Even the most madly in love couples need space sometimes. Alone time gives us the opportunity to focus on ourselves — which is never a bad thing — as well as explore our other interests, our relationships with our friends and family, and room to grow. People can't evolve when they're constantly glued to someone else's side.
"I think that alone time is undervalued in our society," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. "With the advent of social media, everyone is all about posting pictures of parties, gatherings, group dinners, and vacations and that's what we come to value. No one is posting a picture of themselves taking a yoga class alone or reading a book! But individuals and relationships thrive on having a nice balance of together time and alone time."
But while asking for space from one's partner, for some, can be really easy, for others, it can be difficult. Whether it's a fear of hurting their partner or just not being able to find the right words, not everyone can excel at sitting their partner down and saying, "You're awesome, you're great, I love you, but I just need more space than you're giving me."
Since that's the case, it may be your job, as the perceptive partner that you are, to pick up on those signs. Then, of course, give them that space in a healthy way that makes them realize that wanting and needing space is totally normal. Here are signs it's time to give your partner some space — and how to do it effectively.
1You Sense Your Partner Getting Cranky
The first sign that someone is needs something — food, a nap, a pee break, anything at all — is when they get cranky. In a relationship, that crankiness could be the result of needing something a bit more than a nap and a snack. "[When a partner is cranky] this is the perfect time to pull away," bestselling author and relationship expert, Susan Winter, tells Bustle. "Oftentimes, one partner can become testy if they've spent too much time with their mate. Each individual has their own need for private time. If that private time isn't honored, they'll begin looking for ways to exit your presence."
How to effectively give them space? "Don't take it personally," says Winter. "It doesn't mean your partner doesn't love you. If you think about it, you probably get cranky as well when you haven't been able to take care of yourself."
2Your Partner Starts Arguments For No Reason
When you need space from someone, the easiest way to do that is to give yourself a reason to stomp out of the house... in other words, a pointless argument.
"I've seen individuals create a fight (for no good reason) just as an excuse to get away from a partner who's engulfing them," says Winter. "That's your signal to back off and give your mate some space."
How to effectively give them space? Again, Winter says you can't take it personally. "It doesn't mean you're a bore, nor does it mean they're losing interest. They simply need some 'me time'."
3Your Partner Goes Along With Everything
Just because you're in a relationship, doesn't mean you should lose your identity. It's important to maintain that individuality always and not wake up one morning, realizing you've been saying, "yes," to everything and nodding your head because it was easy. If your partner just goes along with everything you say or do, without offering their input, then that's a very big sign that they need space, licensed psychotherapist Dr. Jill Murray tells Bustle.
How to effectively give them space? "In my clinical opinion, it is important for a partner to encourage the other to take space for activity, socialization, and activities that lead to meaning and purpose," Dr. Kim Chronister tells Bustle. In other words, giving them the chance to form an opinion again.
4Your Partner Is Stressed More Than Usual
"Your partner may be stressed about work, family, money, or medical concerns," says Winter. "That means that this issue is their sole focus. It's hard to split one's attention and focus. You know if you had a big project coming up the last thing you're able to do is pay attention to your mate... as a partner they should pay attention to you, but as a person who's stressed they need to focus on this concern."
How to effectively give them space? "If you sense that this is the case, back off," says Winter. "Now's not the time to add stress to your partner's stress."
5Your Partner Is Clearly Codependent
In addition to going along with everything, another sign that your partner needs to space is that they're codependent. If they can't do anything without your approval, are constantly checking in, although you don't need them to, or basically attached to your hip, then that's a sign they need to get themselves back. The first step in doing that, is getting space.
How to effectively give them space? Again, according to Dr. Chronister, this comes down to encouraging one's partner to branch out. "The more solid a person's identity is, the more likely they will be happy in a relationship," she says.
6Your Partner Seems Annoyed By Your Physical Presence
Well, if crankiness is a sign that your partner needs space, then them being visibly annoyed with you is also a sign that you need to back off and give them a chance to breathe and move without you around them.
As Winter points out, "even though you're not directly asking for attention, you're in their physical space... the fact that you're in their sphere can create internal conflict."
How to effectively give them space? "Get out of the house if you live together," says Winter. "Go for a walk. Go to the gym. Remove yourself from their space. When you return you'll see a change in their mood for the better."
7Your Connection Feels Off
"[When] you know your connection feels 'off,' the first impulse is normally to ask why and try to resolve this," says Winter. "However, if you're observant of your partner's patterns you'll learn to anticipate when to pull back."
How to effectively give them space? “Anticipate your partner's need for space,” says Winter. “Pulling back proactively is a far better choice than to be pushed back.”
8Your Partner Says, "I Just Need A Moment."
If your partner puts it out there, in a roundabout way, with such a statement, then that's definitely a sign worth noting. "Take saying this in the midst of a discussion or argument you are having as a sign that they recognize their limits and those limits are about to be reached," relationship coach and founder of Maze of Love, Chris Armstrong, tells Bustle. "This is a mature thing to do. This is not the time to continue your agenda or your points. The fact is, they won't hear you anyway."
How to effectively give them space? "One of the best ways is to simply say to them, 'I want to honor your request for more time and let me know when you're ready to talk (again)," says Armstrong. "This acknowledgement is important as it will create the opportunity for you two to come together again. It also erases any fear or doubt on their end that you're mad at them."
9Your Partner Isn't Open To Talking About Their Need For Space
"When you trust your partner's intent and desire to communicate with you but your initial attempts to break through are not working, that's a sign," says Armstrong. "You then feel like they are ready to explode at any moment. This is not the time to keep pushing for them to let you in."
How to effectively give them space? This is where you pull back, but also let them know that you're ready, when they are, to talk about, says Armstrong. Although, ultimately, you can't let your partner's unwillingness to tackle the discussion go unrecognized forever, Armstrong points out. "Sometimes we give space to someone because they do not know how to deal with a conflict," he says. "While this is OK sometimes, and I stress 'some', there must also come a time where their inability to deal with conflict should not put us in a bad situation or make us the communication scapegoat. We teach people how to treat us and sooner or later we must teach them that we demand to be let in instead of pushed out."
People in relationships need some time too; it's really that simple. Although how much time and space each couple needs varies, the reality is that we can all use some downtime away from the ones we love. It's completely normal and maybe even one of the healthiest things you can do for you, your partner, and your relationship.