FYI, needing space isn't a bad thing.
Just like the dreaded phrase, “We need to talk,” the words, “I need space” often get a bad rap. Some people think the meaning of “I need space” is, “I want to break up with you and I don’t know how,” but that often isn’t the case. Space in a relationship can be a good — and sometimes, necessary — thing, and if you’re feeling like you could use a little “me time” away from your partner, then there are ways to ask for it without hurting any feelings or causing any fear.
As sex and intimacy coach Irene Fehr previously told Elite Daily, it’s natural to need space, so you shouldn’t feel guilty if you do. "We have two competing needs that collide in a relationship: the need to be individuals and the need to be in relationship or connection with another human being; to be ourselves and to belong," she explained. "Both nourish and feed each other. When we're supported by partners, we feel safe to be ourselves. And when we're ourselves and have our individual needs met, we're better partners.” But if you’re not sure how to approach this tricky convo with your SO, then here’s what you should know.
What Does It Mean To Need Space In A Relationship?
People need space in relationships for a variety of reasons, and not all of them have to do with their partners. Perhaps you miss spending time with friends, or you’re eager for some alone time, or you’ve forgotten who you are outside of your relationship. According to sex and relationship therapist Shamyra Howard, creating and supporting space in a relationship is always beneficial, no matter the reason. As she previously told Elite Daily, “Space is helpful for recharging, taking much needed breaks, and maintaining a sense of individuality in the relationship."
More often than not, space is an emotional need, and asking for it doesn’t mean you’re doubting what you have with your partner — though if that is the case, you should be upfront about it. "Needing space and taking space can be really healthy if it's not being used as manipulation in a relationship," Diana Dorell, intuitive dating coach and author of The Dating Mirror: Trust Again, Love Again, previously told Elite Daily. "Expressing that, in order to feel safe to go deeper in the relationship, taking some space is needed, can let the other person know that you aren't bailing — you are just taking some time to regroup."
How Do You Know You Need Space In A Relationship?
Certain signs will make themselves apparent to you when you need some space. If you find yourself feeling annoyed with your SO, lashing out at them, picking fights, or feeling short-tempered around them, then it’s probably time to spend a night, a weekend, or maybe even a week on your own. “Too much togetherness is suffocating," author and NYC dating expert Susan Winter told Elite Daily. "We're going to be impatient and reactive if we haven't had space to unwind and collect our thoughts. The correct balance of together and alone time is essential for any relationship to thrive."
But know that there’s a difference between wanting a little space and wanting to take a break. According to Winter, “You'll know you've got a problem if you get more joy being away from your partner than with them, you find yourself making less and less time to see your mate each week, or you have to force yourself to put on a 'happy face' in order to appear normal.” If that’s the case, then you probably need more than a short reprieve — you may need to take a break from your relationship, and that requires a different sort of conversation.
How Do You Ask For Space In A Relationship?
When asking for space from a partner, it’s important to be clear about your wants and needs so that your boo doesn’t freak. "If you want to explain to your partner that you want space without hurting their feelings, let them know that while you love and cherish spending time with them, you are an independent person and need time to do different things by yourself,” Alessandra Contico, dating expert and matchmaker for Matchmakers In The City, told Elite Daily. “You want to keep things exciting and fresh, and if you are together all of the time, it can grow too familiar and grating."
Keep in mind that your SO may react adversely to you asking for space. "Sometimes people have a history of 'space' being a trigger, a tool of emotional manipulation, or a reminder of neglect — hence why many of us might find ourselves clinging on to our loved ones," Dr. Shena Young, a psychologist who focuses on trauma, told Elite Daily. To keep hurt feelings at bay, emphasize that you just need some time to recharge, that you're not angry with them, and that you don't love them any less. "In voicing this, partners have an opportunity to clarify intentions and offer reassurance," Dr. Young added.
As Dorell previously explained, "There is a difference between taking space within a relationship, saying, 'I'd like to spend this weekend with myself' [versus] 'I need to take space away from the relationship for like one month to see other people.’” As long as you’re clear with your needs and communicate honestly with your partner, then taking some space apart will likely only make your bond stronger.
Irene Fehr, sex and intimacy coach
Shamyra Howard, sex and relationship therapist
Susan Winter, author and NYC dating expert
Alessandra Contico, dating expert and matchmaker for Matchmakers In The City
Dr. Shena Young, psychologist
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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