Sometimes it is tough to ask for something you need, whether support, help, or time alone. If you have anxiety, are unsure of your needs, or don’t have the vocabulary, it is even more challenging. This can lead to difficulties in relationships, breakdowns in communication, or even the end of a relationship. How can we address these difficulties and bridge the gap in our relationships? I have one suggestion, ‘Me Bubbles’.
I am an introvert and need time to myself. It sounds super simple; however, I am also a people pleaser. I am constantly anxious about hurting someone’s feelings – a combination that can make it hard to ask for the time that I need.
Part of the anxiety for me is because I didn’t understand why I needed time on my own. I have always been lucky enough to have either family or a group of wonderful friends around me so, why do I want time away from them?
In her book, The Introvert Advantage, Marti Olsen Laney explores the difference between an introvert and an extrovert, and it’s all about where we gain our energy:
“People on the more introverted end of the continuum focus inward to gain energy. People on the more extroverted end of the continuum focus outward to gain energy.”Marti Olsen Laney
After finding out she was on the introverted side of this scale, she goes on to say, “The concept of different energy requirements clicked with me. I began to understand my need to be alone to recharge my batteries. I didn’t feel quite as guilty for wanting breaks from my children. It finally dawned on me that nothing was wrong with me; I was just introverted.”
I had a similar realisation just after University. It is ok to need time alone. However, my anxiety about asking for time alone didn’t just melt away. I still wondered — how do I ask for that without hurting someone’s feelings?
Looking at it from the other side also brings difficulties. When researching this article, I found that this request for alone time can hurt. It seems that this was often due to having no context about why their partner needed alone time — leaving room for anxiety to build and self-blame to occur.
So, what do we do? Enter the ‘Me Bubble’; a phrase that my partner and I have made up together to address this issue. This phrase came into being after a particularly anxious time for me. My partner and I had moved in together, and sharing my space with him was wonderful. However, I realised that I needed time on my own too. Anxiety was creeping in. What would he say? Would he be worried if I asked for some time on my own?
A hectic, overwhelming week at my job bought this issue to the foreground. My partner noticed I was different, and no wonder! I was tense and tired. I needed some time away from the sensory overload of that week. We had a conversation where I finally let him know that I was having trouble communicating this need. It turns out that sometimes, he also wanted time on his own. I was so relieved.
Me Bubble was a phrase that came up in the conversation to describe what I wanted. Time on my own, not to be disturbed, a bubble. Our technique was born. Ever since, if I feel overwhelmed or need that time on my own, I can say “me bubble” to my partner, and we have a shared understanding of what that means.
Me Bubble: A phrase that is used when one wants some time to ones-self. This phrase encompasses all of the following:
1) I would like some time alone to recharge
2) I would like to do this to ensure that I have the energy to be fully present for myself, my work and our relationship
3) If there is an emergency, you can come and get me.
4) I am not angry or annoyed with you in any way. This is about my self care.
It is a short-hand for that conversation we had. A phrase that says what I wanted to say without being worried about being misunderstood. It is so much easier and quicker to say two words instead of a whole explanation that gives space for my anxiety to get in the way.
Finding this shared understanding has had a positive impact on how we communicate day-to-day. I have spoken to a few friends about this, and one of them now uses a different short phrase with her family when she would like some time on her own. You could apply it with friends and co-workers too, as long as that shared understanding is there. It’s a technique that puts communication at the heart of interactions. It sets clear expectations for everyone. This clarity is why it works for my partner and me.
There are many things at play here and, I am only scratching the surface. There are uncountable things that contribute to an issue like this. Some of these things are expectations that society places upon us. Some personal experiences you have had could make it hard for you to advocate for your needs. As such, the approach you take will be as individual as your needs. After understanding what I need and then deciding on an easy way to communicate that need with people I know, I feel so much better. The key is finding something that works for you too.
Words by Becky Demmen