“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness.”
~ Esther Perel
Just because you’re in a relationship it doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking minute with your partner.
What it does mean is that you have a close relationship with someone you enjoy being with and sharing your life, understanding that this individual has his own life to live – as do you.
In other words, you can explore your own interests, spend time with your friends, nurture your personal growth and still maintain a healthy relationship with your committed partner.
You are supportive of him and he is supportive of you.
Healthy relationships allow for both parties to be who they are.
You may like mystery novels and he likes historical fiction. You like watching sit-coms and he likes ESPN. You are a swimmer and he is a golfer.
While you are both different in so many ways, you share a common thread that keeps you together, both physically and emotionally.
How can you balance this togetherness with the space you need to be yourself?
The answer is simply – communicate. Let him know your interest in taking guitar, cooking or tennis lessons.
Let him know that he can join you, but if not, these are things you’ve always wanted to do.
These activities are what make you unique and special and you are entitled to enhance your life any way you see fit. He, in turn, can do the same.
Hopefully, along the way, you both find things you enjoy doing together, so that you have fun playing, laughing and sharing common interests.
A relationship that is based on enhancing each other, rather than depending on each other is the best kind of relationship.
When your interests are diverse, you become a more interesting person and someone who becomes more attractive and desirable to your special love.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
One of the keys to a happy healthy relationship is freedom.
Without freedom the relationship will smother itself. It is important to remember the relationship itself is its’ own entity and must be nurtured in order to survive.
This doesn’t necessarily happen by spending more time and collapsing oneself into the relationship but by giving each person the freedom to be who they are/were before meeting you.
A red flag to starting a relationship is how intense and consuming it can be.
That is actually a sign of infatuation. So when the intensity burns it self out there may well not be anything left. It wasn’t real to begin with as it was based on an intense feeling.
If the relationship is real it may have some intensity but it won’t burn itself out instead it will transition.
This can be a scary time because the unknown is, will it continue or has it run its’ course?
This is a time that calls for lots of freedom because you stand the chance of being too insecure for your partner to want to transition with.
No relationship can withstand the beginning intensity, ever. It is too much!
Biologically that intensity is supposed to be short lived only for the purpose of connecting us so trying to continue it at that level is just not going to work.
During the transition phase is when you learn who your partner really is.
You learn to trust each other. You learn to have a flow not based on need to spend time together but on sharing lives.
The more of a life your partner has outside you the more interesting they are (that is why you were attracted to them to begin with).
We need time to be ourselves, keep our girl friends, him keep his guy friends, sports, hobbies, and routines all need to continue. When we loose ourselves in a relationship we become dull and clingy over time.
So take a step back and evaluate if this is person you really want?
Be clear to not get caught up in what was but rather look at what is. A red flag is how badly do you want it? When we get attached to the want we don’t see the reality and then get ourselves into something that wasn’t good for us.
Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC – www.cynthiapickett.com
Creating space in relationships is beneficial for both parties.
Oftentimes we may fall into a trap thinking we need to spend every moment possible with our person in order to maintain the connection, but in truth, it can do just the opposite.
It can create disconnection because someone might feel smothered and start to create distance where there hasn’t been any thus, scaring the other partner to death.
This is where problems arise if not viewed or processed through a healthy filter and with open, effective communication.
Let’s start here…
All humans need a sense of autonomy and independence. This doesn’t mean that he/she doesn’t value the relationship nor do they want to trade us in.
It only means he/she desires to live within his/her authentic self and explore and act on things that ignite his/her passions and are serving to his soul and personal growth.
With this, I’m definitely not talking about dating other people or repeatedly choosing to go drinking with the boys.
I am referring to spending quality time with friends, working on projects or hobbies, exercising, education and things of this nature. (It will be up to you to determine if your person’s request for space is of a healthy nature or that of a player.)
In my opinion, a relationship where one or both parties need to be together every waking moment (after the initial lust phase has ended) is one big red flag!
Yes, it’s okay to truly enjoy each other’s company and of course, it’s fabulous that you may be “best friends”, but most likely within this dynamic there is an underlying motive of insecurity or neediness on one or both sides.
When both parties are insecure, it can be very difficult to spot this dynamic because both are in agreement with the excessive time spent together.
However, problems arise when inevitably one side begins to desire some space and the other views it as abandonment, neglect or lack of interest.
If your partner starts to express that he needs a little space, give it to him!
Not because you are trying to manipulate the situation, but because you know that a happy man will show up better for you. He will feel fulfilled in his accomplishments, he will feel that he has something beneficial to offer you and drumroll please…. he will miss and value you!
