Personal space allows us to remain connected to ourselves rather than getting lost in the other person’s life and beliefs. So many people “lose themselves” when they are in a partnership. I work with many couples who grapple with this issue. It is easiest if both people desire about the same amount of space. But that isn’t always the case.
I have two great tools I give my clients when they are having a difficult conversation. The “Sandwich Method” and “I statements.”
The Sandwich method of communication is: compliment them, say what the issue is, and complement them. Actually, I think it is helpful to include more compliments to offset the sting.
The second tool I counsel my clients to use in any situation is I-statements. As soon as we hear the word “you” our defenses go up. Our needing space is about taking care of our need, not changing the other person’s need.
Here is an example using these two tools.
“Sam, I love you and I love our relationship. I am a better partner when I have enough time to do what nourishes me. I’m noticing I haven’t been giving myself enough of that time, so I am going to take more time for me. I want this relationship to be as strong as it can be, and I know this will help. I love being with you and I want that to continue!”
You have told your partner he or she is important to you, while being clear about what is valuable to you. You are taking responsibility for what you want, not putting it on your partner to fix it for you.
There is no right answer to how much space is best. It depends on the individuals in the partnership. Some people want a lot of time to do what feeds them, some don’t need as much. The important thing is to find a “fit” with another person.
The underlying issue isn’t so much how much space we need, but how can we be our healthiest in relationship, which in turn creates a healthy partnership. When we take time to do what nourishes us, we have more to give our partner.
Who doesn’t want that?
If you are looking for a Seattle therapist to help you connect with yourself and your partner, give me a call