TWO women of mature years met on the bus going into town and began chatting and catching-up on their lives. Sitting in a nearby seat, I couldn’t help but hear some of their conversation. One of the women said, “he’s a bit clingy.” and I wondered if they were talking about a grandchild. It quickly became clear that the woman was talking about her husband. Both women compared notes on having husbands at home who wanted to know what their wives were doing and where. The women were going into town to have some precious time on their own. They laughed as they admitted not taking their mobile phones with them, so that they couldn’t be contacted.

“My son would be cross with me”, said one woman, “but it’s such a bother.” I smiled at the description of her trying to retrieve a ringing phone from deep inside a handbag, looking for her glasses and then finding out that it was her husband wanting to know how long she would be. She said longingly, “I don’t get much privacy these days.” The quote about retirement came to mind. ‘I married you for life, not for lunch.’ Finding time and space for some ‘me time’ is the other side of the loneliness coin, a well-aired subject at the moment. We need to find a balance. Too little time to oneself can be as emotionally unhealthy as too much time. In the same way as too much self-reflection can be as unhelpful as too little. We need to find some personal space each week, somehow, somewhere.

Somewhere away from the demands of others. It is not about being selfish, it is a human need for healthy emotional growth. The activity could be a hobby, a class, reading, walking, listening to music, gardening or just ‘being’. The space could be a shed, spare room, study, the bath, going to the shops and cafes, enjoying a walk or sitting in a garden.

The writer Alice Koller wrote: “Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than the absence of others. because solitude is an achievement.”

- Rita Leaman is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in North Yorkshire. As Alison R Russell, she is the author of ‘Are You Chasing Rainbows?’ She also writes a blog on emotional health: