There’s no right time to hear that your partner “needs some space” from you and your relationship. It’s healthy to have your own lives, and good to talk about your boundaries. But sometimes it seems like “needing space” is a precursor for calling it quits.
Of course, taking some time for yourself isn’t a bad thing. And your partner needing space doesn’t mean that you’re smothering them, or that your relationship is doomed. In fact, your partner saying they need space can be your inspiration to start living your own life too.
What it means to need space
OK, let’s be clear, there’s a big difference between establishing healthy boundaries with clear communication and using “space” to validate bad behavior/ to justify not being a good partner. You can’t ghost someone and chalk it up to “needing space”. Nor can you flake on plans, cancel at the last minute, or leave your boo questioning what the heck is going on because you’re feeling like you “need some room” to think.
Truly needing space is different from wanting to see other people. It’s different from want to slow your relationship down, or be less serious, or take time apart. Needing space is just that — needing some time during the day to do your own thing. It doesn’t mean leaving your partner guessing, it doesn’t mean forgoing your responsibilities as a partner. You still need to take accountability for yourself and your actions, you just get to do it with a little more wiggle room to be your own person.
How do you know when you need space?
When is the last time you did something alone? Went to the grocery store? Went to a concert? Heck, sleep in a bed? If you and your boo are always together, it’s natural to want to do something by and for yourself.
Or maybe you used to be super into yoga or pottery, and haven’t had a chance to do it since your relationship started. Maybe you haven’t seen your friends in a while. Maybe all your plants are dying because you’re never at your apartment. There can be internal and external signs that we may need some space. If you’re clearly falling behind at work or school — it might be clear that you need to budget some time for yourself. If your friends and family are complaining that they never see you anymore — you may realize you need some space. Or maybe you’re just feeling a little cooped-up, and you just know you want to go on a walk or spend a week up the coast by yourself.
We don’t need to be making mountains out of molehills or have blow-out fights over easy fixes. If you’re starting to feel like you need space, or outside things in your life are encouraging you to do something without your partner — say something! Don’t pretend that everything is OK and secretly get resentful. Don’t push your partner away bit by bit until they’re wondering what’s wrong.
Tell your partner that you love them and that you enjoy their time. Validate that your independence doesn’t mean you don’t care about them. Let them know that “space” is not the end.
What To Do If Your Partner Says They Need Space
If your partner needs space, you don’t need to FREAK out about the state of your relationship. While it’s natural to have a lot of questions, try to breathe, and remember that you are a full, complete, wonderful, strong and amazing person with your own incredible and vivid life.
If you haven’t listened to Ariana Grande’s absolute banger, NASA, consider now the perfect time. A tune about “me time”, boundaries, and taking time for yourself, it’s a soundtrack for needing space in a relationship and feeling unashamed to ask for it. Having a partner can be a blessing in so many ways. And yet, it’s totally OK to want a day, night, or even a whole week for your damn self.
You don’t need your partner to come to every dinner, every appointment, or even every family party. No matter your romantic status, you’re entitled to having your own life, including your own friends, your own hobbies, and your own to-do list.
How To Give Your Partner Space
Plan a night a week that you each do something on your own, a cooking class, a friend’s night, a walk around the block. Whatever it is, pick a day and plan something that you can have just for yourself. Plan a day that you don’t text or call that much. If you haven’t seen your friends and family in ages, make a running monthly time to get together. Think of ways to find a healthy balance between what you need in your relationship, and what feels good for both of you.
Though “needing space” can sound scary, it really just means finding a better balance. And with a little communication, you and your partner can start to see “space” as more room to grow.