How To Tell Your Partner You Need Space
By: Ganel, LCMFT Owner/Principal Therapist
Couples Therapy Catonsville
* Why is personal space so important in a relationship?
For the flames of passion to burn brightly, there needs to be air. When there is too much closeness, togetherness and connection in a relationship, it is like smothering the fire, leaving it no air to burn. It is no wonder that people in relationships with too little personal space often describe feeling smothered by their partner. Personal space is essential because it allows you to bring your best self to the relationship. You are energized, connect with the things you enjoy as a unique individual and can share those experiences with your partner when you reconnect.
* How much personal space should a person have in a relationship?
Every couple has to negotiate how much personal space works for their unique partnership and each person has their own level of need. On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being little to no time needed), you might be at a 4 in terms of time needed together and he may be at an 8! It’s important not to judge your partner as wrong because his need is different from yours, but rather negotiate what works for both of you to have your individual needs met. This may mean compromising on how often you spend time out with the girls and make sure it is balanced by time spend with your partner in a way that leaves him feeling connected and not abandoned and making sure you don’t feel smothered. If you have difficulty managing your different needs, in this or any area, it may be time to seek the help of a couples counselor.
* How can you tell your partner that you need a little more without offending him?
As with any issue you discuss of a sensitive nature like this, make sure to reassure him that you recognize that time together is as important as time apart from one another in order for the relationship to be healthy and that you want to take care of all the needs you each have. If you approach him with compassion, thoughtfulness and are open to discussing your needs without blame, criticism or contempt, you can talk about all touchy issues without causing him to be offended.
For example, you might say, “Hey hon, I really enjoyed our date night the other night. We laughed and talked and I really felt close to you. I also enjoy my time out with my girlfriends or even the time I spend alone on a run or shopping and I haven’t been doing that as frequently lately. It helps me bring my best self to our time together and I get to share with you the things I’ve seen and experienced while we are apart. Can we talk about ways we can make sure we fit in to our schedule times that we do things separate from one another a little more regularly?”
Risa Ganel is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist for over 20 years in Columbia, Maryland. Her private practice, Together Couples Counseling, helps couples communicate, trust and reconnect.