Something that’s been on my mind lately is how to keep a relationship when you have an opposite schedule from your partner’s. I think relationships of any kind involve work, and can be difficult at times – so opposite or overlapping schedules may not be any more difficult than any other relationship, but might just require different strategies. As someone who has a schedule that tends to be opposite from my partner’s, we face our own set of challenges, but here’s my tips of what works for us.
1. Make sure to set aside time for each other. Like most people, my partner and I lead busy lives. This can sometimes mean that we try to fit a lot of things into our free time, so sometimes instead of spending time with just each other, we try to fit in social time with friends. However, it’s very important to have some time for just each other. In my relationship, it helps for us to have a bit of a routine (every week we watch Big Bang Theory together even if it’s DVR’d and watched on a random night, for example). For two of my friends, this involves setting dates in Google calendar. Find what works for your relationship and go with it.
2. That said, make sure to set aside time for you. One of my jobs is in a very emotional field and one of the most important things for me to keep in mind with that job is self-care. If I don’t take care of myself, I’m going to get burned out and also not be much help for those I’m trying to assist. Likewise, I believe that each person in a relationship needs to take time to nurture themselves and enjoy time to themselves (or time with friends without their partner). This can be as simple as taking a 15 minute bath by yourself, and shutting the rest of the world out during that time.
3. Remember why you’re together, and take time to appreciate each other. Sometimes life is all about the little things. This doesn’t necessarily mean gifts, although those are lovely, too. Little things, such as making dinner together, can help strengthen your relationship as well as give you time to chat. Small tokens of affection, like a note or an inexpensive gift (maybe a Pez dispenser or a favorite drink), can be a reminder to your beloved that they were on your mind.
4. Live together…. or not. For my relationship, living together is sometimes the difference between not seeing each other for a week or more at a time, and spending even a small amount of time together. Due to our individual schedules, if we didn’t live together, it’s likely we could go two or three days without seeing each other. I’m not suggesting this should be your only reason for living together, and I certainly have a few friends who swear that their relationship is better because they don’t live together. Living apart can have benefits too. When I was living alone, it was much easier to find time to myself.
5. Have your own friends. Related to taking time for yourself – you need a support network, more than just your partner.
6. Be understanding of your partner’s schedule. My partner works 7pm – 7am, and I sometimes forget that while I’m happily eating lunch or having a mid-afternoon tea, my partner is snoozing. Due to our work schedules, we can’t always be on the same schedule, even on our off days. Often we find that overlapping schedules work best for us. Be aware and empathetic if your partner is falling asleep just as you start waking up. It may not be because your story is boring, but because this is when they normally start getting ready for bed.
While I am naturally more of a night owl, if I stay up til the sun starts lighting up the sky, I’ll be falling asleep at work. Staying up a little late here and there I find to be worth it, but I also appreciate if it starts getting late and my partner (gently!) suggests that maybe I get ready for bed and we cuddle. Being understanding of your partner’s schedule is related to appreciating your partner.
7. End it if it’s no longer working. Ending a relationship isn’t easy. Hopefully, you’ll be aware if things are going poorly and can work on fixing it before it’s too late. If you notice that more things about your relationship or your partner are bothering you, communicate – talk it over. If you are stressed, talk about it with your partner, your friends, or even a counselor. Some people find that couples therapy is incredibly beneficial, and while others don’t like the idea of therapy, it’s worth consideration. I had a friend say that couples counseling was for when it was too late anyway, but I disagree. I have several friends whose relationships are wonderful and they see a couples counselor either regularly or here and there to touch base.
Do you have any other ideas? How do you keep your relationship strong if you work opposite schedules?