability to set strong boundaries with other people. I told my friend that I had a lot to do today and that he should probably head home mid-afternoon. Instead, I said “yes” to throwing together an impromptu cookout with my roommate. We asked the neighbors to join and all gathered around the first campfire of the year. The food was tasty, and overall, it was a really enjoyable night.
Do I regret joining in on the cookout? Not necessarily. Do I regret that it’s so late and I am once again not going to be getting to sleep until after midnight? YES. Of course, it’s not my friend’s fault, or my roommate’s, or anyone else’s. I take responsibility for my inability to communicate my needs to other people. Even if I do that, I tend to soften the boundaries I set because I feel harsh and uncaring for not flexing to what others need.
I’m not advocating for a lack of compromise. However, compromise should be mindful, and it should involve discussion with the other party involved. The back and forth thoughts I have as I try to decide how to tell someone I need something from them is NOT compromise. The other person never has a chance to meet me because they don’t even know where I am.
All of this is to say that I have a really hard time doing a lot of things I have on my daily must-do list when I am around other people. Somehow, I can’t read in front of my friend because it seems rude to me, although there was downtime when he was scrolling social media. The thought of journaling around others is terrifying. Even taking a time-out to get a breath can seem a bit selfish in my head.
This weekend, though, because I am on my streaks — swimming and writing — I made it clear that I needed to jump in the river and write a post before bed. I communicated beforehand, so I didn’t need to face as much of the awkwardness in person. I was really proud of myself for doing this. Normally, I would just push my “own things” to the back burner to prioritize the person I’m with. Clearly, these behaviors require a lot of personal sacrifice, by my own doing, of course. But still, not healthy!
Now, for the sacrifice of openness in a relationship due to drastic separation of your “life” from your “social time”. If you are truly trying to get to know someone and build a strong, honest, lasting relationship with them, then you need to know and understand their life. And vice versa. If you consistently keep the people you care about isolated from anything that comes close to who you are when they aren’t around, then the relationship is devastatingly dishonest.
Whether you intentionally lie or not, you are hiding huge parts of yourself by not letting others engage in your favorite things with you. I have learned this the hard way countless times. I clear my schedule to ensure that there is absolutely nothing of my own life that could interfere with my vacuum-tight social hour. That would be devastating. They might actually get to know me!
I’m getting much better at managing my time with other people. I include them in more parts of my life than I ever used to. It is much healthier for myself personally, as I am able to do the things I do to take care of myself in a more reasonable time frame. Before, I tried to cram it all in the part of the day when I would be completely alone. It also helps me reinforce how important my personal habits are. I do them everyday, no matter who or what.
It is also much healthier for my relationships. I am closer to the people who are most important in my life. All of my friendships are more open and trusting. My friends understand me better, and I think that we have a lot more fun together now too. I also have reached a new level of emotionality and vulnerability. I am more willing to expose my true self, and I’m less insecure and guarded.
Merge your life and relationships. Take baby steps, but do it!