You’re Giving Your Partner Too Much Space

Understanding Space in Relationships

Chances are you fall into one of two groups. Either you don’t give your partner enough space, or you give your partner too much space. It’s important to figure out which category you fall into.

Today, I want to focus on those who give their partner too much space. You might be wondering, “Who does that?” If you’re thinking that, you’re probably in the opposite group, perhaps giving your partner not enough space and being a bit more suffocating.

Attachment Styles and Space

If you’re familiar with attachment styles, you’ll know that people with an avoidant attachment style tend to give their partners too much space. Conversely, those with an anxious attachment style often don’t give their partners enough space. This can be a helpful metric to understand your tendencies.

If you’re not familiar with attachment styles, don’t worry. I have other resources that delve into this topic in more detail, but for now, let’s focus on the issue at hand.

Misunderstanding the Signals

Understanding the signals your partner is sending is crucial. There are three main areas to focus on:

  1. Recognizing Misunderstanding Signals
  2. The Impact of Excessive Space
  3. Balancing Independence with Intimacy

Let’s dive into the first area: recognizing misunderstanding signals.

Recognizing the Need for Space vs. Withdrawal

It’s essential to recognize the difference between a genuine need for space and emotional withdrawal. They are very different and have distinct characteristics.

  • Need for Space: When someone needs space, they require a period to decompress and then will return without emotional baggage. They will come back warm, ready to re-engage, and with a positive tone. This period is essential for recalibration, and when they return, they should feel refreshed and eager to reconnect.
  • Withdrawal: Withdrawal, on the other hand, happens when someone feels stuck and doesn’t know how to proceed. This can be due to feeling overwhelmed or unsure of their emotions. It’s characterized by a more distant and cold demeanor. Unlike needing space, withdrawal doesn’t lead to a warm return but rather to a sense of detachment and confusion.

A refusal to confront things, a sense of being lost, that’s different than just needing space.

The Impact of Excessive Space in a Relationship

Now that we’ve covered understanding signals, let’s move on to the impact of giving too much space. Excessive space can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection in a relationship. It can create a sense of emotional distance that’s hard to bridge.

Isolation might feel safe, but it’s lonely, it’s sad, and it breeds depression very quickly.

Balancing Independence with Intimacy

Finally, balancing independence with intimacy is crucial for a healthy relationship. It’s about finding that sweet spot where both partners feel they have enough personal space without feeling disconnected from each other.

In the following sections, we will explore these areas in more detail and provide practical steps to address and rectify the issue of giving too much space.

Example of Misunderstanding the Signals

Let me give you an example to illustrate the difference between needing space and withdrawal. I’ve worked with many clients who struggled during the planning of their wedding because of indecisiveness, often rooted in not wanting to disappoint anyone.

Ted’s Dilemma

Take Ted, for example. Ted was tasked with picking the caterer for his wedding. He and his fiancée made a shortlist of ten caterers, all of whom were available. Ted’s fiancée had a favorite, and her family agreed with her choice. Ted’s family, however, preferred a different caterer, driven by cultural preferences and price considerations. Ted found himself stuck between these two stubborn sides.

Now, needing space in this context would mean Ted taking some time to weigh the pros and cons, look at the options, and make an informed decision. However, Ted didn’t simply need space—he withdrew. He got quiet, repeatedly telling everyone, “I’m thinking about it, leave me alone.” Instead of making a decision, he kept delaying.

Consequences of Withdrawal

This indecision led to both favored caterers being booked by the time Ted finally decided to act, leaving them with a caterer nobody liked. In a way, Ted avoided choosing between the two sides, but he lost out on the best options available. This is what withdrawal looks like: a refusal to confront the issue and a sense of being lost. It’s very different from just needing some space to think.

Communication is Key

Another reason signals might be misunderstood is a lack of communication. If your partner seems to be withdrawing, it’s important to talk to them. Say something like, “I see you’re pulling away. I don’t want to step on your toes.” Using open gestures, like hands up, can help communicate that you’re not pushing.

Ask them directly, “Do you need time to figure this out, or are you frustrated because you feel like you’ll never figure it out?” This distinction is crucial. If they need time, they can work through it. If they feel stuck, you can offer your support to help them find a solution.

