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Ah space in a relationship. It can be such a controversial subject.
I was married exactly one week after I turned 20 years old. Tying the knot felt like such an adult thing to do.
I’m not going to lie, I felt like a badass in my wedding dress. It was a classy, sexy, crisp white, A-line gown my grandmother purchased for $99 online, and it made me look like a woman.
Underneath all the beading and tulle, I was scared shitless. It felt like I was pulling one over on everyone. I was terrified that at any moment everyone would discover that I was a phony who had no idea what the hell I was doing.
I was a little girl trying to pass herself off as a woman.
Both of us were so YOUNG. Husband #1 (his nickname, even though I’ve only been married once) was only two weeks older than me. We weren’t even old enough to legally drink. We were babies.
Lucky for me, Husband #1 had been my best friend for years. I leaned heavily on him for support and to help me overcome my inner fears and feelings of inadequacy.
As a result, our relationship became extremely close. We had no space. We knew each other better than we knew ourselves, to the umpteenth degree. In our household, number ones AND number twos were committed with the bathroom door open. There was no such thing as guy’s nights or girl’s nights, only couples’ nights. We were a package deal.
Husband #1 and I didn’t understand the concept of individuality within a relationship. We almost NEVER had space from each other. In fact, we viewed giving each other space as something negative. In our minds, the lack of space in our relationship was definitive proof of our connectedness. I remember pitying couples around us who did give each other room to breathe. I thought, “Those couples just don’t have the same chemistry and deep love for one another that we have.”
Boy, I couldn’t have been more of a dumbass.
Time is the great instructor, and as it passes it teaches us a whole lot about ourselves. It took me years to learn this, but space can be one of the very best gifts you can give to your partner and yourself.
Take a note from the experts. “In many cases,” says Steve Ward, CEO of Master Matchmakers, “a little space will give them [your partner] time to refocus and see that it’s up to themselves, not their partners, to create personal satisfaction and happiness.” Christopher Knippers is the author of Cultivating Confidence. He mentions, “When two people assume all their needs are going to be fulfilled through each other, the relationship is set up for disappointment, and ultimately failure.”
The success of your relationship is partly dependent on setting and respecting each other’s boundaries. There are a shit ton of advantages you will discover when you learn to start giving your partner space.
These are the six most awesome benefits I have discovered in my own relationship:
It Gives You the Chance to Miss Each Other
Remember when we were kids and we would spend a few days over the summer at a friend’s house? By the end of it, I was so effing sick of that friend, I never wanted to see them again. However, after a little time apart, I would forget why I was annoyed in the first place. I missed my friend, and I was ready to dive back in headfirst.
Not much changes as an adult. Especially in relationships, when you get too close, you start to hate each other’s guts. You know those cute little quirks you love about each other? Not so much anymore. You want to take those quirks and shove them up your partner’s patootie!
But what if you give your partner some space? In my experience, when I get some time away from Mr. OG, I miss him like crazy. When I get to be around him after a little space, we have so much to talk about, and we feel content to be near each other, instead of burned out.
It reminds me of when we were first dating. We could have hours long conversations, wanting to know as much about each other as possible. Nowadays, after getting some time apart, we do the same thing. We have so much more to converse about. Besides, think about it: Most people in serious relationships live together. Is it really that bad to give each other some space?
It Helps Build Trust With Each Other
As I mentioned earlier, many people make the mistake of thinking lack of space is a sign of connectedness. However, I’ve found that when I am REALLY honest with myself, usually this is just a way to disguise real issues in the relationship.
It’s not always true, but extreme closeness between partners can be a sign of insecurity in a relationship. If you can’t allow your guy to go have a beer with his bros without texting 27 times to make sure he isn’t doing anything bad, that says a lot about the level of trust you and your partner have with one another.
Giving space to your partner gives them a chance to show you they are loyal to you. I was so young when I married Husband #1. I didn’t have anything to compare our relationship to, other than my own parents’ marriage, and they were divorced when I was 11. I was winging it.
Let me tell you, I wasn’t doing a very good job. I would go through his phone when he was asleep. I was the chick who called and texted a zillion times when we were apart. I was SO insecure. It did NOTHING to better our relationship, and in fact created a whole lot of unnecessary tension.
Nowadays, Mr. OG always tells me with a wink, “I already have a crazy woman to deal with. Why would I spend guy time looking for another one?” It’s good for a laugh, but it has some truth to it.
Unless you happen to be going through life with a real asshole, most guys don’t want to spend their “guy time” thinking about another woman. They don’t want to think about you, their sister, their mom, their grandma, or any other woman in the world. Guy time is an opportunity for your man to scratch his balls freely, drink too much beer, grunt, fart, and generally act like a prepubescent teenager.
Giving him that opportunity without a guilt trip attached is assigning honor to your man. You are telling him that you love and trust him, and that you want him to have some fun on HIS terms. This is one of the best ways to make your guy feel respected. It is something he needs to do for you as well. Demand it ladies! If you’re giving this to him, make sure you are getting it back from him, or that’s a case for a huge amount of resentment.
