“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity.” – Max de Pree
You fall in love, move in together and suddenly you’re spending every waking minute with each other. Here’s what to do when couple claustrophobia hits. Let’s face it, there’s probably nobody that you’d want to spend 24 hours, seven days a week with. Even Megan Fox would get boring after that much time (of course, I haven’t technically proven it, but I’m willing to test this theory out in the name of research). When you’re in a relationship, space is crucial to your happiness. Yes, it’s important to spend quality time with your partner, but you both need to have quality time with yourselves too. Living, eating and sleeping together day after day can cause couple claustrophobia. If you are spending most of your time fighting, or if you notice growing feelings of resentment, it might be time to negotiate some ‘space breaks’ into your weekly routine.
These ‘space breaks’ sometimes even come naturally, like they did for Dan and his girlfriend of four years, Daisy. “At the beginning, we spent every day together”, says Dan. “I’d meet Daisy the minute she finished work and we would hang out all night, it was all so new.” Ah, the honeymoon phase. That wonderful phase when your friends don’t see you for weeks, your hobbies become your partner’s hobbies (and vice versa), and you go on adorable dates, playing mini golf or going to the aquarium. “Daisy with watch Batman marathons and I would watch Sex and the City every day. But these days, I’m much more likely to say, ‘If you’re watching that, I might just go watch this on my laptop”, Dan admits.
As the honeymoon period starts to wear off and regular life resumes, you should embrace it. When your relationship began you both had your own lives – families, friends, hobbies and interests. It’s important for both of you to keep all of those relationships and activities alive. You still need to be yourself.
When Daisy and Dan moved in together after two years, they found that living with each other actually led to time apart. “We did our own stuff more, like seeing separate friends and going to different parties, because we knew that every night we’d go to sleep together”, Dan says. “Late-night gaming sessions and Gossip Girl marathons aren’t things we both love, and now we are totally cool to leave the other person to their own thing. We still spend time together, it’s just about finding a balance.”
When these natural relationship drifts don’t occur and you’re still spending every waking hour together, something’s gotta give. For Karin that something was the patience of her boyfriend, Dave. “For the first few months that we were dating, we saw each other every day”, Karin remembers. “I loved it, but then Dave started to plan boys’ nights and footy nights by himself. It freaked me out, because I thought it meant he was no longer interested in me.” Karin’s reaction was totally normal. In many relationships, there’s a partner who enjoys space and one who enjoys closeness. When we perceive that our partner is holding back, it can trigger uncomfortable feelings of rejection, mistrust and resentment that make it difficult to feel secure.
Lucky for Karin, Dave was in touch enough with his feelings to help her relax. “He explained that him needing ‘Dave time’ didn’t mean he didn’t want to see me. We worked out a schedule of date nights and ‘me nights’ each week, which kept us both happy. I didn’t even realize how much I enjoyed ‘Karin time’ until I had it. Now I love chilling out by myself.”
How to get space
If your girlfriend looks at you like you’re speaking fluent Russian whenever you utter the words ‘me time’ and insists that she really doesn’t mind watching The Expendables for the third time instead of sipping cappuccinos with her girlfriends, gently prod her in the right direction – and that’s away from you! You can say to your partner something like: “I need a bit of boy time to recharge my batteries, but I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with you at dinner tonight.” Be sure to remind, reassure and show your woman that you value her and that the time apart does make your heart grow fonder.
How to give space
Don’t worry – it’s normal to want to see your girlfriend all the time. It’s also normal to feel a bit hurt when she says she needs a night by herself or out with the girls. “I need space” doesn’t translate itself with “I hate you and want to break up”. Initially it can be challenging to give your partner more space because of the fear she might not come back. But the funny thing is that the more space we give, the more appreciation and affection we end up getting. As scary as it can be, there is nothing more attractive than a partner who is secure enough to loosen the reins.
Have a great week,
P.S. Giving space doesn’t mean letting her pass the night with the girls but still terrorize her with phone calls and texts. Let her breathe for once.