Since every couple has their own needs, habits, and expectations when it comes to love, it can be tough to pinpoint how much space is normal in a relationship. You might happily be attached at the hip. You might happily forget each other exists for hours on end. And who's to say if either stance is right or wrong?
While there may not be an absolute answer, it's definitely possible for your relationship to lean too far in any one direction. Let's start off by focusing on what might happen if you spend every waking moment together. One way to tell you don't have enough space is if you start noticing signs of codependency.
"Codependency occurs when someone is too reliant on their partner psychologically and emotionally," Sasha Jackson, MSW, LCSW, a licensed therapist, tells Bustle. If one or both of you is becoming codependent, you might experience anxiety, fear, or even mistrust (read: suspicion and jealousy) when spending time apart.
Think along the lines of obsessively checking your phone for texts, worrying about what the other is doing, and/or not knowing how to fill a day spent alone. These behaviors may mean you need firmer boundaries — and yes, more time apart.
How To Create More Space In Your Relationship
If you struggle with the idea of spending more time apart, think of this: Jackson says space actually makes a relationship stronger, in a "distance makes the heart grow fonder" type of way. When you maintain your own individual lives — full of personal hobbies, work, friends, etc. — you actually come back to the relationship happier, and that in turn makes it stronger.
So, how do you do it? "A good way to promote space is to support each other’s desire to do activities alone or with friends," Jackson says. If your partner wants to go out, offer to help them get ready and then usher them out the door. While they're away, focus on a hobby that makes you happy. Or simply enjoy the peace and quiet.
It'll also help to create stronger boundaries around social media and phone communication, Jackson says. You might start by promising to call at a certain time instead of texting back and forth incessantly. This change will give you a chance to experience life on your own before reuniting at the end of the day.
Do You Have Too Much Space In Your Relationship?
It's often easier to identify when you're spending too much time together than it is to identify when you're spending too much time apart. But here's a clue: If you and your partner currently have too much space in your relationship, you'll likely notice that a sense of rejection has started creeping in.
"Rejection causes a person to worry about the validity of the relationship or if they are 'good enough,'" Jackson says. Over time, one or both of you might begin to feel insecure, lonely, frustrated, sad — even angry. And this is when you'll get "clingy," Jackson says, because you're craving intimacy.
What's the remedy? Spending more time together. Go on dates, check in, create traditions, and talk about ways to stay connected so that you don't slip back into rejection territory again.
Since there is no "normal" when it comes to space and relationships, it'll be up to you to assess your personal situation and communicate with your partner the moment things feel off-kilter. "Take time to sit with each other and figure out what works best," Jackson says. "[Talk about your] goals and see how they can be combined to create a balance."
Sasha Jackson, MSW, LCSW, licensed therapist