It Prevents Unnecessary Fights
Everybody fights. If a couple doesn’t fight, I’ve always thought, one of them is lying. There is no way you can spend a whole lifetime, or even just a few months with a person and agree on EVERYTHING.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve gotten in an hours-long all out rager with Husband #1 or Mr. OG, and I think, “If I’d just have walked away earlier this damn fight wouldn’t have happened!” There are so many arguments that can be prevented by giving each other a little space to think.
The most unacceptable behaviors that come out during big brawls are simply natural defense mechanisms we create to protect ourselves when we feel cornered. Like an animal, humans tend to lash out at their partners when they feel trapped; it’s the “fight” part of our “fight or flight” instinct.
Giving space when tensions are rising offers both you and your partner the chance to calm down, organize your thoughts, and even put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Oh, and it gives your Mister the time to think of a really good apology, because we are always right ladies, am I right???
It Affords You the Opportunity to “Do You”
Space in your relationship gives you time to pursue individual interests. It is very common for people, especially women, to lose themselves in a relationship. Often a person will set aside their goals, aspirations, dreams, and even hobbies, for the sake of the relationship. We have all done it. The crazy thing is, most of the time, it ‘s completely unnecessary. In fact, many women take this step without their partner demanding it, or even hinting at it.
Really, the only time it makes sense to give up these interests is if your partner is terminally ill and you are their caregiver 24 hours a day. Even then, you still need personal time.
Ladies, we need to stop putting ourselves on the back burner! We really CAN have our cake and eat it too when it comes to being in a relationship and staying true to ourselves. So take some time to pursue those hobbies you set aside, or to learn new ones.
Read, paint, knit, get a pedicure, learn a new recipe, take a class. DO YOU. Think about it: if we DO find that our partner is not supportive of us being an individual, is that person someone we really want to build our life and future with? That’s a rhetorical question, but you should definitely answer NO to it!
Giving your Mister some alone time is guaranteed to make him happy. Mr. OG likes to golf. It’s therapeutic for him. Whether alone or with buddies, something about walking the course with a brewski in his hand can change his whole outlook on most things for the better. I don’t text or call him when he golfs. When he comes home, he is so appreciative, he can’t get enough of me. So worth it ladies!
It Helps You Reconnect With Your Friends
Have you noticed when a person gets into a comfortable relationship, their social life tends to goes out the window? We have all been on both ends of this kind of situation; either our friend gets a guy/gal and forgets all about us, or we get a partner and our friends are history. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a thing. It happens.
Especially in a new relationship, it’s difficult to not want to be joined at the hip with your new partner. Unfortunately, it’s usually at the expense of everyone else in your life.
However, if you and your partner are practicing giving each other a healthy amount of space, you have a good opportunity to reconnect with your old friends, or to make new ones.
I can’t emphasize enough the value of having close friends of the same sex, ESPECIALLY if you are in a committed relationship. It provides you with people to vent on, to get advice from, to drink gallons of wine with. What’s bad about that?
So go do girls night, or guys night. Make some new friends, and remind your old friends why they love you. Showing them a little courtesy and appreciation for sticking around will go a long way.
It Makes Sex SO MUCH Better
There are times when sex can become a little dull and routine in long-term relationships. It takes real effort to keep things fresh and exciting.
I’ll admit it, a lot of times I’m just too damn tired to be creative when it comes to sex. There are even times when Mr. OG and I try to get it done during commercial breaks so we don’t miss our shows. What the hell? That’s life.
However, after we get a little time apart, our sex is much more rewarding. The anticipation itself adds to the excitement and pleasure. We get excited to try new things, we laugh, and we ENJOY ourselves. Instead of sex becoming a burden, it’s more like the icing on our cake of a relationship.
My sex life really changed for the better when I began to apply this principle of giving Mr. OG some extra space. Sex became fun again, and anything BUT routine.
The Moral of the Story
Of course, there are times and situations when space can be harmful. If trust has been broken before, it would be prudent to seek guidance from a professional in creating healthy space between you and your partner. This can enable you to respect your partner, but also to protect yourself.
A key point to remember is that it’s all about balance. Sleeping in separate bedrooms at opposite sides of the house may not be the beneficial kind of space your relationship needs. But a regular guys or ladies night, where you don’t text each other for a few hours can be.
I write from my own life experience. While I am no longer married (a story for another time), one thing I can tell you is that when Mr. OG and I make it a priority to create and maintain healthy space between us, it changes our relationship immensely for the better.
Ironically, the less space you give each other, the further apart you grow. If longevity is important to you, and you want to grow old with this person you call a partner, give them a little wiggle room.
Could your relationship benefit from some space? Do an honest self-examination to answer that question. Still not exactly sure? Find out by taking this quick test.
**I love to hear from my readers. If you have a thought or opinion about something in this article, please comment! Let’s get a convo started!**
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I’m the founder of The Bonafide Broad, and a thirty-something broad originally from the Pacific Northwest. I now live in Flagstaff, Arizona, with my guy, Mr. OG. When I’m not busy rescuing kittens from tall trees, carrying babies from burning buildings, and trying to establish world peace, I work for the school district in Flagstaff, and I run this blog.