Giving each other space doesn’t have to mean drifting apart.
When your partner tells you they need some space, it’s understandable that you might get a little nervous. No one wants to hear their partner needs time away from them. You may start questioning yourself and what you did wrong. You might even start wondering if this is the beginning of the end. But according to experts, space can be good. There are ways to give your partner space without losing them.
"Good relationships are always navigating a little push and pull and the dichotomy of distance and closeness," Stephanie Wijkstrom, certified counselor and founder of Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, tells Bustle. "Healthy relationships learn to navigate this very early in the formation of their romance to avoid feelings of enmeshment or resentment."
Some people who ask for space do so because they're on the way out and they want to let you down gently. But if that's not the case, "pat yourself on the back," Wijkstrom says. "You have a partner who wants to make this relationship work the right way." Not everyone feels comfortable enough to communicate their needs, even if it can make the relationship better. That's a sign of someone who prioritizes healthy boundaries.
Once they've done their part, it's now up to you to do yours. Here’s how to give someone space but still show you care, according to experts.
Thank Them For Being Honest About What They Need
In order to give your partner what they need while still maintaining your connection, it's important to see their request in a positive light. The last thing you want to do is start questioning them on why they need space or what this means for your relationship. That's one surefire way to create distance.
Instead of bombarding them with questions, Wijkstrom says you should try thanking them. "While hearing those words may sting a bit, ultimately we should reframe the way we think about the request because this is a real relationship opportunity," she says. Think of this as a great chance for you to hit the reset button on your relationship. If your relationship is starting to border on codependency, having some space can help you rebalance yourself.
Define What Having More Space Actually Means To Them And Respect Their Requests
"Having space is not days or weeks of silences," Wijkstrom says. "That sounds more like an exit strategy." It's important to define what having space means for your partner. Figure out when and where your partner wants more solo time. For instance, do they need a weekend away to spend time with friends? Do they need more time alone to recharge? Or would they prefer to keeping texting during emergencies only during working hours? According to Wijkstrom, couples who need space in the relationship still value connecting with each other. They just recognize that their own individual lives are also important.
It's so easy to stay in constant contact throughout the day via texts or messaging apps. But constant texting doesn't always lead to a stronger connection. So one super easy way to give your partner more space is to limit the amount of messaging you're doing throughout the work day. As Dr. Jeff Nalin, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist and chief clinical officer of Paradigm Malibu, tells Bustle, "When we over-text our partners, we can stifle them and also interrupt their work or personal time, creating a feeling of being smothered."
One study in the journal Mobile Media & Communication had findings that support the notion of more thoughtful phone use. The study found that while smartphone use was associated with mroe communication in couples, that’s not the whole story. “Conversely,” the study says, “Increased smartphone dependency was directly associated with less affectionate communication and lower relationship satisfaction.”
Instead of texting all day, try checking in. Send your partner a simple "Good morning" or "Hope you're having a great day!" "Taking time for these little interactions still reminds our partner that we care and we're thinking of them even if we aren't spending the entire day with them," Megan Little, PhD, therapist at Reframe Your Story Counseling and Consulting, tells Bustle.
Find More Time To Hang Out With Friends And Family
At the start of a relationship, it's easy to drop everything to spend more time with your new partner. When that happens, you may find yourself spending less time with friends and family. But nurturing those relationships is just as important as nurturing your romantic one. It's also a really great way to give your partner some space. "Take turns spending time with separate friend groups who share similar interests (such as sports, running, watching movies, etc.)," Zarrabi says. "This allows space and time for both partners to connect with their friends and enjoy separate interests."
And spending more time with your friends can actually improve your relationship. "Friends help you realistically look at things; they help you see things for what they really are," Janna Koretz, Psy.D., licensed psychologist previously told Bustle. "Having someone who can be an outside perspective to help you make good decisions will benefit your relationship.” Also, romantic relationships can be stressful. “If you talk to friends, then you probably have people saying 'I've done that before' or 'This is how you solve that problem,’” Koretz says. “Friendship provides a really good support network."
Set New Goals For Yourself
"The best way to give a partner space is to dig in and challenge yourself to do something that's a true challenge and takes you out of your comfort zone," Jude Treder-Wolff, licensed clinical social worker who specializes in relationship skill development, tells Bustle. When your partner says they need some space, it can be an incredible opportunity for you, too. Instead of waiting around, fill your time with things that you love doing. If you need more of a distraction, take on a "next-level goal" that brings out a hidden or undeveloped strength. "When we expand in positive ways, relationships that are healthy expand along with them," Treder-Wolff says. "Unhealthy relationships may flounder a bit when one partner grows, but that can lead to an important change."
Let Go Of Any Fears You May Have Of Being Alone
If you have any unresolved attachment issues from childhood, your partner's request for space can make you really anxious. But it's important to remember that having some time alone is healthy. "While it may be normal to be stressed when giving each other a little more free time, there's a difference between rational and irrational worry," Nalin says. "A strong, healthy relationship that includes personal time should feel safe and secure. Let go of the worry and enjoy some personal space that will most likely serve to strengthen your relationship." At the end of the day, you'll be fine.
It isn't easy to hear that your partner needs some time apart. But it doesn't mean that they don't love you or that your relationship is headed for a breakup. In fact, how you respond to their request is key. If you follow these things, you can give your partner the space they need while never losing your connection.
Stephanie Wijkstrom, certified counselor
Dr. Roxy Zarrabi, Psy.D
Dr. Jeff Nalin, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist
Jude Treder-Wolff, licensed clinical social worker
Dr. Jaclyn Lopez Witmer, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist
Janna Koretz, Psy.D., licensed psychologist
Lapierre, Matthew & Custer, Benjamin. (2020). Testing relationships between smartphone engagement, romantic partner communication, and relationship satisfaction. Mobile Media & Communication. 9. 205015792093516. 10.1177/2050157920935163.
This article was originally published on