Blocking time and relationship zero

My relationship setup means I often spend significant blocks of time with partners – typically days if not weeks. This raises the question of an appropriate way of communicating with non-present partners that avoids a discomforting extended radio silence.

There’s no socially-demonstrated protocol for this, and I found myself using ‘gap time’ to catch up with messages. However, this felt furtive on my part and my non-present partner ended up getting scraps from the attention table: messages that may have had a tolerable response time but were short and rushed.

We tried another approach: substantial blocks of times reserved well in advance by mutual agreement for video calls. This was definitely better but lost something in spontaneity: too much like a work Zoom call, with all the baggage that comes with that. A bit like booking time for sex. The best approach I can come up with right now is to try to structure time so that there are windows of availability – kind of office hours – when I’m highly likely to be available for chat if there’s a desire but no pressure.

Linked to this is ‘relationship zero’: that’s the self one that is most established but can also become most neglected. I don’t know how yours is, but mine is often the first to feel the squeeze when time gets tight. It’s quiet tends to defer, quietly building up resentment if it doesn’t get its share.

To be clear, work time does not count as self-time (although the commute may do – particularly if it features sing-along rock anthems). I need a proper date with myself. Especially for longer visits following long periods away which add pressure to extract the romantic juice from every hour.

This may seem pointless to an outside observer being whimsical and passive. A traditional alibi would perhaps involve fishing or taking the dog for a walk. I think it’s healthier to just declare it and confront any social conditioning that anything less than total devotion is a bad thing.

Learn how much time, and what sort of activity, you need to keep this relationship healthy. Maybe just sitting on the other side of the room immersed in a game. It might feel right to go a walkabout and explore the town with no fixed return time. Like all relationships, symbolism matters.

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