Your internal alarm bells may start blasting once you hear the words 'I need space' from your significant other (SO). But too often, this reaction is rooted in the fear that something is wrong or worse, that the relationship is ending. It is important to breathe deeply and listen carefully to what the other person is saying. At some point, you will have to yield to them and give them the space they're craving.
When such a thing happens, keep calm and follow these steps:
Treat it in a positive manner
Often it's down to your partner spending time alone in an area in the house. Some men are known to withdraw to their 'cave' when they need to think. Recently, the concept of women building their she-sheds in response has been floated around social media. However, it is important to see here that individuals need their sacred space regardless of gender.
There are times the distance asked for is in the literal sense. Going on a vacation or pursuing other interests with girlfriends is typical with women. Men also do that with their buddies, but not as regularly. Make sure to radiate trust towards your SO when they ask for a time apart in this manner.
Set rules and a schedule
Setting expectations is easier said than done. But if you get the chance, ask your partner how long they want you to stay apart. Will it take an hour, a day, a week? Don't force it if you can't get a straight answer. Just clarify what you are not allowed to do, such as sending a text, chatting, or posting a photo of you together on social media. Then respect the request while keeping your reactions in line. Give them the time they need to recharge and come back to the relationship feeling refreshed.
Do not take it personally
You have to be able to see the situation from several angles. And yes, sometimes, it is not you. It is not that they want to exclude you from making a decision or keep you out of the loop. It can be that they need the time to think clearly before letting another voice affect their decision. It can be that your SO cannot tell you directly that they have to deal with things alone. If they want to talk to somebody else, respect that choice. Encourage them to speak with someone they think will listen to them. Use the time to figure things out on your own as well.
Do your own thing
Following the previous point: set aside a 'me' time. Focus on something else, so you'll be less likely to wallow in self-pity or guilt or whatever it is that you're feeling during this time. Have fun with friends or do something you have been waiting to do for a long time.
"If you crave togetherness, you might feel deprived or rejected when your partner wants alone time," says Dr. Debby Herbenick, associate research scientist and co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University. But as in any relationship, you also need to respect and adjust to the preferences of your loved one.
Let your partner recover in peace
In keeping your distance, you are also protecting your partner's space in a way. Sometimes, you just need to remind them that you can sacrifice your self-interest for their benefit. There is no more opportune moment to demonstrate how you care than when they are sick. If they are recovering from a cold, menstrual cramps, an injury, or something minor, ensure that they do not get disturbed. Turn mobile devices off if you have to. Filter calls from the office.
A social media poll reveals that 18% of the respondents do not want their employers calling them while they are off work sick. Your loved one may share the same sentiment. Imagine how one request or demand from a superior at work will affect your SO's recovery. At the same time, avoid being clingy. Leave your spouse to recover in peace. It is not the moment to nag them about the washer that hasn't been functioning or the utility bills that have been rising for months. Even if they do not specifically ask for it during this time, you need to show you're willing to acknowledge and respect their space as an individual.