I Need Space: The Three Words that shouldn't Provoke Fear in Partnership

I want some space. For my Legacies of Gold friends with a significant other, does that statement make you nervous? In the context of relationships, space has become a word that’s been given a negative connotation, often equated with ‘taking a break,' or even ‘breaking up,’ though that’s not definitively synonymous. Still, I’ll admit: I also had a negative association with the word, especially the first time it came up in my relationship.

Last summer, my girlfriend and I had spent everyday together -- actually, we’re still pretty inseparable -- but during these early moments of getting to know each other in so many spheres and continuous daily interactions, she suddenly turned to me and said, “I need some time to myself.” I immediately froze. My mind scrambled as I thought our time together was over..that our quasi-romantic hangouts had reached its conclusion. But it wasn’t: she ended up seeing me the next night, and I realized that I was just overreacting and perhaps a little short-sighted about what she really meant. In retrospect, I should have understood that we were spending a remarkable amount of time together, something that in all honesty, was out of the ordinary for both of us. It was the early stages of our first real monogamous relationship; it was natural for her to want time to reflect and process everything that came with our new relationship.

After my initial perplexed reaction last summer, I think she got the hint and never explicitly asked for space again. However, recently this summer posed a challenge for me among balancing my relationship, regulating my emotions, and juggling several professional roles. Without realizing it, I had burned out in every sense: physically, emotionally, and psychologically. When all my emotions came to a head, I felt like I needed an escape from everyone and everything standing in the way of me having a more balanced sense of self...or else I was going to crack. I was extremely overwhelmed and being in a relationship made it even harder to balance time for me. Because taking temporary time apart from my girlfriend was such a foreign and a fearful idea to me, I felt as though the only way to get the respite I needed was to end the relationship. Out of ignorance, I almost ended the best thing that’s happened to me. I knew in my heart that this was not what I wanted, and acknowledging and discussing this began a new route for us to more openly divulge our immediate feelings and to be aware of the things we declare about each other and our relationship. We decided we would try our best to take healthy space apart while still being sensitive to the other person's feelings. We embraced space apart and saw it as a positive rather than negative. For our relationship, space helped us to focus more on our own personal growth.

Here’s how we’ve accepted a more mindful approach to taking space:

  1. Analyze why you need this space to begin with:

  • What is happening in your life/relationship that is pushing you to want space from your partner?

  • Is this feeling/incident of wanting space a pattern?

2) If you feel like you need space, acknowledge what space means for you in your relationship context:

  • Will taking space apart help or prolong the issues at hand?

  • Personally, I’ve found that the action of taking space has its own spectrum. It’s helpful to pinpoint where you lie on the range:

Time to apart to prioritize life tasks → Time apart to breathe and recollect after tough moments → Taking a break/pause from the relationship → Splitting up and ending the relationship

3) Have a mutual understanding of how long the time apart will be and what the parameters of the space is:

  • Will you guys see/speak to each other during this time of space?

  • What do you require from this space and how will you communicate ?

  • What is the mindset/rubric you will follow after the moment of space ends?

Ideas to make the most out of your time apart:

  1. Self-care, self-care, self-care:

  • Meditate

  • DIY facemask

  • Massage

  • Yoga, journal, reflect

Really use this time alone to take care of yourself. Often in relationships we invest all our time and energy into the other person. But this time is meant for you and you only, so treat yourself!

2) Spend time with friends or family:

Remember those people you use to hang out with everyday before getting into a relationship? Text them ASAP and go out and see them! Go clubbing, do boozy brunch, gossip, vent, or just chill at home with them.

3) Have a cheat day and see your boo!:

It’s ok, you’re going to miss them! It was bound to happen, but don’t make a habit of too many cheat days. Be sure to communicate with your partner the terms of space so you aren’t sending mixed signals and y’all are both on the same page!

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