Currently, I am quarantined at home during the COVID-19 outbreak with my significant other. While I am comforted knowing I will be with the man I love during this stressful time, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the thought of spending every waking moment together. If you stepped into a time machine and witnessed me three years ago, I would have never fully understood the meaning of space within a relationship.
Safe to say, it’s easy to take it personally when your significant other asks for a bit of alone time, or space. Many people function better with some good quality alone time – or some people just don’t. As an extrovert, I was never really able to grasp the requests of my introverted partner. Dating an introvert has its ups and downs, but the one quality they strive to keep is having their own space. For me, I never understood when people said they enjoyed being alone. I grew up constantly on the move, hanging out with friends, partaking in group activities, workouts, etc. I did not move out of my mom’s house until I was twenty-one, so safe to say, I was never really alone. However, my partner experienced moving out and being alone relatively young. At the ripe age of sixteen, he moved to New York to play hockey, and truly experienced living on his own. Growing up in two different situations, we both had a different value of what being alone meant.
I found myself constantly having anxiety about any of my partners’ desires to have quality time alone. There would be weeks where we would be attached at the hips, and some days I would not hear a word from him. I was confused, and felt a bit on the anxious side. Questions roamed in my mind, “does he still like me?” “is he seeing someone else?” I found myself constantly paranoid, trying to dig deep into my mind for the answers. There were days where I was so desperate to call and hear his voice, but a part of me knew that I should not do that. I truly believe that a woman should look at dating as a two way street, but something told me that this guy was different. But as time moved on, things began to get deeper and more complex. The idea of space was still a foreign concept to me and I needed answers.
One day, I approached one of my boyfriends to talk about this anxiety I had, and I asked what he does in his spare time when we are not together. Through therapy, I learned it is always better to voice what you want, rather than keep it in. He simply told me, “I sincerely enjoy being by myself, and that is nothing against you at all.” Bingo. A concept I never really seemed to grasp: truly being alone.
After my first real fight with one of my boyfriends, he asked me to leave his apartment so he can be alone. I was petrified to leave, mainly because I was scared he might think about ending our relationship over something so minor. I so desperately thought staying would fix all our problems, if only he would just listen and calm down. If anything, me wanting to calm him down in the middle of something so heated was the worst thing I could have done. Once I left, I panicked. I was heartbroken, because I had no idea why he did not want me there, and why we could not resolve things as soon as possible. Once I stepped foot into my apartment, I remember not being able to compose myself, and I quickly turned to my mom for her help. I had no idea what to do, or how to approach the situation. I remember from that moment, my mom gave me words of advice I carry on with me to this day:
She told me that no two people should spend every waking moment together. That creating healthy boundaries within your relationship such as space will only make your relationship stronger. As much as you love the person you are with, it is normal to grow sick of them at times, and wanting to do your own thing or have your own time is something you need to strive for. You want your partner to miss you, even if it’s ten minutes, one hour or a few days. Absence of any kind makes the heart grow fonder.
I’m not going to lie though, having those words imprinted in my mind was hard to do. Even though things were okay once I gave him his space, I never prioritized my own time enough. Hanging out with friends was not as important to me as spending time with him. (And ladies, if you feel this way too, it is totally normal!) I never really understood “absence makes the heart grow fonder” until I decided to take control of my own life.
Once my current partner and I decided to move in together, he became extremely hesitant about the idea. Giving up his own space entirely was something foreign to him, especially when living with someone he loves. Where will one of us go if we get into a fight? What if things got bad, and we really needed our own space within our own home? Those were the questions we asked when it came down to moving in together – not only is it a huge commitment to your relationship, but it is a huge commitment to giving up your own space entirely. Ultimately, we opted to get a two bedroom apartment and as expensive as it was, it probably was the best decision we have ever made. I gave up the second bedroom to transform it into a man cave. For him, having a space to play his video games, study, and have friends over was more than he can ask for (and honestly, bigger than his first studio apartment).
As for me? I discovered that prioritizing my own space made my relationship even stronger. Throughout time, I established boundaries between us when it came to having more space. Having girl time became incredibly valuable to me. I found that going out with my girlfriends even for a couple hours was not only good for me, but good for my partner; we missed each other. Even within our home, I always make a point to let himhave his quality time in his man cave, while I decompress out in the living room, bedroom or my beautiful balcony.
Ladies, it’s okay to ask your partner for some healthy space. Sure, it may come down to them asking why, or maybe having their feelings a bit hurt. I implore you to have these conversations with your partner, as setting healthy boundaries now will only create better results for the future. Give each other that space to miss each other, gather your thoughts and make peace with your soul. You won’t regret it.
What to you is having quality space away from your partner?