So your partner has decided that they need “space,” but what does that mean exactly and how long is long enough?
What is Space?
Before making any decisions, you need to know what kind of space your significant other needs. It might be a need for emotional space, but it might also be a need for physical space. The first step in resolving a problem is to openly communicate with each other and define your terms!
Physical space is more straightforward, maybe your partner is touched out and just can’t handle hugging/kissing/sex for a while. In this case try to ask your partner what the root of their issue might be so that it can be resolved. It could also be that this partner is not compatible with your love language, and that is totally okay, but you must advocate for yourself too!
Emotional space might be needed for multiple reasons such as: personal growth, stress and overwhelm, dealing with current traumatic events, dealing with past traumas, mental health, and so many more complex situations.
Emotional space can look like taking a step back from problem dumping, taking time to explore one’s own feelings without a second party, and even withdrawing from SOME emotional connection through physical touch. I say some, because withdrawing all emotional connection to your partner can be harmful, and if that is a step that needs to be taken then both parties need to decide on a plan of their needs and how they will be met, as well as a timeline for this space.
Emotional withdrawnness can go from space to ghosting if intentions are not communicated. Emotional space is not ceasing all communication with someone for an indefinite time, that is ghosting and it is not acceptable.
Working Through Feelings with your Partner
First, for the space to be effective and helpful to your relationship there needs to be a plan. Space without a plan is not really serving anyone well, because everyone will be left at least slightly confused about what is going on. Are we together, not together, on a break?
Try sitting down with your partner and talking through the feelings leading up to the need for space. If they are not comfortable with that you could always ask them to write out their feelings instead.
The issue of not knowing why space is needed may also come up, and that is okay! In this case try setting a date with your significant other so that you can come back and talk about how the space has been helpful or hurtful and decide whether this relationship is serving you all well.
Space does not have to be the end of a relationship, it can be a great thing where individuals can grow on their own and that can make a relationship better! But if “space” is being used as an excuse to leave the relationship, that needs to be recognized and thought on as to whether or not you would like the relationship to end.
You Need to Take Care of Yourself Too
It is important to remember that just because a partner needs space does NOT mean that your needs don’t have to be fulfilled or that your thoughts and feelings on the matter have to take a seat on the back burner!
The time frame for emotional space all depends on the people in the relationship! For a couple who is newly dating, a longer period of space may be necessary. With that said, at this stage in the relationship it is perfectly fine to simply end the relationship with that and move on if you so choose.
If a couple has been together for a substantial amount of time, meaning that milestones such as physical intimacy and emotional vulnerability have been met, and you probably see this person at least once a week, planning needs to begin when the idea of space comes up.
So how do you make a plan for space in a relationship?
Communicate, communicate, communicate!
When beginning the planning process, remember to try not to be offended by the idea of space or time apart, it may not have much correlation with you! Try your best to be understanding of your partner.
Making a Space Plan:
1. Establish a why
- Why does your partner need space?
- Is this space a reflection of your actions or their own surroundings outside of you? If it is your actions, can they be modified, explained, or apologized for (if necessary)?
2. Establish a what
- What kind of space does your partner need? Physical? Emotional?
- What does that space look like for them? Sleeping separately? No sex? Etc.
3. Establish a when
- When can we break from space?
- How long is each person comfortable having that space?
- Can we meet in one week to discuss the progress we want to see and our feelings on the matter?
Every Couple is Different
There is no cut and dry way to establish how much space is too much space, that is a decision a couple has to make on their own.
Trust your gut to know when something is not right and speak up for yourself if you are feeling neglect! Space should not be an intentional way to hurt someone that you care about, so if you are hurting, your partner should know. The only way for them to know is for you to communicate with them.
Every couple is different, but if I had to give a hard and fast rule for space I would say a month is a long time for space, after a month you should start to assess individually and with your partner if the right move is to end the space, break up, or come up with alternatives until that space can end. ‘
After a month of space, it might be a good time to suggest seeing a professional together to work through differences in the relationship.
Do what is best for you, and, as always, stay safe, have fun, and be your beautiful self!