Having enough space or privacy in a relationship is more important for a couple’s happiness than having a good sex life, says a resent US study on marriage.
So why is space so important in a relationship?
“When partners have their own set of interests, friends, and time for self, that makes them happier and less bored,” says Dr Terri Orbuch a psychologist, research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. “Time alone also gives partners time to process their thoughts, pursue hobbies and relax without responsibilities to others.”
One of the key factors that can influence your need for space in a relationship is your attachment style, explains John Aiken, a relationship psychologist. “This relates to how you bonded with your parents during your upbringing. If they were consistently warm and nurturing towards you, then you have a ‘secure attachment’ and you can generally cope with being together and being apart from your partner.
If on the other hand, you were raised with parents that were either anxious or rejecting, then this will mean you can have problems with being too clingy or needing space from your partner. In the end, how well you attach to your parents as an infant will influence how much space you need with your romantic partners as you move through life.”
Orbuch believes that while both sexes need space and time for themselves in a relationship, women are less likely to get it. “This is because women often have less time to themselves than men. Even if women have jobs outside the home, they are typically more likely to be caring for children, parents, friends, and others in the family. Women are more relationship oriented and they are more likely to have more friends than men, and often are the ones planning or organising the social activities for the couple”.
She says that some couples pursue separate hobbies or engage in different sports or athletic events while others recommend space to go out with friends, family members, join clubs, participate in classes or go to lectures or workshops.”
If you are feeling the strain of not having enough ‘me time’ but don’t know how to fit it into a busy schedule, Orbuch says you can still find space and time for yourself in the same house. “It is merely time alone to think, process thoughts, and relax,” she says.
Here are Orbuch’s tips for getting the space you need:
1. Recognise that when you have space and time for self you can learn a new hobby or interest. That makes you more exciting and interesting, and you can bring the information or activity back into your relationship or to your partner.
2. Enjoy the time you have and don’t feel guilty. Your need for time for self has little to do with your relationship or how much you love your partner.
3. Be specific when you ask your partner for time for self. Also, I would suggest not using the phrase – “I need space” – instead tell your partner why more space will make you happy. “I would love to take a cooking class on Tuesday nights. It would really make me happy and I could then bring the recipes home to make them for you!”
4. Don’t keep secrets from your partner. Include them in what you did and where you went as much as possible.