I was with my best friend of 15 years, Nira in this beautiful restaurant. I hadn’t met Nira in a long while and there was so much to catch up. A lunch date did not seem enough. We had barely placed our lunch order when I saw him sauntering towards me, sheepishly. I was happy to see him though not now. He smothered me in a tight embrace and hugged Nira, lightly. Nira saw the disappointed look in my eyes. We continued with our conversation punctuated by his intrusion. The lunch got over quicker than I had desired.
Nira bid goodbye and promised to meet soon. He stood beside me his arms wrapped, tightly around my waist.
He turned to me,” Let’s grab a coffee?”
“Sure.” I responded. We walked towards the barista across the street. My mind was abuzz with conflicting thoughts. He had precipitated what I had been meaning to say since a long time. He ordered coffee while I sat near the window trying to string the words that were aching to erupt as kindly, as possible.
There wasn’t any other way to say it.
“I need space, Naren!” I blurted.
He stood there with the coffee tray, transfixed. He tried talking me out of it. He cajoled, persuaded, demanded and threatened. I was resolute. He called me several times a day, sent multiple texts asking me what went wrong. I cut his calls. I refused to respond to his texts begging me to see him. I felt claustrophobic. His presence in my life was like a plastic bag around my head that was suffocating me.
Needless to say, two months later, we broke up.
This ominous line may have played out in your life, sometime or a few times.
What made me come to this finality?
Naren was a wonderful human being. He was a great friend and partner. However, his uncontrollable urge to spend every waking second with me, was pushing me into a hole. He would surprise me at work which I found quote romantic, in the early days of our relationship. As time went by, his neediness began overwhelming me. I felt anxious, irritated and looked for ways to be alone.
While spending quality time together is essential for happy and healthy relationships, this constant pressure to be together kept driving me, further away.
Years later, I thought about why do people in a relationship, really need this space? What does ‘needing space’ mean?
Is it different for men and women? And, teenagers?
What are the tell-tale signs?
How can you give space in your relationship?
Space is essential in any relationship and chances of it being misconstrued are higher. When you hear the declaration, “I need space!” it may trigger feelings of insecurity, “am I not good enough” and the fear of rejection. The stomach binds itself into multiple knots that shrink your heart. Empathetic acuity is important on both sides. And, at times there’s no kinder way of seeking space than asking for it, plainly.
What makes people need space in a relationship?
- Micromanagement – Your controlling behaviour and invasiveness may make your partner look for their freedom or individuality – to just be and live his/her life the way they deem fit.
- Moving too fast or too slow – In a new relationship, you are speeding things way faster than required or perhaps moving at a snail’s pace. Both can be overwhelming.
- Clinginess – You are perhaps giving all your time to him/her. Your needy behaviour and co-dependence, is off-putting.
- Need the time to adjust – Some people may have had a past experience or never been in a relationship and may prefer some time to process things and navigate the relationship, slowly.
- Need for solitude – Some simply desire time alone to do things with other people – girlfriends, boyfriends, family, pursue a hobby or be home alone, doing nothing.
- Displaying too much affection – Are you demonstrating too much affection and cloistering him/her by being overly and embarrassingly romantic?
- You are coming in the way of their goals – You aren’t supporting your partner’s ambition and coming in the way of their personal or professional growth.
- Not into you, anymore – He/she may not be into you and it’s their way of saying ‘It’s over’.
- You hurt him/her, verbally or physically – In case your relationship has become toxic of late, your partner may require space to re-evaluate their feelings towards you.
The expectation of men and women differ a good deal in relationships. While the general perception is, women are the more ‘clingy’ ones in a relationship, recent studies have demonstrated men appearing needy in their relationships, too. A lot could be due to the fact that more women are empowered in modern times than they were perhaps ten or twenty years ago. An independent woman knows what she wants and while a relationship is important to her, so is her pursuit of her dream. She has a plan for her life and won’t be seen texting a man, every 30 minutes. Her week fills up fast and she has plenty to do. Therefore, her appreciation of ‘space’ is meaningful.
So, how do you give space in a relationship?
- Clarify what you mean by ‘space’ and why you desire it.
Be certain to ask what ‘space’ means. Is it time to read a book, meet friends, enjoy a hobby, be alone, travel? And, for how long? An afternoon, a day, a week? And, what do you expect your partner to do or not do, during this time. No texting, calling or meeting?
Specify if you’re rethinking the relationship. It is unfair and disrespecting towards your partner to keep them hanging by a thread.
- Respect your partner’s wishes.
Do not hound your partner with hourly texts, innumerable calls or stalk them on social media. Accept it, gracefully and focus on getting on with your life just as they are focussing on themselves. Do not undermine their need for space. Your partner isn’t being stupid or dramatic or even insensitive. Respect his/her wish.
- Needing space isn’t a break-up.
If you are seeking space then reassure your partner that space doesn’t mean ‘it’s over’. It is time needed to reflect, repair and rejuvenate the relationship. When you are honest and not defensive about it, you’ll find your partner being more supportive.
Space is vital to a relationship. A complicated ingredient which holds the paradox of being together and yet reconciling to the desire to disconnect. It brings up feelings of vulnerability, insecurity and the heart-sinking feeling of ambiguity of the future. In fact, it is all about the need for balance.
Lack of honesty can send the wrong message. The need for space can be terrifying or frustrating however, it can be a godsend to revive a declining or stagnating relationship. It allows you the breathing space to enjoy things you did as individuals.
When your partner says, “I need some space” the next time don’t hit the panic button. The timeout may just be the booster shot to help renew and strengthen your relationship.