9 Signs You Should Give Your Partner Space & How To Effectively Do It
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 for some, asking for space from one's partner can be really easy, it can be more difficult for others. 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.
1. You Sense Your Partner Getting Cranky
The first sign that someone needs space is when they need 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."
Even when you're deeply in love with someone, there is such a thing as spending too much time with them — and this can be said about any relationship, romantic or otherwise.
"Each individual has their own need for private time," Winter says. "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," Winter says. "It doesn't mean your partner doesn't love you."
As Winter explains, there's a good chance that you, too, might get cranky if you don't get ample alone time. So taking a break to focus on yourself and to let your partner focus on themselves is great for both of you.
2. Your 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. While some arguments are necessary to fix issues within a relationship, other arguments, especially when someone needs space, are just petty and cause more problems than they fix.
"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," Winter says. "That's your signal to back off and give your mate some space."
You may want to call out your partner for their behavior and the fight they've caused, but don't waste your time. As Winter says, take this as your cue to give them what they need most of all: 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'," Winter says.
It's when we have "me time" that we can focus on what we want, what we need, and what makes us happy. It's an opportunity to figure things out — both in regards to our relationship, as well as the rest of our life.
3. Your Partner Goes Along With Everything
Just because you're in a relationship doesn't mean you should lose your identity. Yet, some people do exactly that, even if they don't mean for it to happen. It's important, for everyone, to maintain their individuality always and not wake up one morning, realizing you've been saying, "yes," to everything and nodding your head because it was easy. Relationships aren't supposed to be easy; they take work. Also, the happiest and healthiest relationships are those that are made up of individual people who can think and act for themselves.
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. It also means there's a good chance that they're not enjoying their time with you enough to even care about offering their two cents — definitely something no one wants for their partner or themselves.
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.
4. Your Partner Is Stressed More Than Usual
Stress doesn't just take a toll on our mental, emotional, and physical health, but it can also mess with our relationships. There's nothing good that comes from stress and when someone we care about is stressed, we sometimes end up getting the brunt of it and that's not fair for either partner.
"Your partner may be stressed about work, family, money, or medical concerns," Winter says. "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," Winter says. "Now's not the time to add stress to your partner's stress."
You may want to confront them and remedy the problem, but when someone is stressed it's like backing an animal into a corner, meaning they're going to react poorly. It's easy for someone to snap when they're under stress, so don't add fuel to the fire.
5. Your Partner Is Codependent
In addition to going along with everything, another sign that your partner needs space is that they're codependent. It might seem strange that codependency could be a sign of needing space, but it is.
If your partner can't do anything without your approval, they're constantly checking in, or they're basically attached to your hip, then that's a sign they need to get themselves back, Dr. Chronister says. The first step in doing that is giving them space. You'll want to back off and give them the chance to spread their wings, find who they are again, as in the person they were before they met you. Since they may be unable to do it themselves, space is the best gift you can possible give them — even if they don't realize it right away.
How to effectively give them space? According to Dr. Chronister, this comes down to encouraging one's partner to branch out and discover new or even old things. "The more solid a person's identity is, the more likely they will be happy in a relationship," she says.
6. Your 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. No one wants to be annoyed by their partner, and no one wants to annoy their partner. Instead of taking this annoyance to heart, take a step back, give your partner a chance to breathe and do their own thing without you around them. It could save your relationship.
As Winter says, "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."
While this may not be easy if you live together, if you're cognizant of what you need to do for the sake of the relationship, then you can create a schedule that works around when and where your partner will be in your apartment. That internal conflict that Winter mentions is likely to grow if something isn't done and that's exactly something you don't want.
How to effectively give them space? "Get out of the house if you live together," Winter says. "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."
7. Your Connection Feels Off
Although there are many reasons why a connection between two partners could feel a bit off — stress, depression, distance, not enough time together — in some cases the reason could be that you're not giving each other space. It's hard to maintain a healthy connection when there's, literally, no space for it. It may seem like connection needs more closeness, but that's not always the case.
"[When] you know your connection feels 'off,' the first impulse is normally to ask why and try to resolve this," Winter says. "However, if you're observant of your partner's patterns you'll learn to anticipate when to pull back."
When you've been with someone long enough, you can read them fairly well. Although when things don't feel right it can feel like you're not reading them as well as you used to, the reality is that you know this person, you love them, and you're aware of what they need.
How to effectively give them space? “Anticipate your partner's need for space,” Winter says. “Pulling back proactively is a far better choice than to be pushed back.”
Remember: absence makes the heart grow fonder, so space may be exactly what you need to get that connection back on track.
8. Your Partner Says, "I Just Need A Moment."
If your partner puts it out there, even in a roundabout way, then that's definitely a sign worth noting. It's also something that you shouldn't let bother you.
"Take saying 'I need a moment' 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."
As Armstrong points out, see this as a good thing as opposed to an opportunity to ask them why. Just let them take that moment that they need.
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)'," Armstrong says. "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."
9. Your Partner Isn't Open To Talking About Their Need For Space
Sometimes people don't know what they need. It's in these moments that you, their partner, may have better insight. But it's also important not to be too pushy about it.
"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," Armstrong says. "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 it, Armstrong says. 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 the communication a 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 very common, and may even be one of the healthiest things you can do for you, your partner, and your relationship.