Practical Steps to Address Miscommunication

  1. Open Dialogue: Always approach the situation with a willingness to understand and support. Avoid accusations and focus on understanding their needs.
  2. Observe Behavior: Notice if they are genuinely taking time to think or if they are avoiding the issue altogether.
  3. Offer Support: Make it clear that you’re there to help if they feel overwhelmed, without pressuring them to make a quick decision.

Understanding the difference between needing space and withdrawing can help you better support your partner and maintain a healthy, balanced relationship.

Signs of Excessive Distance in a Relationship

Signs of Excessive Distance in a Relationship

It’s crucial to recognize the signs of excessive distance and withdrawal in your relationship. If you need time, it’s essential to communicate that, and I’m more than happy to respect your need for space. However, if there’s too much distance, you’ll start to see negative effects in your marriage.

Decrease in Intimacy

A significant sign of excessive distance is a decrease in intimacy. This reduction can be both sexual and physical, but it also manifests as a general decline in warmth and friendship. For instance, if your partner used to greet you with a kiss on the cheek in the morning and suddenly stops, this could be a sign they are pulling away in an unhealthy way. If someone needs space, they should be able to return to the relationship with love and affection. If there’s a persistent decrease in intimacy, it indicates withdrawal rather than a temporary need for space.

Infrequent Conversations

Another sign of excessive distance is infrequent conversations. If your partner avoids connecting and communicating with you, it’s a red flag. Withdrawal often manifests in reduced communication, stemming from frustration or a sense of being overwhelmed. When conversations diminish, it’s a clear indicator that something is wrong. Healthy relationships require the ability to compartmentalize issues and maintain a connection despite disagreements.

Lack of Shared Activities

A third sign of excessive distance is a lack of shared activities. If your partner starts avoiding joint activities, like watching TV together, going for hikes, or even running errands, it’s a sign that the relationship is becoming uncomfortable for them. They may retreat because they feel unsure about how to proceed or overwhelmed by unresolved issues.

Impact of Excessive Space

The impact of excessive space in a relationship can be profound. We’ve touched on it briefly, but let’s explore it further. When there’s too much distance, there’s a significant loss of emotional intimacy. You may feel less warmth, friendship, and physical contact. Even if the physical aspect of your relationship remains, it may feel empty or devoid of connection.

Balancing Space and Communication

If you’re someone who typically needs space to process, but your partner needs to talk things out, it’s crucial to find a balance. Make an effort to meet your partner’s needs by engaging in more discussions. For example, if your partner needs to talk, be there to listen and support them. When you need space, communicate that clearly by saying, “I don’t need to talk right now, but I do need a couple of hours to process.”

By understanding the difference between needing space and withdrawal, and by recognizing the signs of excessive distance, you can better navigate your relationship and maintain a healthy balance of independence and intimacy. This understanding helps prevent misunderstandings and fosters a deeper connection between you and your partner.

The Importance of Returning and Reconnecting

The Importance of Returning and Reconnecting

When you take space, it’s crucial to return and reconnect with your partner. Demonstrating what healthy space looks like can lead to an increase in emotional intimacy and warmth. Properly managed space fosters a deeper connection rather than a sense of distance.

Neglect in Relationship Growth

Another significant impact of excessive space is neglect in the relationship’s growth. When someone withdraws too much, they become independent in a potentially dangerous way. While independence is often healthy, it can become unhealthy if it sacrifices connection with others.

  • Healthy Independence: Developing skills, standing on your own feet, and proving your capabilities.
  • Unhealthy Independence: Seeking isolation for its own sake, avoiding connection and responsibilities.

If your partner’s idea of independence leans towards extreme isolation—like wanting to live off the grid in the woods—that’s a sign of unhealthy detachment. We are inherently social creatures. Our need for partners and connection indicates that we thrive through social bonds.

The Risk of Isolation

Excessive space can lead to isolation, which is harmful to both the individual and the relationship. If someone feels safest only when alone, they will increasingly withdraw, leading to a profound sense of isolation.

I’ve seen this in couples with children, where one partner checks out because they feel neglected. For example, if a husband feels his wife assumes he needs space, he might start retreating into activities that isolate him further—like spending excessive time on his phone, watching sports, or going out alone. This can lead to misunderstandings, with the partner left wondering if he’s cheating or with friends, when he’s actually just seeking peace of mind.

