I need Space! - Why It’s Best for Couples to Have a Little Breathing Room

By Amy Taylor on August 30, 2012

Odd as it seems, but sometimes, couples need some distance to get even closer.

Issues about space and time are common among married and unmarried couples. We hear things like “I need space”, “He doesn’t have time for me”, “She’s too demanding”, “He’s too clingy”, etc. When the closeness between couples becomes too stiff and choking, one cries out for some space. But for the other one, this could mean that the relationship is over.

For people to become successful in their relationships, they need to act like authentic adults, explained David Schnarch, an American psychologist who spent decades studying love and passion. He said it’s easy to have “hot sex” with someone, but passionate marriage requires us to become adults.

Why differentiation is essential among couples

According to Schnarch, being an adult means soothing one’s own bad feelings without the help of someone, pursuing one’s goals and standing on their own. Although these things are often associated with singlehood, Schnarch pointed out that this form of individuality is by all means an essential aspect of any intimate relationship.

He argues that marital attachment may not give couples enough space to speak their own minds, think their own thoughts and attain their own ambitions and goals. He compares it to the infants. Babies develop a certain level of emotional security with their caregiver, barring the opportunity to explore their own world. Instead of infantilising, Schnarch contends that marriage should be a cradle of adult development.

Schnarch shares the same principle with many other experts. For Wendy Allen, a psychologist, instead of paddling together the same canoe, each one should paddle their own, side by side. Striving to become one whole healthy individual is the key towards a healthy relationship.

According to Christopher Knippers, author of Cultivating Confidence, physical and emotional space is a basic necessity. He recommends mingling with friends and other associates, and finding their individual routes to self development. Couples who give time for other things would certainly not run out of things to talk about. By bringing this up and making a compromise, couples will find this strategy helpful without the fear of jealousy, mistrust, or resentment.

People who tend to ignore their partner’s need for space are effectively becoming inconsiderate and not loving, Molly Barrow, author of Matchlines, pointed out. Backing off doesn’t always mean one’s love is gone. It’s just that sometimes, a little breathing room is necessary to keep the relationship working.

How to say “back off” without hurting the other

As mentioned, some people might comprehend their partner’s request for space incorrectly. So it’s always best to strike when the iron is cold, as Michele Weiner Davis, author of The Divorce Remedy, puts it. Choosing the right words and the right time is extremely essential when asking a partner to back off, at least for a while.

To keep the relationship healthy and prosperous, couples should continually assess and adjust the distance between them. It’s not just physical distance that’s involved here, but also the mental and emotional distance. Because without being whole, a person doesn’t have enough love to give.


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