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Negotiating Boundaries and Asking for Personal Space While Sheltering-in-Place

Most of us can’t remember the last time we spent this much time at home, with very little interaction with the outside world. For a lot of families and households, this also means spending a lot of time around each other, given that colleges and schools are out, workplaces are shut down or operations are remote, and social lives are pretty stagnant.

When you’re sheltering in place at home, and share your space with friends, family, roommates, or even your partner, it’s easy to get flustered and frustrated. The lack of privacy and space can feel stifling, especially if you’re not used to being around each other for prolonged periods.

Here’s how you can negotiate your boundaries and ask for personal space without being rude or hurting those around you:

You need to be clear about your needs

Communicate—every day.

Take this time to work on the communication skills you never improved, having difficult conversations despite your reservations. If you’re sharing the space with other adults and children, you need to talk things out. Setting clear, open, honest boundaries, sharing expectations of each other, finding a middle ground are all important.

people looking at laptop computer

Set a routine for yourselves

This includes having a fixed work schedule and fitting in other activities, including your daily chores, errands, and anything else that you need to get done. Encourage others to do the same. When you have a schedule to run on, you’re less likely to bother or invade one another’s’ space. You can reconvene at the end of the day, outside the set schedule.

Designate shared and private spaces

When you’re comfortable with each other, you also feel at ease in each others’ spaces. It’s a great feeling to share that love, but you should also have boundaries there.

Let’s say, home offices or bedrooms are private spaces. While you’re in there, other people can’t barge in and hang out. But living rooms are shared spaces, and so is the kitchen or patio. This helps negotiate the nature of interactions, so anyone whos present in these spaces isn’t obliged to interact but is willingly doing so.

Split tasks and chores around the house

This is important. Needing personal space doesn’t mean you’re absolved of any contribution.

Being mindful of how you take up space, especially shared spaces, is crucial. Split chores around the house, help out and designate tasks to ease the load that would be on a single household member.

Take turns cooking, cleaning, babysitting, doing the laundry, and maintaining the sanctity of shared spaces.

happy middle aged housewife

Set aside time for shared and individual activities

Whether you want to paint or cook or meditate or workout, it’s important that you make self-care a priority and take time out for your preferred activities. This could also include important commitments such as therapy for the feelings of anxiety or depression that may have heightened during this time, or a class or lesson you wish to take.

However, alongside this, be sure to make time for family activities such as game nights, movies, and whatnot. After all, it’s a relationship of giving and taking, and you can’t block everyone out.

woman and girl using tablet

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and are unable to navigate your boundaries with loved ones, whether it’s a romantic partner, parent, sibling, or even your kids, you can always schedule an appointment with me. I specialize in family and relationship counseling, working with individuals, and couples in Silicon Valley.

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