Whatever You Do, Don’t Say This To Your Partner. Even If It’s Totally True.by Lauren Passell on June 20, 2012
In a relationship, has someone ever told you that they need space, and you think, “what the eff!? Are we breaking up? Do you hate me?! Why do you need space?!” I’m guessing yes, though technically that argument makes no sense. We do all need space. But when we say it, it sounds like a diss. Or it sounds like we’re going out to bang someone else. Or it sounds like we’re pissed.
A few more facts about space:
- Women need space more than men. Of husbands and wives studied, more wives than husbands (31% versus 26%) reported not having enough space. It’s probably because women are usually the ones running around like a chicken with its head cut off, doing a million things at once.
- If your parents gave you the perfect amount of space when you were small, you’re fine and you have zero spacial issues.
- If your parents were inconsistent with their attention, you need attention more and are terrified you will be rejected.
- If you were neglected or abandoned as a child, you need lots of space and avoid closeness.
- ”People who fear closeness tend to seek out people who are warm and inviting. This is how someone who needs a lot of space ends up with a partner who hates to be alone.”
So! We’re all screwed, right? Wrong. We can all have space or not, depending on how much our parents messed us up. But when we tell our partners, we just have to say it in a different way. Don’t say the words “I need space.” WSJ offers these tips:
- Be specific. Say, ‘I need the afternoon to myself.’ Simply saying ‘I need space’ sends confusing signals.
- Explain why more space makes you happy, so your partner knows it’s not about him or her.
- Enjoy the space you take. Guilt defeats the purpose, says Barbara F. Okun, counseling psychology professor at Northeastern University.
- No secrets. Tell your spouse what you did (and with whom) when you were away.
- Don’t get carried away. Too much space weakens your connection.
- Don’t forget to schedule couple time and family time, too.
A tip if you’re on the receiving end of the person who needs space? Try not to take it personally. When they say they need space, they aren’t saying they hate you. They’re telling you that they need just a bit of space.