Most of us know that space is a necessary part of a relationship and that allowing our partner to take space is right and healthy. We know that we all need alone time from our partners and friends, that it’s a good thing to do. But many of us know this in the same way we know wheatgrass is good for us—it’s medicinal rather than something we drive to the grocery store at 2 am for.
But what if space itself can be a way of loving, the same way physical touch, giving a gift, or telling someone they’re beautiful is? Rather than it being a separate but necessary thing we do because we know that it’s healthy, perhaps space is actually one of the Love Languages.
Many of us imagine that taking space is a moving away from the other person, and most of us think of love as moving towards. So if we’re moving apart, that must not be love itself, right?
There is confusion here between physical proximity, or time spent together, and actual connection.
My guess is that most of you have had experiences where you were in the same room, or even very close to someone, and yet still felt disconnected. The opposite can be true as well: It is possible to stay connected while not in the same physical space – without needing to send 10 billion texts to each other every day! This muscle, of staying heart-connected while separate, is simply not well-trained, which is why people fear that space is disconnection.
There tends to be a lot of judgment that the person who needs space is the least committed, but what if the person that needs space is actually the most committed. What if space is actually one of the ways they show their love?
I believe the act of taking (or giving) space can be a deep an act of love. What if offering your partner space was one of the primary ways for your partner to feel loved?
My partner, for instance, needs a lot of solo time to regenerate. He is what I like to call an Extreme Introvert. My experience over the past 7 years of our relationship is that my capacity to not only allow him to take space, but to even encourage it AND not punish him on the other side, has had him feel deeply loved by me. And also allowed him to feel safe enough to keep coming closer to me.
Another past lover of mine once said to me: “I want to be able to show up for you with a certain kind of presence when I am with you. In order for me to do that, I need to take time for myself for a bit now.”
This was on a romantic getaway, so my first response was to feel rejected and I think ‘what’s wrong with me that he doesn’t want to stare deeply into my eyes and ravish me 24/7?!?!?!?!?!?’ I’m sure none of you has ever felt that way 😛
However, his clarity in being able to articulate that to me, allowed me to see that it was actually him loving me that was having him take space. And I have been able to transfer his clarity into relationships where the other person may not have that level of self-awareness, or articulation.
The above examples are of the one who wants/needs space taking it.
For the partner who may not have a high need for space, if you can see when the other person could benefit from some space, give it to them as a gift. This is actually an act of love in the same way you might offer your partner a foot rub, bring them flowers, or fix their door – as acts of love.
Like all the Love Languages, this might feel awkward if space isn’t one of your primary Love Languages. For me, Acts of Service never occur to me. They are low on my list of Love Languages, but they are high on my partner’s list – so I have come to consciously choose to see what Acts of Service I can offer him, so he can receive my love more easily.
Likewise, my partner isn’t into receiving Words of Praise/Affirmation (weird, right!?!?!?), which is my primary Love Language. But, because he loves me, he has made a huge effort over the years to learn to praise me, so I can receive his love more easily.
Are you willing to offer love in a way that may not come ‘naturally’ to you?
Notice what comes up for you when I offer this. Is it a deep sigh of relief, is there resistance, or something in between? Then just play with it. See what happens if you take on the perspective of the other side, even if it’s not true for you right now.