What It Means When Someone Needs Space in a Relationship

The phrase, "I need some space," might be some of the most dreaded words in dating—but is it warranted?

While the media has made needing space seem like the end of the world, that's actually not the case in most instances. In fact, having your own space is actually healthy—and often necessary—to maintaining a great relationship with someone you care dearly about. We were curious about the subject, so we reached out to dating expert and DatingZest.com founder Liam Barnett to get more insights, and find out precisely what it actually means to need space in a relationship. 

Sweety High: The phrase, "I need some space" can be scary, but what are some reasons it's not necessarily a bad thing?

Liam Barnet: During heated arguments, fights or tough times, the phrase "I need some space" can be what saves the relationship. It is a willingness to not act in the heat of the moment, a willingness to choose rationality.

woman walking away from man upset fight shutterstock: Young frustrated sad man, wife or girlfriend leaving depressed heartbroken husband, couple breaking up divorce concept, relationships breakup, rejection

(via Shutterstock)


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SH: Why can it be so crucial for people in relationships to also make time for personal space? What are some reasons that people might need this space?

LB: When two (or more) people unite through a romantic relationship they do so as individuals. This unity can be manifested through time devotion. It is a change of lifestyle in itself.

This change of lifestyle can be overwhelming for some people. Hence the need to respect each other's need for personal space.

It is crucial for individuals to have their personal space and participate in activities that don't include their partners. This way you take time to feel good within yourself without having to depend on your partner for that validation.

On the other hand, you get to remind yourself that you're an individual that is capable of doing things on your own. This is also crucial to avoid codependency and other unhealthy traits or behaviors.


SH: What are some ways to successfully communicate how much space is needed without hurting anyone's feelings?

LB: Honesty, openness, empathy and directness as a combination are one of the most effective ways to successfully communicate the need for space without hurting your partner's feelings.

You're honest about your reasons, you're open to hearing what your partner has to say, you feel with your partner and you don't drag them around until you finally achieve distance to transform it into personal space.


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SH: What are some things we can personally work on when we're taking this private time to ourselves?

LB: The inner issues often take time to recognize, work on and heal. Those are some things we can personally work on, of course, with a bit of our partner's support, but not entirely relying on them for it.

If you notice you've got anger management issues or other unhealthy traits, then it could be the time to take responsibility and start working on those issues. That is your personal responsibility not your partner's to solve.

woman sitting in comfy chair taking time to self: shutterstock. Beautiful middle age woman sitting alone in her apartment. She gets bored but tries to have a good time and stay positive. She uses laptop computer and tablet to chat and listen to music.

(via Shutterstock)


SH: Do you have any tips for finding a balance between maintaining personal time and spending time together?

LB: Have a genuine conversation with your partner. Avoiding accusations, and using more of your personal reference, state your general opinion on how much space it's good for your relationship.

A verbal agreement to it can prevent a lot of conflicts and can be a tremendous help to attain a healthy balance between personal space and time together.


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SH: How can we make this space in relationships without drifting apart?

LB: Verbal communication. Expressing how you feel without accusing your partner. Instead, address the situation as something you can both solve as a team.

Find what works best for you, and reassure one another with sentences such as "I like to turn my phone off when I'm hiking, I want you to know that I'm not ignoring you, it's just how I like spending my time by myself."

It is about making your partner aware of your habits, what you like to do, and what you don't. This way you get rid of any room for suspicion and you make room for trust and reassurance.

couple happy laughing on kitchen floor sharing ice crem: shutterstock The sweetest moments don't need much. Shot of a happy young couple sharing a tub of ice cream in their kitchen at home.

(via Shutterstock)


SH: What are the signs that needing space can mean the relationship isn't meant to be?

LB: If the smallest amount of time with your partner causes you to stress more than it causes you joy, and due to that you constantly find yourself drained and in need of time away, then the relationship might not be quite the right one for you.


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