Space – Not the Outer Kind – That Unseen Aspect Necessary to Every Relationship

When your partner says “You are smothering me” or “You need to give me some space.” or “I need some space.” can leave you feeling disturbed, on the offense, or even scared.  The first thing you may respond to your partner is, “What do you mean you need more space, space for what?”  It is a pretty typical response, maybe not the best, but when one is feeling threatened, knee jerk responses can come flowing out of our mouths at times. 

First thing you need to do is breath, breath really deep and think of what brought out the space statement.  Was there anything being discussed at the time?  Have you been smothering your partner?  Then ask yourself the big question, “Do I trust my partner?”  If there are trust issues in a relationship, more then likely space issues have arose.  When there is lack of trust in a partner the other partner tends to smother the other partner, wanting to know what they are doing, when, with who, why, tag along everywhere they go, even to the extreme of spying on the other partner.  If the space statement came from your partner and you have lack of trust in your partner the real issue that needs to be dealt with first is the trust.  Until that is dealt with, you will never be comfortable giving your partner the space they are asking for and more then likely the relationship will fail. 

That is not the only scenario though where a partner may ask for space in a relationship.  There are two more main reasons a partner may ask for space, one, they are using it for a reason to take a break from the relationship, or 2) they are wanting emotional space.  I am not going to get into the using “I need space” excuse for abandoning a relationship.  Way too many factors can play into that scenario and would be an article of its own.  However emotional space I will go into further. 

Both parties in a relationship need space to survive.  Think of it like a plant, if you plant too many plants close together, they smother each other out and they die.  They need room to grow and so do you and your partner.  To have a healthy relationship both parties need to have a certain amount of emotional and physical space from one another.  

First off, let me explain emotional space for you.  Every relationship is emotional, no doubt.  You should be able to share everything with one another but if one person is the one doing all the sharing and expecting the other partner to do all the dealing with the others emotions, thoughts, feelings, problems, wants , and needs that is emotionally draining.  Therefore, when one is asking for emotional space they are basically drained from tending to your needs and their emotional needs are not being met. 

There are four types of couples when it comes to the emotional aspect.  See which category you fall under and what you can do to give your partner the emotional space they are asking of you. 

1.  One Partner Drains the Other of Emotional Space

There are two scenarios to this one, the emotionally greedy person, and the emotional connection needy person. 

Emotionally Greedy

One partner is excessively needy, emotional, and possessive and often times demanding.  They are emotionally greedy.  The emotional needy person can appear to be a “me” oriented person who is demanding of the other partners’ time and attention insisting that their needs or wants be met first.  The receiver will either become drained from their emotional needs not being met or go elsewhere to get them met.  You will see the receiver start to become distant or aloof of their partners needs.  The emotional greedy person may have not always been as needy.  Various aspects of the relationship may have created the excessive behavior or they may have always just been an emotionally needy person.  At one time in the relationship that may have been an attribute the partner liked about the other, giving the receiver the feeling that their partner truly needed them however along the way when only one person needs are being met it creates a lopsided relationship that is headed for disaster. 

Emotional Connection

On the other hand, if the person appearing emotionally needy is doing so to occupy the emotional space out of fear there will be no “real” relationship if they don’t may become drained themselves from feeling like they are the only one working on the relationship.  This person is always asking emotionally based questions, looking for confirmation of love and commitment, where the relationship stands, asking what the partner needs are and if they are being met and so on.  The partner on the other hand will appear to have no needs and may even appear distant which can be the driving force for the emotionally needy person.  This person is not so much a “me” person and more so a connection needy person.  However, by working the relationship so hard on only one end can create dram in the relationship with the receiver feeling they cannot get a break from the drama.  It also shuts down any responsibility of the receiver to have to do any work in the relationship.  

2.  Taking Turns Occupying Emotional Space

This relationship appears to be emotionally equal in taking turns in occupying emotional space.  A good portion of this is healthy for a relationship as both at one point or another is expressing their emotional needs, wants, etc.  It means both parties can communicate and at one time or another is participating in the relationship, however not simultaneously.  This can make it hard for a couple to achieve the closeness and connection they are seeking if it is always just one sides needs being met at a time. 

3.  Neither Partner Needs Or Takes Up Any Emotional Space

This type of relationship actually works for some people.  If you have never really been an emotional needy person or have shut down the thought of even ever having your emotional needs met this can even be comfortable for some.  In some relationships that have aged people can become to feel that all their needs have been met for the most part, emotionally stop at this level, and do not bother moving further into each other’s emotional lives.  This does not mean the relationship is at a doomed status, however if you want more of an emotional connection, take baby steps breaking back into the emotional water.  You do not want to come off as emotionally greedy or connection needy.  Start closing up some of the gaps.  Instead of each of you in separate rooms watching a TV program sit in the same room.  When asked a question stop giving just one word responses.  Be a bit more open about your day rather then just responding with a simple one or two word response.  However, keep in mind that your partner may be perfectly comfortable with the emotional distance and determine for yourself if you are okay living like that. 

4.  Emotionally Connected

The healthy balance of emotional needs are being met, both couples are actively involved in each other’s lives and emotional needs.  They know when to give space, both physical and emotionally and are comfortable in doing both.  They do not burden either with excessive needy behaviors and have equally as healthy relationships (friends and family) outside of their coupled relationship.  They are in tune with their partners emotional needs and know when and when not to intervene. 

Emotional space and physical space can very well coincide with one another, yet there are many aspects as you can see that do not.  There needs to be a certain amount of physical space in a healthy relationship.  In the emotional greedy or connection needy type that space is often lacking and in the emotional absent there can be sometimes too much physical space.  With everything, the key is a healthy balance.  If you are having a hard time finding that healthy balance, you may want to speak with a counselor or a relationship coach to help you work on your relationship skills to achieve that balance.

My blue car is a lot like me, old and rusty. I can get buy with an old car because there is more to life than working every day to pay for a car ever 5 years. I go to Rome, instead.


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