Personal space is scary! In his 1933 inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke the well-known phrase, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” It is timeless, and never more true than in relationships where fear can be the great bucket of water that puts out the most fervent flame.
With our partners, we are at our most vulnerable. They hold our hearts, and sometimes, it seems, our very sanity. Intertwined lives create interdependence and our emotions, finances, and identity can become tightly bound together, further increasing the risk we take when we trust another.
As you embark on your marriage, it is wise to discover the monsters under your relationship bed and find ways to cope with your fears so you control them, not the other way around. One of the most fear inducing needs people have is space.
Imagine this scenario: it is a Saturday night and your partner wants to go out with friends. Your chest tightens and you find it difficult to breathe. You struggle to understand why. Outwardly, you are supportive, but inside you scream, “No,” perhaps thinking, “Now that we are married, I thought we would always do things together.” You spend the evening anxiously checking your phone, wondering what your partner is doing. Are they thinking of you?
But personal space is important for happiness, growth, and well-being. It looks different for everyone and can be:
• Having a spot in the house that is just yours
• Spending time alone with friends
• Traveling without your partner or family
• Sports that your partner does not participate in
• Time where you are not accountable to anyone
• A Saturday uninterrupted phone call with your mom
• Other areas in which you may need space
Why does the idea of personal space cause such anxiety in the one left behind? It pushes our confidence buttons. We silently ask ourselves (sometimes consciously and other times well below the surface):
• Am I not enough?
• Will my partner find I am lacking when compared to others?
• Will my company measure up to what is offered elsewhere?
• What if they never come back emotionally or physically?
• Am I still safe?
The reality is that we cannot ever be someone’s ‘everything’, even if we may want to be. We want to be the sole provider of happiness to our partners because it makes us feel safe. But nothing is ever certain and the only thing we can ever do is believe in our own value and give each other the space to pursue what ignites them.
The irony is that passion and energy generated elsewhere will come home and be the fuel that keeps your partnership going over the long haul. What to do then?
• Talk about your needs for space and independence before the wedding.
• Let go. Holding too tight strangles the relationship.
• Breathe. If it causes you severe anxiety, you might want to consider seeing a professional to find out the underlying cause.
• Pursue your own passions, see your friends and family, learn something new.
• Do not stalk your partner’s private spaces (phone, time with friends, workplace). Everyone needs a space that is just for them.
• Initiate the idea of space and time apart and be gracious when your partner asks for it.
The ultimate demonstration of love for another is giving them space and support to be themselves. If you talk about your needs for space before the wedding, it sets you both up for success and happiness throughout life. You set expectations before there is a crisis.