Setting boundaries when you’re living in close quarters
It’s hard to believe it has been a year since this pandemic began, but—like it or not—we’ve all become accustom to our new way of living. For many of us, one of the most pervasive shifts that has come out of this pandemic has been the loss of privacy. Unless you live alone, you are probably spending a lot more time with the people who share your space, whether roommates, parents, partners, siblings, or kids.
But being such close quarters for so long can be incredibly challenging: we may feel overwhelmed and irritable, and we may take it out on the people around us.
If you are sharing your space with others and find yourself struggling personally or in your relationships, here are some tips that may help:
We’ve all acclimated to the realities of pandemic-living over the past year, so you may not even realize how much a lack of privacy is impacting you.
Start by reflecting on how much time you’ve had to yourself lately. Then, consider how it might be impacting your moods.
With so little alone time, it is imperative that you find ways to carve out a space that is just your own. One way to do this is by consciously setting boundaries. Boundaries can be physical—like going outside for a solo walk every day or, if possible, finding a space in your house or apartment and making it yours. But they can also be emotional—like establishing the mental space to pursue a hobby without needing recognition or approval from others.
Take the time to find ways to physically and emotionally create space for yourself. For parents of young children, that may mean creating more structure or sharing responsibilities with your spouse in a new way. For couples, it could be consciously setting aside time during the week when you are intentionally not together. Whatever the circumstances, setting the intention to find your own personal and emotional space may take some time and consideration—but it is well worth it.
Communication is Key
Boundary setting is critical when sharing your space under circumstances like these. But you can’t succeed at setting health boundaries unless you have effective communication. Rather than unintentionally taking out your frustration on the people you care about, decide what you need and advocate for it with clarity and kindness.
Feeling overwhelmed by the lack of privacy you may be experiencing these days is to be expected. If you decide you need more space, identify what that might look like and communicate those needs clearly and honestly to the people around you.
And don’t forget to encourage them to do the same.
This is temporary
If this whole experience feels like it will never end, we understand. It has been a long road, and it is clear there is no magic “restart” button that will return us to our normal lives. But the truth is that this won’t last forever—nothing does. In time, you may even look back with fondness on the extra time you got to spend with your parents, or partner, or children.
Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed or hopeless, a perspective shift can make a big impact.
Remembering that nothing lasts forever may help you to find joy and appreciation for the moments you get to have with the people you care about.