When I was with my ex I began to find his company suffocating. He didn’t want to take me out, but didn’t want me to go out and have fun with my friends. He got jealous over me seeing family. I once volunteered at a music festival – just boring runner stuff – just for a little space from being around him.
I generally find myself to be the needier partner…
But after surviving a 5 year relationship where I learnt that being joint at the hip wasn’t all it was cut out to be, where I learnt that space and time from each other can keep things fresh – or at least give me a break from something going stale! – I realised that sometimes you don’t have to fear the worst – that your partner is bored of you, that he’s looking for someone better while you’re away, that he’s glad you’re gone (although he might be glad, we’ll come back to that).
Here are some tips and tidbits on how to make the most of “space”…
If your partner wants space, be respectful
If you partner wants to spend every waking moment with you, then he/she will try to. If they’re holding back, being non-committal about plans for the weekend, cancelling plans to spend time doing something else, maybe that something else really matters to them. That’s not to say that you don’t matter to them, but you can’t expect to be the centre of his/her universe, and they shouldn’t be that for you either!
Use the time apart to remind yourself what and who you were before “me” became “we”. I don’t mean go out in your skimpiest skirt with your bad influence of a best friend scouting for new talent! Remember what gives you substance. Get your finances up to date, make those phone calls you’ve been meaning to make, check in with your friend and family, take a moment to think about where your life is heading (I made some huge life decisions on a 3 day break from my ex and I’m currently contemplating a possible career switch up while my partner is sat in a restaurant with his colleagues).
Reconnect with yourself
Dig out that Sex and the City boxset and spend the evening with Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte. Indulge in your guilty pleasures, or just those shows and bands that your partner isn’t really into. Read that book you’ve had sat on the shelf for months. Soon you’ll find yourself enjoying the time apart… Separate apartments worked for Carrie and Big, who’s to say that a few nights apart won’t work for you too?
Be present, but don’t be in-your-face
It’s important to remind each other that you love each other. I’ll repeat that. It’s important to remind each other that you love each other. But sending streams of texts about how much you miss one another is pointless. If you know when you’re seeing each other, be loving, be kind, be patient and stay cool! You wouldn’t like it the other way around, if you’d asked for some me time and you never actually got a moment’s peace.
Feel what you need to feel but don’t act on it
It’s ok to feel sad, lonely, rejected, but it’s not ok to beat your partner up about it. Don’t lie to yourself about your feelings. Just feel them. They say ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. Maybe this time apart will give you and your partner fresh perspective on how much you mean to each other. Remember, you’re not the only one who sometimes feels alone, and you don’t have to make it a negative thing.
Be honest without placing blame
If your partner has been brave enough to ask for space, return his or her honesty. If it’s driving you insane being apart, be clear about your feelings without creating guilt. It’s ok to say “I know you need space but I miss you”. It’s not ok to send essay long emails demanding attention and outlining why you feel neglected. All that will achieve is resentment and more distance, unless you both really get off on being angry and frustrated with each other.
Is your time apart more enjoyable than the time together, or does the time apart make you both reconnect that little bit more? Is it a case of needing time to yourselves, or needing time without each other? It’s ok to be honest. If you’re happier alone, be happier – alone.
To the space-needer: don’t be gone for too long
It’s easy to feel like a ‘break’ or some ‘space’ or some ‘time’ apart is code for ‘breaking up’. This kind of panic can make us more need and attention seeking than normal. I am really guilty of this in relationships. The boy goes on a night out and I text incessantly all night and argue into the early hours. “Why didn’t you read my text? Why didn’t you reply?” usually met with “Why can’t you just understand that I’m out with friends, I spend every night with you!” or something along those lines. Arguing for no sake, just letting insecurities be fuelled by silence. If you’re the space-needer, try to still be attentive and reassuring. You’ll get more space and peace than you’d get if you neglect to contact your partner at all, or if you scoot around the subject when he or she asks where you were and who you were with. Don’t fuel insecurity.
Remember: it’s not your partner’s job to be there when it suits you! You’re in a relationship and with that comes a certain level of responsibility to be available to your partner.
Give the right amount of space for the right amount of time
If you want to give each other space so you can get shit done, that’s great! But don’t leave someone hanging. If someone asks for space and you go silent, regardless of whether or not they’ve asked for it, it’s going to give the impression that you don’t really care anymore. If your partner wants some radio silence time to enjoy a stag or hen do, sending a “hope you’re having a good night” or a text before bed is NOT invading their space. Likewise, if you’re the one off doing your own thing and leaving your partner at home, show that you appreciate their understanding of your needs by telling them. Send a little message saying “thinking of you” or “hope you’re having a relaxing evening” or “looking forward to seeing you”. That kind of thing. Remind yourselves of how needy you weren’t before you were together, but how much you wanted to see and hear from each other.