A few weeks ago, one of my students told me that she had a fight with her husband and went off on an extended bike ride to cool off. I asked her what the argument was about and she described a situation to which I could very much relate. She said she wanted to talk about something she was interested in with her husband after he came home from work, but he was tired and not in the mood. She persisted and he got angry, then she got angry.
Like me, this particular student works freelance from home, though unlike me, she actually makes a full-time living from it. Her husband, like mine, works outside the home and puts in some pretty long hours. One of the things you find occurring when you're home all day and your partner is out working in a box somewhere is that he comes home overstimulated and tired, wanting nothing more than to zone out and be left alone while you want to talk about whatever has been floating around in your head all day. There's a big difference in your energy levels and how much stimulation your nervous system has had or needs.
When I first quit my full-time job (about 3 years ago now) and had no or few private students each day, this was a bigger issue because I was sitting at home most of the day and only talked to my sister or my friends very early in the day (due to time zone differences) and spent the rest of the day in relative isolation. When the CH got home, I was ready to pounce on him with a conversation and he was in desperate need of a decompression session. He spends all day talking to people so this is no small surprise, and spends the half hour before he gets to our door on a crowded train or station being bombarded with noise and buffeted around by other people who don't look where they're going and expect you to move to accommodate them.
In short order, we worked out a system whereby he came home and I left him in peace for about 15-30 minutes until he was ready to talk. Generally, I just wait until he starts talking to me of his own initiative. I imagine that this arrangement would not have been worked out so quickly if we hadn't been married for so long or didn't have experience identifying and working out solutions to such things. It also helps that we're both confident about our feelings for each other and don't take the need for a certain arrangement which excludes the other personally. Of course, the exclusion isn't a physical one. I don't have to leave the room or anything. I just have to leave him to recover from the stress of the day and the commute for a short time before engaging him in conversation.
I wonder at times if this may be a bigger problem for couples in Japan than those back home because having a larger house makes it easier to find a place to "escape" to areas where conversation can be avoided without necessarily making it clear why you're doing so. In fact, I wonder if people may develop patterns to adjust to their need for isolation without even being aware of why they're doing it in a larger home. In our apartment, the only rooms sufficiently isolated from one another that one can't hear a conversation or be spoken to are the bedroom and the bathroom.
Since I now have more students and freelance work compared to when I first quit, this is far less of an issue than before. I spend several hours talking to people so I don't really need to pounce when the CH gets home. However, one thing I take away from this experience (and my student's situation simply reminded me of this) is that there's usually an easy fix for the problems that arise from people living together if both parties communicate and surrender their neuroses and willfulness and just address the issue at hand.