Closeness and intimacy may seem like the most important elements to a relationship. Good sex builds intimacy, but the majority of people value their personal space over a dynamic sex life.
Over the last 25 years, Dr. Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship has been conducting a long-term study of marriage. The study itself is called The Early Years of Marriage Project, which has been following the same 373 married couples throughout the throws of their relationships since 1990.
As you may imagine, not all of the couples managed to remain happy throughout the duration of their relationships. 29% of the spouses reported that they were not given enough privacy or time to themselves from their partners. Not only that, but 11.5% of the unhappy spouses said that the root of their unhappiness came from a lack of personal space. This is nearly double the amount of the 6% who claimed that they were unhappy solely because of their sex lives.
From Me to Us
At the beginning of a relationship, time and space are the two things given generously to their partners while the initial foundation is being built. This foundation is made up of a few essential elements that create a successful relationship: proximity, frequency, duration, intensity.
It’s not as complicated as it may seem. The two individuals begin spending more time together and doing things together. Their lives begin to overlap as they get closer. They start sharing more than just their time, but their interests, their preferences and their space.
As their lives begin to overlap, the two individuals begin to define themselves as the other half of a couple. It suddenly becomes, “we” and “us” instead of “me” and “I”.
Subconsciously, the partner becomes the consideration of every action. You will consider how your partner may react or feel, because they are now a part of who you are.
The two partners no longer have their own individual space because they no longer identify as an individual. They are the half to a whole. At this stage, many people begin to feel that they have lost their sense of self.
Space Brings You Closer
Scientific evidence states that personal space is essential, even for those who are engulfed in a relationship. We all need to recharge and get in touch with ourselves in order to not get too overwhelmed and feeling stressed.
When others are close to us, we tend to notice all of their features on a magnetized level. This can cause a sensory overload because your brain is working hard to process all of the information. Giving yourself some space reduces the stress of sensory overload.
Keeping your distance from time to time will protect your from unwanted stressful stimuli. Close contact makes you vulnerable to possible acts of aggression which are more offensive and dangerous up close.
Not only is spending time apart healthy, but it also helps to keep things fresh and exciting in your relationship. Give yourselves a chance to miss each other and look forward to seeing one another. It will encourage each person to still be an individual while still remaining a couple.
A successful relationship is one that encourages independence and strength, rather than neediness and clinginess.
Don’t feel guilty if you need to take a moment for yourself. It is extremely healthy to do so, and will help you to keep in touch with your sense of self.
You should never feel guilty about taking some time for yourself. It is your prerogative to catch up with some friends, indulge in your hobbies, or simply just taking some time to relax. It will give you a sense of privacy, which you rightfully deserve. Taking some time to nurture what’s important to you doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your relationship. The other aspects of your life should not be neglected or fall by the wayside.
If you give yourselves the space to consistently grow together, then you are likely to stay together. But in order to do that, you must give yourselves the room to grow.
Spending every waking moment together does not prove that you are perfect for one another. You don’t have to do every little thing together to know that your relationship has meaning. In fact, you’re only hurting yourselves. By crowding each other, you’re stunting your growth.
Set boundaries early
The best time to talk about the need for space is in the beginning stages of the relationship. This is when you are establishing the patterns of the relationship and will define how you will spend time together. This way bother partners know where each other stands, and it won’t seem hurtful when they ask for space in the future.
It is also important you establish the reasoning behind the need for space; i.e. the pursuit of certain interests, feeling overworked and tired, or the fear of over-investing only to have the relationship fail. This will open a dialogue that leads to deeper issues such as insecurity or jealousy.
Most importantly, it will give both partners an opportunity to remind themselves that they are individuals as well as part of a couple. They don’t have to be just one or the other.
Set aside some “me time”
Everyone has different needs and ways of enjoying their personal space. Some may like to spend a few hours at a nearby café, go for a hike, hang out with friends, or even just take some time away in another room in the house.
Establish your need for me time ahead of time. Let your partner know when you will be needing it, as well as how you will be spending it. This way they can plan for their own me time and feel that it is a group effort.
Together, but Apart
Don’t ever feel guilty about needing some personal space. Just be sure to speak openly with your partner about your needs. And give them that same freedom. The stronger you each stand on your own, the stronger you will stand together.
Featured photo credit: Photo by Dani Vivanco on Unsplash via unsplash.com
|||^||EYM Project: The Early Years of Marriage Project|
|||^||Sources of Insight: Personal Space: How It Protects Us, Reduces Stress, and Improves Our Focus|
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