The same goes for you! I have witnessed many times how a man truly enjoys when a woman has her own life as well as a life with him. It is the ultimate turn on!
Caging someone in is a sure way of eventually pushing him out the door.
No one wants to feel imprisoned by a relationship no matter how much they might love you.
By having your life and him having his life, your life together will be built on reciprocal trust and space.
Two fulfilled people doing their own thing AND sharing a life together is the best foundation for a life-long union.
Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor – www.sweetempowerment.com
There is term in Spanish used for when something is really good but you get too much of it.
“Empalaga” means that even though you like something like sweets, you can get so much of it that it makes you sick.
The same goes for a relationship and being so enmeshed that you do not have space for yourself and you get sick of it.
In order to be with and support others, we need space to take care of ourselves so that we have the energy and resources to attend to them.
If we tire ourselves out and have no time to recharge, we are depleting our own energy and giving to someone else something that we really don’t have to give.
Taking some time to be by ourselves helps us to think about things and process without influence.
This is especially important if you are seeing red flags. It is important to be able to hear your own voice and stay grounded in the things that are important to you.
Being able to be apart for a period time is also a sign of a healthy relationship.
Some people recharge alone and some people recharge with lots of people around. Know yourself and your needs around this.
Be aware of your partner´s needs around this issue as well.
If you are not big on watching TV and that is all your partner does and this is how you spend your time, you might eventually find that you are resentful because you are not attending to what is important to you. Additionally, if your partner cannot be alone, that is a red flag.
Finding balance is the key and in order to do this, you must make time for yourself.
Don’t stop working out or stop doing the things you like because you started dating someone. Make time for intimacy and make it about quality over quantity.
Have a date night or a few nights, but don’t just be together for the sake of being together and then ignore your own personal needs for space and time.
Be engaged when you are together and be mindful of old habits that might creep back up that are unhealthy and do not serve you or the relationship.
If your partner starts pulling away, take time to discuss how you feel about this and be honest about your anxiety. Let him know about your need for space and do not put aside your concerns and ignore red flags either.
His response will tell you if you have an understanding partner and if he is healthy in his approach to these issues.
- Is he willing to hear what you have to say about needing space?
- Is he over demanding of your time and energy?
- Are you drained after spending time with your partner?
- Are you needs being met and are you recharged?
You may have to do a gut check and see how you feel once you put all of this out there with your partner. Again, be mindful of your needs and do not put them aside to please or maintain something that is not healthy for you.
Ileana Hinojosa, MLA, LMFT – www.themindfullife.net
All human beings share a drive for individuality as well as a drive for connection.
These two human drives must be balanced to achieve a productive and satisfying life. That doesn’t mean that your energy must always be evenly split.
There are times when the focus will be almost fully on yourself, like when you are establishing your career, or competing in a marathon. At other times, the focus will be relational, like when you are getting married or having a baby.
The challenge is to be flexible enough to put your energy where is needs to be.
When you aren’t in a relationship this is relatively easy. Nobody is pulling on you based on their need. However, when you’re in a relationship it gets harder. You can’t predict when your partner will need you; nor can you always predict when you will feel the need for his support.
It helps if both partners recognize that it’s as normal to need time to yourself as it is to want to be together.
Individuals differ in their needs for closeness and sometimes that can be a problem. Of course there are extreme’s at either end of the closeness/distance continuum, but generally your need has to do with your innate temperament, and the norms in the family in which you were raised.
Flexible people can usually accommodate one another’s needs although there are times when you will be disappointed.
One partner may really want a disinterested partner at this high school reunion. One or the other will have to accommodate (hopefully with good grace!).
In the beginning of a relationship it’s natural to want to spend a lot of time together, but that intensity doesn’t last.
It really shouldn’t last because your own individual life needs to be attended to or things will fall apart for you. If partners don’t take care of themselves, their relationship will also suffer. After all, the relationship is made up of two individuals.
The higher your level of emotional maturity, the better you will handle your partner’s individuality needs. Partners who can take care of themselves put less pressure on the relationship.
You can tell if your partner needs time for himself as opposed to distancing from the relationship, by talking to him.
Never be afraid to talk about your thoughts or perceptions. Talking saves a lot of unnecessary grief. Anyone who is driven away because his partner wants to discuss what is happening is too immature for a relationship anyway.
Finding the right balance between separateness and togetherness is a life-long challenge.
Our individual and relational needs aren’t always convenient for our partners, nor are theirs for us. Remembering that this struggle to find balance is a normal part of the human condition will help you as you move forward both individually and as a partner.
Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
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