Space, the People Who Need It, Others Who Won’t Give It & What It Means for Relationships

One thing I’ve learned from revitalizing this blog is that some relationship problems ring true from year to year. Couple to couple. Three years ago, I wrote this about my inability to give my boy of the month anything resembling space. In the years since I’ve become much better about this little quirk. Partly because I’ve finally been able to hold down a dude for longer than a year and a half. Partly because I took Big Sister Morgan’s sage advice. Partly, because after nearly 30 years getting set in my individualistic ways, I began to need my own breathing room. Partly because I'm lying to myself and to you. 

However, my experience with needy desperation has come in handy as I talk various friends through similar situations. Some of these friends have fallen on my clingy side of the spectrum, but, most recently, I had a friend who found himself on the “I just need some space” side of things. It’s not an uncommon plight for him. The past few ladyfaces who have graced his life tended to need a little more togetherness than he prefers.

His expectations weren’t unreasonable despite being used to a life of single independence with no one demanding a moment of his time outside of his 9-5 gig. All he wanted was a night or two “off” a week. Now, the choice of words is a little disconcerting, but there really is no great way to say, “I need space, time away from you, time to myself, time to miss you, get away from me.” Time to myself is probably the most solid of the options.

Phrasing notwithstanding, he has every right to need a moment or two to just be alone. The trouble has been that some individuals don’t respect the need for space. They feel if the person they’re seeing doesn’t want to spend every possible moment with them, he is neglecting their needs. But the reality is demanding every spare minute from a person is an affront to their needs. It’s got to be a compromise or things are going to go south pretty quickly.

So, how do you know if you’re asking too much or if he is a jerkface who is just not that into you? There’s no formula for how much time a couple should spend together in order to be happy. Everyone has different needs. I know couples who seldom leave each other’s side and others that share time more like roommates. Both types can be very happy or very miserable. It’s more about what’s working for both people in the relationship than anything else (shocker).

If you take a step outside of your position in the relationship and drop any influencers. These influencers may be past relationship betrayals that have nothing to do with your current beau. I had to fight this battle myself with my now husband person.

I had gotten out of a relationship with a person who cheated on me and lied every moment he wasn’t in my presence. This made trusting the Mr. when he said “I have 40 hours worth of freelance this week on top of my actual job on top of a Christmas project for you, I need to focus on something other than a Netflix binge with you tonight” difficult. But numerous self pep talks and frank couple talks later, I’m a better person equipped to tell other people what to do in their together time imbalanced relationships.

Just as you need to let go of expectations warped by past experiences, you also need to eschew expectations that have nothing to do with reality. Ross and Rachel spent more time together after breaking up than the average actual couple. Beauty and the Beast had a prisoner and captive situation going on, so they don’t count. Every romcom couple ever is only covered for the first 3 weeks of their relationship. That is a ridiculously skewed sample.

If you’re going to base your expectations on any fictional couple, Brad and Jane from Happy Endings (RIP) are the only people you should look to.

They were impossibly close, but still needed time apart. Granted they went about getting it lying about work trips, staycations and girlfriend spa days without the friends, but eventually they got to the point that all healthy couples get to. The place where you can be open about what you need and not read too much into those expectations.

From my enlightened soap box I can tell you the best advice is to keep checking in with the person you’re in a relationship with. If they say “hey I think I’m going to spend some time alone tonight.” You have to respect that and trust that it doesn’t mean your relationship is going to fail. In fact, that openness and honesty means it’s already in a great spot. It’s when they have to start making up excuses not to see you that you have a problem.

Every couple is going to be different and what you need out of a relationship is going to vary from one day to the next. So just talk to each other about it and recognize that just because you are more needy, doesn’t mean that your needs are the only ones that matter.