Does Having Space Really Help in a Relationship?

Listen to your partner’s concerns, and be willing to negotiate.
... Doug Menuez/Photodisc/Getty Images

Romantic attraction is powerful. Especially when your relationship is new, you might feel a nearly overwhelming need to spend as much time together as possible. Yet relationship expert Megan Rafael points out on eHarmony, in “Courage to Build Space in Your Relationship,” that relationships, like anything else, require space and air to grow. Too much togetherness can eventually lead to arguments, resentment and a breakdown of the relationship. To create healthy space, work with the person you are dating to find a balance that works for both of you.

1 Understand What Space Is

Space is not the same thing as distance. In her article, "Relationship Advice: When There Is Hurt and Distancing in Relationships," licensed professional counselor Krystal Kuehn notes that distancing is an emotional withdrawal in response to pain. In other words, distance often means that something is wrong in the relationship. Space, on the other hand, is healthy and renewing, according to Rafael. Space allows both people to pursue individual interests and hobbies, spend time with others and reflect on the relationship. When you come back together, you have new things to talk about, and often a new appreciation of the person you love.

2 Maintain Independent Lives

It is normal to make the person you love an important part of your life, and many couples agree to try out the activities that make each other happy. Yet it is extremely important not to give up the people and passions that make you who you are, nor to become joined at the hip. Healthy space comes more naturally when you each have places to go and things to do when you are apart. Keep up with your extracurricular activities and hobbies, and encourage your loved one to do the same.

3 Respect Individual Differences

Although you and your significant other might be very similar, no two people are exactly the same. You and your loved one might have very different needs for personal space. For example, introverts typically need more alone time than extroverts, in order to recharge their batteries. If you and your partner have wildly different ideas about how much space is required, respect each other’s opinions and find a compromise that works for both of you.

4 Use Healthy Negotiation Skills

Like any sensitive topic, the issue of space can set off feelings of hurt, betrayal, anxiety and anger. The "Psychology Today" online article, “Suffocating in a Relationship,” points out that using “I” statements and making specific requests are the keys to defusing negative feelings. For example, you might say, "I feel bad when I keep telling my friends I can't go to the movies with them. Would you mind if I go Friday night?" Avoid telling the other person that he is wrong or bad for wanting more togetherness, instead focusing on what you need to change. Listen to your partner’s concerns, and remain flexible and willing to negotiate. Offer reassurance that the relationship is very important to you. Use the space to pursue your outside activities, and when you are together, take care to keep the focus on your loved one.

Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer specializing in disabled adventure travel. She spent 15 years working for Central Florida theme parks and frequently travels with her disabled father. Fritscher's work can be found in both print and online mediums, including She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Florida.