Isolation can feel like a refuge from unresolved issues but it brings its own set of problems, such as loneliness and depression. It’s a painful, sad state that breeds further emotional detachment and harm.

Balancing Independence and Intimacy

To address this issue, it’s essential to balance independence with intimacy. Here’s how:

  1. Return and Reconnect: After taking time for yourself, make a conscious effort to reconnect with your partner. Show them that space is temporary and part of a healthy process, not a step towards permanent withdrawal.
  2. Healthy Independence: Encourage independence that enhances personal growth and skills without sacrificing the connection with your partner. This means supporting each other in personal endeavors while maintaining a strong relationship foundation.
  3. Communicate Needs: Clearly communicate your needs for space and connection. If you need time, express it respectfully and ensure your partner knows you’ll return to engage fully. Likewise, understand and respect your partner’s need for connection or space.
  4. Shared Activities: Maintain shared activities that reinforce your bond. Whether it’s a regular date night, a hobby you both enjoy, or simply spending time together, these activities help balance independence with intimacy.

Recognizing the difference between healthy space and harmful withdrawal is key. By balancing these aspects, you can prevent isolation and maintain a thriving, emotionally intimate relationship.

Finding the Right Balance

It’s crucial to strike a balance between independence and connection in a relationship. You don’t want to feel beholden to your partner, but you also don’t want to feel like you can’t connect with them. There’s a wide spectrum of how couples handle this, and it’s important to find what works for you.

Spectrum of Independence

Some couples maintain a high level of independence, leading somewhat separate social and professional lives. For instance, those in government roles may not be able to discuss their work, necessitating distance during their long work hours. Other couples prefer to share everything, constantly staying in touch. And then, there’s everything in between.

Establishing Healthy Boundaries

You need to establish healthy boundaries. Think of it this way: there’s a reason bathrooms have doors. There are parts of each other’s lives that are private and should be respected as such. If your partner needs space to decompress, communicate clearly what that space looks like and respect it.

Checking In

When your partner takes time to decompress, don’t assume everything went well. Check in with them. Ask how their time went to ensure it was truly about decompressing and not withdrawal or isolation. Establish clear reasons for needing space, whether it’s due to job demands, feeling overwhelmed, or other personal reasons.

Scheduling Couple Time

One of the most critical aspects of maintaining a healthy relationship is scheduling dedicated couple time. Treat your relationship like a priority. Have regular date nights and treat them as seriously as any important appointment. If you need to cancel, have a policy in place for rescheduling to ensure you don’t neglect your time together.

If you don’t treat your relationship seriously, your relationship won’t be serious.

Supporting Healthy Independence

Encourage and support healthy independence in your partner. If they want to go back to school, pursue new hobbies, or meet new friends, be their biggest cheerleader. Celebrate their successes and support them through their struggles. Show genuine interest in their endeavors and offer your help when needed.

The Three Key Steps

  1. Understand the Signals: Recognize whether your partner needs space or is withdrawing. Open communication is key.
  2. Schedule Check-Ins: Regularly check in with each other and schedule dedicated time together. Treat your relationship with the importance it deserves.
  3. Support Independence: Encourage your partner’s healthy independence and show interest in their personal growth and activities.

By understanding the signals, acknowledging the impacts of excessive space, and finding ways to balance independence with intimacy, you can foster a healthier and more connected relationship. I hope these insights are helpful to you in navigating the dynamics of your relationship.

Strengthening Your Relationship Through Balance

Navigating the balance between independence and intimacy in a relationship can be challenging, but it’s essential for maintaining emotional intimacy and growth. By recognizing the difference between needing space and withdrawal, establishing healthy boundaries, and supporting each other’s independence, you can prevent feelings of isolation and foster a deeper connection. Scheduled check-ins and dedicated couple time ensure that your relationship remains a priority, helping you both feel valued and understood.

If you’re struggling with finding this balance or dealing with other significant issues in your relationship, I’m here to help. A personalized consultation can provide you with the guidance and tools needed to enhance your relationship. Reach out for a free consultation to discuss your unique situation and start your journey towards a healthier, more fulfilling partnership.


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