Will you allow me to demystify solitude for you? Take it from me, a hungry solitude seeker. This is a bit beyond introversion and extroversion; this is about letting your soul breathe. Because here’s the thing, I love people and I love this life, and I love it so hard that it can take the air right out of my lungs.

Many times in my life I have bumped up against resistance and judgment from others who do not understand when or why I need solitude. I thought this might be a good place to set the record true, and to give tips to those of you looking to support your beloved solitude seekers more fully. If your partner is someone that needs solitude, they will undoubtedly need your help to take it, feel good about it, and protect it.

Have you ever seen the movie The Green Mile? It is moving on many human levels but the main character has a special power, to heal people with his life force. By a simple touch, and with his magic energy he can pull the suffering out of people and exhale it out his own soul. The only problem is it uses all of his human spirit to do this for people, sometimes leaving him close to death, with so little life force left in him after spiritually spending it on someone else. Damn do I get that.

Here’s the thing with those of us that feel and breathe and experience life so deeply: it is costly. This deep living and connection, it is the reason I am here, and it is also what drains me the quickest. To help your solitude seekers show up as the fullest brilliant loving and wonderful versions of themselves, here are some steps you can take to support them:

Step 1: Know their solitude flavor

When I was kid, I had many friends, I wasn’t a loner by any means – but in my head I was. I experienced the world and people and conversations so deeply that I would feel exhausted to my core. Solitude has remained my most important respite. Over the years that solitude has taken many shapes – when I was a kid it was taking a long walk, climbing a tree, or writing a poem – it almost didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was totally alone.

As we grow into ourselves as people, the way we might prefer solitude or seek it out may shift. If your partner is one who needs time alone, it’s important to know what shape that alone time needs to take to be beneficial. When I need to be alone in the house I have to kick my partner out, along with our dog, I can’t have another breathing living thing in my vicinity that I might worry about their needs over mine. Therefore, know thyself. Know thy, partner. Maybe you know that your partner loves to spend quiet mornings alone, maybe once a week you could make an effort to get up early and get out of the house, and they might just love you for it. (They will)

Step 2: Recognize when they need solitude (ask when they need it)

If you are one of the rare ones who might not think you have solitude seekers in your life, let me just guarantee you there are people in your midst, hanging on by a thread, just waiting to get back to themselves. This being out in the world for us deep thinkers and feelers is not easy work. We will fall to the ground when we have repeatedly offered ourselves and our souls to those we love, to the work we choose, to the dreams we chase. We leave it all out on the field. And when exhausted, we stand only as tall as a wilted flower may stand.

So if your partner seems stressed, short with you, marching through all the paces of his or her life but with a little less gusto and heart as usual? Alert. Your partner may be in desperate need of alone time. Everyone will show different signs and symptoms of sensory and life overload, do your best to understand your partner’s signs and signals and help them get what they need. Not sure what your partner needs in the first place? Here is an ancient, tried and true method to understanding: ask them.

Step 3: Respect the send (i.e. encourage them to take it & help them protect it)

This is outdoor adventure lingo, for when someone in a kayak or on skis is about to “send it” in only the direction and way that they can. It’s also a fancy way of saying, “do it!” and encouraging their effort. For people who need solitude, “sending it” does not look like a full social calendar, sending it might look more-so like a hard no to a high pressure invitation, it might look like a bubble bath on a Friday night instead of drinks with colleagues. When your partner is trying their best to give themselves what they need to let their soul breathe? Respect the send. And know that typically, we don’t take ourselves out of the game unless we really really need it.

Step 4: Enjoy a filled up version of your loved one (their preference too)

Some of you may experience frustration in wanting to spend time with your loved one, only to realize they need to be alone. I want to offer you some wisdom. For those you who know and love someone that requires solitude: let them take it at reckless abandon. And when they do take it, whether it is for a few minutes or a few months, resist the urge to make it about you. It’s not about you. It is about them, making a choice in self-love to go breathe in their air.

Picture that person underwater, drowning just under the surface where you can still see their face. They can’t breathe. Wouldn’t you want that person you love to be able to breathe? Let them up. Let them breathe their air. If you love them, if you want them to bring all the presence and energy that only they can bring, let them breathe. And don’t judge them when they ask for their oxygen. Better yet, if you love them, help them protect it.

This world is one of constant pressuring to be ‘on’, to do more and be more, and no matter what, to stay busy. Perhaps you could let the solitary souls you love lead a quiet revolution, maybe you could even learn to love their quest for quiet, and take their lead. At the very least, respect their lead when they are leading themselves back home.

So for those of you that don’t understand why some people can’t do all of the activities, can’t take part in every family dinner, can’t seem to ‘keep up’ with everyone else – please know they are answering their higher call and keeping up with themselves. And they, their relationships, and the world – are all better for it when they do.