7 Top Questions on Space in a Relationship

Relationships A-Z
31 Dec 2023
9 min read
How to Give And Receive Space in a Relationship: 7 Answers

We all need personal space, but it can be difficult to ask for space in a relationship. It may feel uncomfortable to ask for it because it can hurt the person we love. Likewise, it can feel hurtful when a person we love tells us to back off. That feeling isn’t always off-base, as the phrase “I need space” is sometimes code for “I want to end this relationship without being the one to say it’s over.”

Both partners need the right amount of breathing room in a successful relationship. But clearly, the notion of giving and receiving space in a relationship can be complex. So, let’s take a deeper dive into:

  • Importance of space in a relationship
  • How much personal space is a good thing
  • What happens when there is too much space in a relationship
  • How to give your partner space
  • How to ask for space

We are here to answer all the questions that bother both partners regarding giving and receiving space in a relationship.

1. Why Space Is Important in a Healthy Relationship?

A healthy amount of space means you both pursue your personal interests, engage in self-care, spend time with friends and family, and just enjoy being alone.

It’s good to be a part of a couple until you begin to lose your identity. This is why it’s so important to have space and pursue personal interests if you want a fulfilling relationship. It shows that you have healthy boundaries and that both of you retain your individuality.

If you don’t maintain a balance between togetherness and space in a relationship, you can grow tired of one another:

  • Small irritations and disagreements become magnified
  • You may even become bitter as you feel as if you are losing your freedom and individuality

Think of asking for space as a way to preserve your mental health. Done correctly, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Related reading: How To Maintain Your Individuality While In a Relationship

How much space in a relationship is a good thing

2. How Much Space Is a Good Thing for Us?

The right extent of space is subjective. Some couples in a romantic relationship are virtually inseparable, and it works for them. Others are all about maintaining their individuality.

As long as both are satisfied and on the same page, that’s the ideal amount of space.

The right amount of space also depends on the season of the relationship:

  • In a new relationship, people tend to crave togetherness.
  • Over time, the couple tends to spend more time apart, each doing their own thing.
  • Finally, if there is tension in the relationship, giving space can prevent a breakup.

Smart couples know they can make a relationship stronger if they back off and give one another some alone time.

3. Am I Asking for Too Much Space in a Relationship?

Conversely, too much space in a relationship can weaken your bond. Eventually, you begin to wonder why you are together if you are always apart. Couples need to spend quality time together, as there is definitely such a thing as too much independence.

Here are some signs that you are spending too much time away from your partner:

  • They don’t feel loved anymore
  • You don’t feel the love either
  • Communication falls apart
  • Neither of you knows what’s going on with the other
  • There is a temptation to cheat
  • You no longer feel like part of a couple

When this happens, it’s time to think about what the two of you really want. Are you just interested in maintaining individuality, or is there an inevitable breakup coming? Maybe you don’t need more space. You just need to realize that you are no longer in a close, happy relationship. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to start working on creating a new connection with your partner.

Related reading: Quality Time – It’s a Love Language

4 valid reasons to create space for your partner

4. What Are the Valid Reasons Why Your Partner Might Need Space?

To you, your relationship has the perfect balance. You spend time together, but both get plenty of alone time too. So, it comes as a surprise to you when they communicate that they want space.

Don’t panic. The fact that they are setting boundaries and want some space does not immediately reflect badly on you or your relationship. Instead, consider these 4 reasons for your partner to need space.

Reason #1: Things Are Progressing Too Quickly for Them

Not all relationships are doomed because one person asks for more space. However, it could mean that your partner wants to put the brakes on a bit. If they perceive things are moving too quickly, they may have a sense of dread. Of course, they need space to work through their feelings.

If this is the case, you may start thinking that a breakup is inevitable. This isn’t the case. By giving them space you show you respect their feelings and their boundaries. That doesn’t guarantee the relationship will last, but pressuring them or freaking out isn’t going to make your bond stronger.

Reason #2: They Have Significant Obligations Outside of Your Relationship

The issue may not be you or your relationship at all. Remember that your partner has a life outside of your relationship. Sometimes those external demands can be intense. They may also feel as though they have been neglectful and need to start taking time to focus on their other relationships. School and work may also be a factor. If this is the case, consider that what they need at this moment is the support of their significant other.

Related reading: Boundaries in Relationships – Keeping Them Healthy

Reason #3: They Are Looking for Balance

People need the right balance of time with romantic partners, work, rest, socialization, and pursuing hobbies. When that balance doesn’t exist, the quality of life goes down. So your partner may simply feel the impacts of an unbalanced life and need to reset how they are spending their time. Remember that even though they spend less time with you, they may feel closer to you than ever.

Reason #4: They Want to Gain Perspective on Your Relationship

They may need space because they are questioning the viability of your relationship. Yes, that may mean a break for space that could lead to a permanent end of your relationship, which is not that easy to accept.

You may not be able to change how your partner feels or what they ultimately decide. But, you can do things to make your partner more likely to regain a positive perspective about your relationship. Let them decide how it works better for them – it’ll be for your mutual happiness in any case.

Learn to spend time with yourself

5. How to Be Comfortable With Giving Space to Them?

Relationships never improve if one partner tries to force or manipulate the other into engaging before they are ready. So, let them know you are available, but don’t pressure them into talking about things or demand an answer from them. Concentrate on these 4 self-care practices instead.

Practice #1: Take Care of Yourself

Take care of your physical and mental health. Don’t let them see you falling apart.

It’s manipulative to make them feel obligated to run back to you because you can’t maintain an even keel during a relationship break. You are more likely to reestablish a normal, healthy relationship if you take care of yourself.

