Relationship Space: The Final Frontier?

Monday, Nov. 15th 2010 5:51 PM

“I need space” – three of the scariest words in common relationship dialogue, right? Wrong. That’s just what we’ve been conditioned to think. In truth, space is not necessarily the final frontier on the way to separation or divorce. When approached with honesty and creativity, it can open up new horizons for you and your relationship, and bring you even closer to your partner.

A few years ago, I really needed some alone time. I was stressed and simply wanted to rest and recharge. So I called my mate and told her that I wanted to disappear for a few days. She said, “Okay.” I went to a bed-and-breakfast and slept like a baby. I maintained complete solitude and quiet for two days. It was a wonderful experience. And when I returned, I loved her even more than I did when I left. I appreciated her flexibility and support. It was, and remains, priceless to me. And getting the rest that I needed made me less on-edge at home, which helped us get along better.

I told a friend about that experience, and his instant reaction was, “I wish I would tell my wife that I want to ‘disappear for a few days.’ She would tell me to ‘go disappear to that couch.'” I understand that her reaction is probably a fairly standard one. The way most romantic relationships start and develop makes space a tricky issue to negotiate. Typically, we date each other, and as we grow closer emotionally, we begin to spend more and more time together. We move closer until we generally get as close to one another as we can imagine. And when we get to this point, we rarely recalibrate the space.

Most of us in long-term relationships will eventually face issues with our partners that we don’t see coming, and that we don’t know how to immediately deal with. Having time alone to think can help give us the clarity we need to understand their side or to figure out possible solutions. Sometimes we are so infuriated and exhausted that we really just need time away to calm down. In times like this, SPACE may be the ideal solution.

Instead, when we are irritated with each other, we talk, which is sensible. We get professional counseling, which is also sensible. We get counseling from our friends, which is pretty standard. Yet, most of us are petrified to play with the space. The reasons for this mostly boil down to fear (see “Don’t Leave You Partner Out in the Cold“). We fear that space is the final frontier in a relationship. We fear what other people will think and say. We worry about who or what will fill our partners’ time away, and about what else we might have to agree to later on if we “grant” this freedom now. And most importantly, we fear that we’re “surrendering” something we believe is ours. I understand fear. It is human nature and a great tool for recognizing when we are ill prepared to deal with a given circumstance. But don’t forget that another powerful human ability is that of identifying and adjusting when we – or our partners – need SPACE.

Instead of worrying about what asking for space, or granting it to your partner, says about the failures in your relationship, consider what it says about the strength of your relationship. Much of the beauty of a partnership lies in the ability to negotiate issues that arise with creativity, flexibility and peace. To be willing to step away from one another long enough to recharge, clarify or recalibrate what you love and don’t love about your relationship means that you care enough about yourself and your mate to allow each another to grow – whether that means growing to, from, with or without each other. This type of closeness and understanding is priceless!

Keep Rising,

Frank Love

www.FrankLove.com

…and please do not multi-task when driving.

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How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

11 Comments on “Relationship Space: The Final Frontier?”

  1. T Says:

    Nice one! I’m terrible with this — at least in short-term matters. “Jason” and I both like alone time, so we’re always obliging in that area. But when he is upset with me, or I’m upset with him, I want to talk about it immediately, clear the air, make it go away. He wants to calm down and think about it for a while before we talk. And I know that makes sense, but I hate discord so much that I have a hard time waiting for him to do that. I’ll remember this blog next time. 🙂

  2. Diallo Sumbry Says:

    Spot on. This is something a lot of people need to read and talk about it. It’s important and all too often people operate from connotations and believe that space automatically = separation or divorce or that something isn’t working right at home. I am one of those people who is a much better partner when I can have space. I feel crowded very easily. Thanks for the perspective Frank. Peace and Love.

  3. Christian Dinesen Says:

    And Frank….this I guess is not only in a private relationship, it would count for professional relationships as well?

  4. Erik Cornish Says:

    In my work as a financial healer a lot of couples benefit from financial space by staying financially independent in a relationship, many of life’s little problems start with financial issues!

  5. Jane Medcalf Says:

    My partner likes her space every so often and I hate this. It always causes difficulties between us!

  6. Gerda Brussé Says:

    I agree, sometimes it’s better to take time for yourself. Those who feel this way can give more time and attention to others.

  7. Dawn Davidson Says:

    Interestingly, it’s been proposed that “space” may also need “relationships”:

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/2002ESASP.514..313H
    “Psychological Aspects of Living In Space: Architectural Challenges,” by Häuplik, S. & Lorenz, S.
    The unique challenges of living in a mixed gender, tight-quarters situation may call for a form of non-monogamy that strongly resembles polyamory, just to keep the astronauts sane. :^)

  8. Leslee Says:

    Thanks for this! My husband and I were just discussing our own individual needs for some time alone. I love your description of solitude here! Often, taking space and time alone does really reaffirm the relationship.

  9. Shea Says:

    Sadly, the way we have treated relationships and those that we have been in relation with has lead to a very deep insecurity that prevents us from supporting and understanding each others need to have a “me” moment. I am so glad she understood that your request was not about another woman or her, but your sanity and well being. We have all got a lot of mending healing and growing to do in how we conduct ourselves in relationships (not just man and woman dating, but ALL relationships).

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