When we hear our partner say the words "I need some space,"we often feel a sense of panic run through our body. It scares us to think that our partner wants to put some distance between them and us. It can make us feel like they don't care for us like they used to, and that we are losing them.
Sometimes we're aware that the reason they're asking for space has to do with something outside of the relationship. It might involve dealing with grief, depression, anxiety, sickness or something else that might be emotionally overwhelming to them. In these cases, we may feel the need to help them, when really all they need to feel better is what they asked for: space.
So how do we give it to them in a healthy way without arguing about it or getting upset with them? How do we not internalize the problem and blame ourselves for them needing space?
Here are seven ways to give your partner space in a way that is healthy and will help your relationship, and your partner individually.
1. Be sure not to take it personally.
The first thing you might do is instinctively think it's your fault, but it actually might be something completely out of your the realm of your relationship. It might be that he or she is dealing with stress from work or school, maybe a health issue that has them worried, or another emotionally overwhelming issue like clinical depression. They might be worried about finances, or they might have a family member in the hospital. Some of us turn to our partners when we go through overwhelming events in our lives, and others need to be by themselves and breathe. Your partner might fall into the latter category, and that is completely okay.
2. Be understanding of the situation.
All of us handle our emotions, and difficult situations, differently. If your partner asks for some space, you might initially act angry because you are hurt. Before letting your emotions take hold of you though, try and think about how your partner might feel, and try practicing more empathy. Respect their need for space by giving it to them. If it's really a relationship issue, you will know after a little while, but don't jump to conclusions at first.
3. Offer to be there subtly, then walk away.
When your partner asks for space, listen to them and then offer your support. Being supportive of your partner is a healthy way to show love but also respect for their need for space and time alone. Say that you are here if they need you, and then give them their space. That way, they know you are there for them and don't have to worry about making you feel neglected. It gives them the chance to peacefully have their space.
4. Take up your own interests in the meantime.
There's no need to see your partner needing space as a bad thing. Use it as a time when you can take up old hobbies and interests again. If you put down painting or swimming, maybe now is the time to pick it up again. If you have that TV show you need to finish, let the binge-watching begin. And hey, if you just really like taking warm baths and reading books, you can use this space to indulge in those as well. You can both make something out of the space.
5. Discuss an end result.
If your partner asks for space, it is definitely your right to be able to ask for how long. If they just need a few days or a week or two to work through a rough patch, then maybe you are okay with just letting them be. However, if they are going through something very serious and need an extended amount of time, say over a month, maybe you two can agree to take a break from the relationship.
If you feel like the relationship is ending, has problems that cannot be fixed, or feel that your partner needs a lot of time to heal from something and they need to do it alone (such as in the case of rehab), it might be time to end the relationship. If you talk it out and decide to stay, this might just be temporary thing. It could be a matter of just a few days while they take time to study for an important test or something they feel they need to focus on. In the end it will bring you both closer together. Just be sure to talk it out.
6. Be sure to let them know how you feel.
In a healthy relationship, you two should be able to calmly discuss issues and your feelings. If the space is really bothering you, be sure to voice this. Tell them you are concerned that it might be an aspect of your relationship that is causing them to need distance. Allow them to tell you why they need the space. If you feel worried about them being on their own after a traumatic experience, voice this as well. If you're worried or upset that you two will drift apart because of this space, it is totally okay to tell your partner this. Communication is key.
7. Use this time to evaluate your feelings.
Sometimes when we are away from our partner, it makes us realize just how much they mean to us. We often take small things that our partners do for us, like texting in the morning or a call to see how we are, for granted. In the absence of these little moments, we might find ourselves really noticing how much they mean to us and how much we actually cherish them.
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