Since we're often sent the message that happy relationships consist of two people who are joined at the hip,
needing some space from your partner can be viewed as a bad thing. But it's important to keep in mind that taking care of yourself, and retaining your individuality, is actually healthy — and something your partner should fully support.
"Space in a relationship is normal," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at
Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. If you need an evening alone, or want to go on a trip all by your lonesome, it certainly doesn't mean your relationship is falling apart.
But if you find that your desire for alone time is stemming from unhappiness — or feel like you'd rather be alone than around your partner — it can create some confusion for all involved.
As you figure it out, the best thing to do is keep your partner in the loop. "What you see as spending time alone could be seen by your partner as destroying the relationship," Bennett says. So if you just need some space, keep communicating and establish boundaries, so no one feels left out.
And, if you aren't sure how you feel, give yourself time and space to figure it out. To help, here are some surprising differences between needing space versus
falling out of love with your partner, according to experts.
You're Falling Out Of Love If You Don't Consider Your Partner's Needs
It's healthy for couples to
create space in a relationship. But you'll know you're falling out of love if you don't bother to discuss this need with your partner, or consider how they might feel about it.
Instead, you'll move forward with whatever feels right for
you. "You start making unilateral decisions that only consider what is in your best interest versus what is in the best interest of both partners," therapist Dr. Talal H. Alsaleem, PsyD, LMFT, tells Bustle.
If you were still in love, you'd approach your partner and be honest about your need for a little space, and include them in the process of establishing a few healthy boundaries.
You Need Space If You Still Prefer Being Around Your Partner
"When you need a little space in a relationship, but are still in love, you enjoy doing things on your own (whether it’s hanging out with friends, reading a book, or going for a walk) but [would] still rather share important moments with your partner and love being in their company,"
Irina Baechle, LCSW, relationship therapist and dating coach, tells Bustle.
Once you see your friends, read the book, or go on the trip — and get your much-needed dose of alone time — you return to your usual routine feeling refreshed and happy to spend time with your partner.
You're Falling Out Of Love If You Purposefully Exclude Your Partner
Taking a little time for yourself doesn't mean blocking your partner from your life, or acting like they don't exist while you're away. It simply means setting up a boundary, and focusing on yourself for a while.
So it may be a sign you're falling out of love if you're becoming distant, and don't really care. "You begin the emotional detachment, which leads to behavioral detachment, which manifests in engaging in solo activities and pursuing individual interests that exclude your partner," Dr. Alsaleem says.
Instead of simply creating space and having a little downtime, you may even stop viewing yourself as a part of a couple.
You Need Some Space If You're Feeling Suffocated
It's great if your partner enjoys your company, but you may need space if they've been overdoing it lately.
"While you like being close, and spending time with them, you may just want them to give you space so you do not feel suffocated," relationship expert and
spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport, tells Bustle.
Maybe they text you 24/7, or spend every single weekend with you. If that doesn't feel right, let them know. Healthy relationships are all about
setting up boundaries. If you're willing to be honest about your needs, it's a sign you still love them.
You're Falling Out Of Love If You No Longer Want To Be Intimate
"Needing a little room in a relationship is normal," Baechle says. "However, if you are not enjoying your partner's company, don’t respect them, and
don’t want intimacy anymore, you may be falling out of love."
Of course, all couples go through ups and downs when it comes to intimacy, including how it pertains to their sex life. But if you've talked about it, worked on the issue as a couple, and still don't feel a desire for connection, you may be falling out of love.
You Need Space If You See An Unhealthy Pattern Forming
As relationships go on, many couples fall into unhealthy patterns, such as expecting too much of each other, or spending every waking moment together. So if you're feeling a little cramped, you may want to break that cycle by asking for some space, Rappaport says.
Breaking the cycle, possibly by creating more space, shows you actually want the relationship to work.
You're Falling Out Of Love If You Never Want To Talk
There's a big difference between needing space on occasion, and simply not wanting to talk to your partner. So if the latter is true, take note, as it may be a
sign you're checking out.
"If you are falling out of love with your partner, you may just want them to leave you alone, even when you don’t need space," Rappaport says. "You may find that you get stressed when they are around you."
You Need Space If You Miss Your Partner
Let's say you've been
craving some alone time, and decide to go on a trip, or spend an evening by yourself. Do you find that you miss your partner? Does the time away give you a fresh perspective (and appreciation) for your relationship?
"If you take the space and realize you miss the person more than you thought you would, then you are probably still in love," Caitlyn Paltsios, relationship expert at
Grapevine Gossip, tells Bustle. "A little space can make the heart grow fonder."
You're Falling Out Of Love If You Enjoy Being Away
On the flip side, "if you decide to take some space and enjoy it more than you thought you would, it may mean that you are falling out of love," Paltsios says.
Of course, it's totally possible to have a great time by yourself, and still love your partner. Plenty of couples value spending time alone, and it has no negative impact on their relationship.
But if you find "there are more positives when you are apart rather than together, that is a [...] sign that you may need to end the relationship," Paltsios says.
You Need Space If You Simply Want A Hobby
Remember, spending time apart isn't a bad thing. And it's perfectly OK to maintain separate lives outside of your relationship.
"If you’ve been with your partner for awhile, it can sometimes feel like you’ve lost your individual identity," Bennett says. "That can lead to wanting your own hobbies and accomplishments. This is normal and not indicative of any relationship problems."
You're Falling Out Of Love If You're Living Separate Lives
"One of the biggest signs you’ve fallen out of love is that you and your partner basically live separate lives," Bennett says. "This occurs when 'alone time' becomes so frequent that you are pretty much disconnected from all of your partner’s hobbies, interests, and time."
Of course, the only person who will know how you feel, is you. Needing some alone time can be perfectly natural and healthy, but it can also be a sign you're falling out of love. To figure it out, talk with your partner, and do some introspection — and you'll eventually be able to zero in on
what you truly need.