Practice #2: Be Honest With Yourself and Your Partner

You shouldn’t burden them with your emotions. That doesn’t mean you have to hold everything in. You should absolutely talk about your emotions and your needs during this time. They need a break, but this affects you too.

But don’t censor yourself for your partner’s benefit. You deserve an honest answer about how this break will work. That includes your right to decide whether you also want to continue in this relationship.

You don’t need to do this in an overwrought, dramatic way. Simply explain how you feel and how their choice to step away impacts you. Then, set your own boundaries regarding what you will and won’t accept.

Related reading: Vulnerability in Relationships: How To Be More Open

Practice #3: Work on Issues If You Need To

When a loved one needs space, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have done anything wrong. Still, this is a good time to do some self-reflection. It isn’t about guilt and shame – but accountability. If you have done things to make the relationship difficult or issues to work through, take this time to do that.

You may choose to deal with a substance issue if you have one. Or, if trauma has impacted your relationship, you could get with a licensed psychologist to become a healthier person.

Taking time to work on yourself can only have a positive impact on your current situation. At best, your partner will see you making an effort and becoming a healthier person.

Practice #4: Live Your Life

One doesn’t need to sit at home just to give the other space. You can absolutely continue living your life.

In fact, you should focus on yourself and your needs more than ever. It’s essential to your well-being to keep a normal routine:

  • Don’t hesitate to pursue new interests
  • Don’t treat this as some terribly bad thing that you won’t recover from.

Instead, show your partner that you are emotionally healthy and capable of independence.

Related reading: Male Maturity – When Does It Kick In?

Mastering the art of giving personal space to them

6. How to Create Space When Your Partner Needs It?

Your partner has come to you and asked for a little space. How do you handle it? Start by not being defensive. Remember that they’re asking for space for good. You know they feel as if they can have open communication with you even if the subject is difficult. Take these 3 positive steps when they ask for a little space.

Step #1: Ask What’s Going On Without Being Intrusive

Your partner may not come right out and say they don’t have enough space for themselves. Instead, they simply back away.

If they do this, there’s nothing wrong with checking in. Simply let them know you’ve noticed that they aren’t engaging as much. Ask them if everything is okay or if they need to talk. Then, back off a bit.

Step #2: Assume Reasonable Scenarios for Needing Space

When your partner is needing space, you may begin speculating some wild scenarios involving cheating or falling out of love with you. Don’t do that.

Instead, take the time to consider that they may have very valid reasons for spending time alone or in other’s presence. For example, they may realize that they have been neglecting their friends. Another possibility is that work has them stressed out and they need time to decompress and get in a better mindset. Consider good things before getting sis[oc

Step #3: Manage Your Emotions in a Healthy Way

You aren’t attention seeking or babyish if you have strong, negative feelings about your partner taking space. It’s okay to miss them. It’s okay to feel some anxiety about your relationship. That said, it is your responsibility to manage your emotions while respecting their clear boundaries.

Start by using this time to engage in some positive activities of your own. Call up friends and arrange some time together. Take a class. Read a book. Join a club. You will feel so much better.

Also, keep in mind that falling apart won’t reduce your partner’s need for space. They will just feel burdened with worry about your mental health or frustrated if they feel manipulated. Try some mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, or other techniques to help you deal with your anxiety. You might also talk to a licensed clinical social worker or other professional.

Don't do this when giving them personal space

7. What Not to Do When Your Partner Says They Need Space?

Finally, check out these 4 common mistakes when it comes to providing someone space in a relationship.

Don’t #1: Accuse Them of Cheating or Disloyalty

Your partner should be able to ask for space to pursue interests, deal with issues they are having, or just for their mental health. You won’t help the situation by accusing them of cheating. All this will do is make the idea of living entirely separate lives more appealing to them.

Don’t #2: Constantly Call or Text Them

Checking in is fine. Constantly calling or texting isn’t. Essentially, you are just dumping your anxiety on them. If they cave and stop asking for time for themselves, they may become resentful. Instead, have a conversation with them and compromise on the amount of contact that works for both of you.

Related reading: Are You In Love or Just Clingy? 8 Love vs Attachment Differences

Don’t #3: Reject Their Reasons

If they choose to explain to you why they need space, that’s great. Don’t accuse them of lying or spend time spying and sleuthing.

If you truly don’t trust them, that’s an easy enough problem to solve. Your relationship was not built on trust in the first place then.

Don’t #4: Fawn And Cling

Fawning is sacrificing your own needs and wellbeing to please and placate another.

If your partner asking for space sends you into an emotional spiral, you may be tempted to do and say anything that you perceive will make them happy. This might include offering sexual favors, compromising yourself financially, or accepting abusive behaviors from them.

A good partner will be bothered deeply by fawning behavior. If your partner is responsive to fawning, you should be concerned about the health of your relationship.

Final Thought: How to Ask For Space in a Relationship

You care about your partner, but it feels like your lives are just two intertwined. At this point you miss the moments Where you need to create some space for yourself. To do this, your best approach is the direct and honest one. Be clear about what you want. Make it about your and your needs. Don’t assign blame. Finally, be honest. Don’t create an illusion that your relationship has hope when it really doesn’t. They will appreciate your honesty.

Relationships Author
Geoffrey Williams
After taking a required Intro to Psychology course as an undergrad, I have never looked back. Since my doctoral program, I have specialized in adult relationship therapy. Through my studies and clinicals, I wrote several articles for professional journals and currently in the midst of writing a book.
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