When You And Your Partner Have Different Schedules (A Little On Loneliness)

Q. Hi Jordan,

I’ve been dealing with some new circumstances as a newlywed, and I was wondering if you could help. My husband and I have exact opposite work schedules. I am alone at home a majority of the time and we often go days without seeing each other in a state of consciousness, and I find myself getting lonelier and lonelier. I’m a very social person, I have a really fulfilling job, we have a dog, and I work out all the time, but it’s a totally new type of experience when the house feels so…alone.

Spending time with him is obviously a huge priority for me, but it feels like my life is constantly dictated by his schedule, from when I get to see him to trying to schedule with my friends to when I get to eat meals to how much sleep I get. I’m really struggling with how much more this affects me than him, and it feels really unbalanced and, honestly, unfair. 

We don’t have any kids, but I thought you could relate, what with Kendrick in grad school. I was wondering if you have any strategies for combating that feeling that creeps in a few hours into being solo at home so much.

Best Wishes,


A. I definitely can relate to and understand your situation, and I know it’s not easy. I’m used to spending a lot of time alone because I’ve been a freelancer who mostly works out of the house for years, but having Kendrick gone the majority of the time – he often gets home after I go to sleep or leaves before I wake up – was hard in the beginning, especially since, with a toddler who has a 7PM bedtime, it’s tough to make plans with others.

It’s still hard, of course, but because I knew that this was going to be a relatively long-term deal – two years, at a minimum – it was important to me to consciously work towards not only being “okay” with our situation…but actually making the best of it.

Here’s what has helped me.

1. Do Your Own Thing. When Kendrick first started school, I missed the little things that we used to love doing together, like cooking steaks and eating them at the coffee table or watching American Horror Story. And so I’d skip doing these things, saving the special meals and fun shows for when he was home…except, as it turns out, it’s not just “us” who enjoys those things…it’s me. I like steak whether I eat it with someone or on my own. I like watching TV on weekday nights, after my son has gone to bed. It’s my shut-off time. And it’s important to me.

Beyond that, though, I noticed that “saving” everything for the weekends not only placed way too much pressure on “fitting everything in” and made us a little nuts…it made me resentful, that feeling that I couldn’t do anything fun five days out of the week (even though, of course, it was me making me feel that way and no one else).

And so I started making a point of making those “just me” nights special, too. I’ll make exactly what I want to make for dinner; I’ll watch the show that I really want to watch; I’ll go to bed at 8 if I feel like it. Of course this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t make an effort to do special things when you do get to spend time together; you should, absolutely. But you should also make sure to keep doing the things that make you happy, whether you’re doing them with your partner, with your friends, or all on your own.

2. But Explain Why You’re Doing Your Own Thing. Even though I really do think you should make an effort to do the things you want to do and not twist your schedule 100% around your partner’s needs, I also think it’s important to communicate to your partner why you sometimes need to do your own thing.

As an example, if he really wants you to wait up for him to get home but you’re finding that doing so majorly disrupts your sleep (and affects your mindset the next day), you should absolutely do what works for you…but you should also explain to him why you’re going to bed before he arrives, so that he doesn’t feel like you’re pulling away or de-prioritizing the relationship. The truth is, of course, that you’re doing this in the service of keeping your relationship feeling equitable and strong, and once he understands that he’ll almost certainly be supportive of your need to maintain a sense of normalcy.

3. Communicate Your Frustration. Of course I get frustrated by our circumstances sometimes, especially when you compound the loneliness with the fact that it can feel like so much of the day-to-day “stuff” falls on my shoulders (as it should, since I’m the one who’s physically here more often). I know this was a decision that we both made, and I’m glad we made it – no question – but sometimes it’s hard not to feel sad or isolated.

What’s been most helpful to me is to share how I’m feeling with Kendrick – to say, “just so you know, I’m feeling a little upset right now because it’s hard for me to have you gone so much.” It’s good just to have him understand, but he also usually makes an effort to let me know that he appreciates what I’m doing…which is really nice.

4. Have An Endpoint In Sight. Many years ago, I wrote an article for YM Magazine on long-distance dating and interviewed people in all sorts of long-distance relationships about what worked for them, and the one unifying factor that everyone said was absolutely vital was that you work towards a time when your circumstances are going to change. And I think that applies here, too: it’s important to put plans in place to eventually align your schedules.

Even if those plans are a couple of years down the road, it’s good to know they’re there waiting for you, because remembering that it’s not forever can help a little on especially dark nights.



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