Astronauts or not, we all want space sometimes. We sometimes even need space from jobs, friends, places, and situations! It is a healthy practice that allows us to just focus on ourselves. It is perfectly okay to want some time away, even in relationships. Space becomes tricky in relationships, so let’s talk about it.
“I want some space” is a short phrase that may send chills down our spines. Our immediate thoughts may turn to panic, “Did I do something wrong?” “Is our relationship in danger?”. Our resident expert Anushree Aurangabadkar explained the various unrealistic expectations that often come up in therapy while discussing relationships. There may exist notions that we should WANT to spend each waking moment with our partner or else we don’t love them and they SHOULD do the same or they don’t love us. Furthermore, we may want space, but also want things to remain the same; a sure-shot guarantee that asking for space WILL get us that space without ANY problems. These unrealistic expectations may cause strife in the relationship. So both people- the one who wants some space and the one who is asked for space – feel discomforted by the very idea of space. However, it is completely okay and even healthy for a relationship! In fact, space strengthens a relationship by allowing us to maintain our individuality, take care of our needs, and come back with more mental space to offer our partner. We have an identity within the relationship and a self-identity. A healthy relationship allows both identities to co-exist and strengthen each other and space is exactly the thing that helps with that. It fosters a healthy interdependence instead of an unhelpful codependence; we’re looking at you, Kabir Singh.
Is there a perfect way to ask for space in a relationship?
Ms. Aurangabadkar said there isn’t. She further added that when we desire perfect solutions, what we’re really looking for are sure-shot guarantees, and life rarely, if ever, offers these. There is no one perfect way, but there are a lot of ways that can prove helpful! It is up to us to find out which ones work for our relationship. These differences can be accounted for by individual differences in personalities, our journeys, and the kind of experiences we’ve had. Some of us need more space, often, while others need less space for long periods. Open communication about our wants and needs is integral in creating a system that works for both partners.
This highly personalized system begins and ends with honest communication. With ourselves, and with our partners. The first step is asking ourselves why we need space. It could be to recharge, reconnect with ourselves, spend time pursuing hobbies, or stare at a wall to reset. Sometimes we want space as a way to escape from the difficult feelings and emotions that may come up in relationships. If it’s the latter, some professional support might be more helpful than space. Once we have a better idea of why we want space, it is time to bring out the big guns. Communicating our needs to our partner. It can be challenging but creating a safe space with them by informing them about the topic of conversation beforehand, taking breaks as needed, holding space for everyone’s feelings, and reassuring them of our feelings for them can help towards a more productive outcome for everyone. Some ways to ask for space can sound like:
- I love spending time with you, but I need to take some time for myself. This doesn’t change how I feel about you and I will be back within (mention how long)!
- I feel the need for some space, can we talk about it a bit more. I care about you and our relationship is secure
- I miss spending time with myself and I’d like to take some time to rejuvenate so I can come back and hold more space for our relationship!
- I need some space and it has nothing to do with us, I have been feeling (add your unique situation) and I’d like to figure it out before I’m in a mental space to share.
- This fight has brought up a lot of emotions for me. I’d like to understand them before I can come to you and talk about it. I’m not questioning our relationship, I’m only trying to figure out the emotion I’m feeling right now.
How fortunate are we that we get to love, be loved, and spread joy in the process. As humans, we love fully, yet we also have to learn how to love wisely. Love, the most beautiful of all phenomena, can also be difficult. But the good news is that we can always ask for support, from our partner, our family, our friends, our therapists, and ourselves.