“I need space” – three of the scariest words in common relationship dialogue, right? Wrong. That’s just what we’ve been conditioned to think. In truth, space is not necessarily the final frontier on the way to separation or divorce. When approached with honesty and creativity, it can open up new horizons for you and your relationship, and bring you even closer to your partner.
A few years ago, I really needed some alone time. I was stressed and simply wanted to rest and recharge. So I called my mate and told her that I wanted to disappear for a few days. She said, “Okay.” I went to a bed-and-breakfast and slept like a baby. I maintained complete solitude and quiet for two days. It was a wonderful experience. And when I returned, I loved her even more than I did when I left. I appreciated her flexibility and support. It was, and remains, priceless to me. And getting the rest that I needed made me less on-edge at home, which helped us get along better.
I told a friend about that experience, and his instant reaction was, “I wish I would tell my wife that I want to ‘disappear for a few days.’ She would tell me to ‘go disappear to that couch.'” I understand that her reaction is probably a fairly standard one. The way most romantic relationships start and develop makes space a tricky issue to negotiate. Typically, we date each other, and as we grow closer emotionally, we begin to spend more and more time together. We move closer until we generally get as close to one another as we can imagine. And when we get to this point, we rarely recalibrate the space.
Most of us in long-term relationships will eventually face issues with our partners that we don’t see coming, and that we don’t know how to immediately deal with. Having time alone to think can help give us the clarity we need to understand their side or to figure out possible solutions. Sometimes we are so infuriated and exhausted that we really just need time away to calm down. In times like this, SPACE may be the ideal solution.
Instead, when we are irritated with each other, we talk, which is sensible. We get professional counseling, which is also sensible. We get counseling from our friends, which is pretty standard. Yet, most of us are petrified to play with the space. The reasons for this mostly boil down to fear (see “Don’t Leave You Partner Out in the Cold“). We fear that space is the final frontier in a relationship. We fear what other people will think and say. We worry about who or what will fill our partners’ time away, and about what else we might have to agree to later on if we “grant” this freedom now. And most importantly, we fear that we’re “surrendering” something we believe is ours. I understand fear. It is human nature and a great tool for recognizing when we are ill prepared to deal with a given circumstance. But don’t forget that another powerful human ability is that of identifying and adjusting when we – or our partners – need SPACE.
Instead of worrying about what asking for space, or granting it to your partner, says about the failures in your relationship, consider what it says about the strength of your relationship. Much of the beauty of a partnership lies in the ability to negotiate issues that arise with creativity, flexibility and peace. To be willing to step away from one another long enough to recharge, clarify or recalibrate what you love and don’t love about your relationship means that you care enough about yourself and your mate to allow each another to grow – whether that means growing to, from, with or without each other. This type of closeness and understanding is priceless!