How To Ask For Space In A Relationship Without Hurting Your Partner's Feelings
When a relationship is brand new and you're still getting to know your partner, it can be hard to imagine wanting to spend time away from them, doing your own thing. But the longer you're together, the more you'll realize that not only is it OK to need time apart, learning when and how to ask for space in a relationship is crucial for it to remain healthy. If you're used to spending tons of time with your partner, it might be scary to hear them say that they need space, but the truth is that asking for alone time doesn't always have negative, ominous implications for your relationship.
"Your partner asking for space is about their desire to get their social, emotional and intellectual needs met by others outside of their primary relationship," Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, relationship therapist and founder of online relationship community, Relationup, tells Bustle. "One person cannot satisfy all the needs of another and your partner’s desire to take space is their effort to take care of themselves and to return to the relationship nourished, enriched and replenished."
You might love your partner's company (and vice versa), but it's unrealistic to expect that your partner can fulfill all your needs: as individuals, we all occasionally need alone time to relax, as well as some one-on-one time with friends and family. If you want to start a conversation with your partner about creating some space in your relationship for both of you to have some time to yourselves, here are five expert tips that will help make (what can be) a tricky conversation go a little more smoothly.
1. Spell Out What Space Looks Like To You
First thing's first: there isn't just one kind of space in a relationship. Whether you need a weekend away or just an hour-long run to clear your head, make sure you're clear with your partner about what "space" means to you in the context of your relationship.
"Indicate as much as you can what that space will look like," Effy Blue, a relationship coach specializing in ethical non-monogamy, tells Bustle. "'I need a walk around the block. I want to spend the weekend at my parents' home. I want to rent an apartment for six months on the other coast.'"
2. Use "I" Statements
Whenever you need to communicate about something difficult in your relationship, one easy trick is to always use "I" statements when explaining your feelings. It's a simple way of reiterating to your partner that your need for space isn't a reflection of your feelings about them/the relationship, but rather a personal decision that you made for you — and you alone.
"Use I-sentences and explain your why/intention: 'I need space because I need to figure out.../rest/collect my thoughts/write/work on this project,'" Blue says.
3. Listen To Your Partner's Concerns
Naturally, your partner might have some questions or concerns about your request for space. Instead of dismissing their feelings or giving them a vague, blanket-like reassurance ("don't worry, it'll be fine"), listen to their specific concerns and offer to come up with a plan or compromise together.
"Listen to your partners' fears and anxieties with a generous ear when your partner tells you how they feel about your request," Blue says. "Don't be dismissive. If it makes sense, make a plan to reconnect afterward."
4. Remember That You Are Individuals First & Partners Second
Whether you're the one asking for space or the one being asked for space, it's important to keep in mind that — as much as you might love each other — you and your partner are both individuals with individual needs... not extensions of one another.
"Recognizing our partner as an individual [and] not an extension of ourselves and/or a product of our relationships is vital to the longevity of our relationships," Blue says. "If a partner is asking for space they are taking care of themselves and we need to honor their individual needs. When I see clients struggling with partners asking [for] space — be it feeling hurt, offended, anxious — my response is more often than not, 'It's not always about you.'"
5. Agree On What Balance Of Independence/Togetherness You Want
When it comes to asking for space, it can be difficult to know how much is too much (or too little). But according to Milrad, it's not about finding a magic "ideal" amount of space — it's about whether you and your partner are on the same page about the balance of "we" and "I" in your relationship.
"If you both define the balance in the same way, then together, you will determine how much alone time is right for the relationship," she says. "If you don’t, then there will be a disagreement in terms of whether it is too much or too little."
Ultimately, keeping a relationship happy and healthy doesn't boil down to having the "correct" amount of space or alone time — because that simply doesn't exist. What's really important is that you and your partner are able to communicate: about what kind of space you each want/need, how much you feel comfortable with, and what it means when you ask for more or less alone time. As long as you're both on the same page, you'll be able to enjoy your time together, as well as feel fulfilled and secure in your relationship when you're apart.