My rhythms are much, much slower than yours.
I need time and space to think at all.
Without that time and space, I’m not even me. I can only react instinctively. If I’m rattled, it’s fight or flight. For me in a relationship that usually means doing whatever it takes in order to please, so as to keep the peace.
Because I need calm, keeping the peace is a survival strategy for me. Although long-term I know it’s a bad strategy, in this situation I am just reacting, not thinking rationally.
But it also means withdrawal, which does anything but keep the peace. If I am not able to find out quickly enough what you want from me, or I don’t have the energy or am in the wrong mood, I can’t use the pleasing strategy and I have to fall back on withdrawal. Which becomes a spiral. This reinforces the lesson that if I don’t please you, things will be bad.
When I lose the thread of what I’m saying because of interruption or whatever, the time it takes me to find the thread again is consistently much longer than the time you are willing to wait. So nearly all my expressed thoughts are incomplete.
When I can move at my own pace, it’s like deep, calm breathing after shallow panicky breathing. I can virtually never move at my own pace when you are around.
Your desire that our time together be focussed on each other, with specific activities, is very understandable and reasonable. But what it means is that our time together operates always at your rhythm, or at least at some midpoint that is still much faster than my natural rhythm. And that means that you spend virtually no time with me when I am feeling truly myself.
Time apart gives me back my self, and gives me time without the anxiety of having to work out how to please you, and work it out quickly before the attack/withdraw cycle begins.
It lets me know what I really think, what I really want. It lets me know how I am, what this person whose head I’m stuck inside is like when he’s not modifying and adapting in order to please. And I like who I am, when I’m alone, and there’s no pressure.
I know I need to work on reducing the pressure to please, reducing the need for calm, reducing the vulnerability to anxiety, so I can be that person more often when I’m not alone. But even if I succeed at that, I think I’ll still need the haven of solitude.