He wanted her. She wanted him. Together they were creating a great relationship. They had fun and shared common interests and values. All was going very well. One day she asked him out. “No,” he said, “Not tonight. I want to spend some time with a couple of my friends.” Trouble in paradise?
One day he said he’d like to make plans for an upcoming weekend. “No,” she said, “I feel a need to get away and have time just by myself to relax.” Is this relationship going down the tubes? Not necessarily. It’s much more likely that it’s alive and well…thriving and growing.
Nothing grows without space and air.
Too often we get into a relationship and it’s all or nothing. We enjoy each other so much we want to spend every minute together. We have such fun together we forget the pleasure of others’ company. The relationship is growing so nicely we overlook our own needs for personal growth and renewal.
However, as Patrician Monaghan says, “Nothing grows well without space and air.” It’s as true for plants as it is for humans; we need these essential elements – in the form of time alone or time with someone else not in the relationship – to flourish and grow.
Usually when someone says “I need time alone,” or “I need space” our fear ramps up. Are they really saying they don’t love us anymore? Is the real message, “I don’t like spending time with you?” We tell ourselves stories that take us down the road of feeling rejected, abandoned and disapproved of. Or, we make ourselves wrong for having a need for space.
What if we changed the stories we tell ourselves? What if we looked deep within and understood that we, too, need ‘space and air’ in our relationship to increase our enjoyment of life and each other? What if we heard our partner’s need for alone time or time with other friends and knew, without a doubt, that this would strengthen our love? New stories and messages would dramatically change our reactions, normalizing our partner’s need and our own need for greater space.
Space is a right and a responsibility.
In truth, building space in our relationship is both a right and responsibility. As human beings, we have the right to grow and learn in whatever way we choose. In a healthy relationship, each person flourishes when there is a mix of time spent together as a couple, and time spent alone or with someone other than our partner. We also, though, have the responsibility to treat our partner with respect when arranging for space. We need to understand taking time to pursue individual hobbies or interests, spend time alone, or connecting with others impacts those we love. It’s important to recognize and respect this while not being constrained by it.
It takes courage.
It takes courage to create space in a relationship. Courage to be authentic and to know when we need time and space to recharge. To express our needs directly. Courage to accept and honor another’s needs.
3 ways to grow your courage:
1. Change your self-talk so you honor your own need and your partner’s human need for space. Affirm how time alone or time with others will spice up your love.
2. Stay true to yourself. Know you will, at times, disappoint or inconvenience your partner when you express your need for space. But also know you have the right to grow in ways you see fit.
3. Negotiate. Find ways to meet your needs and your partner’s needs.