Taking Space: How Intentional Distance Can Actually Improve Your Relationship

Source: Photo by Milan De Clercq on Unsplash

The pandemic has impacted all of our lives in unprecedented ways and much has been lost, from the ultimate loss of loved ones to job loss to the loss of our ability to engage in our hobbies or connect with friends and family safely. At the beginning of the pandemic, you may have found comfort in your partner and even enjoyed aspects of having to stay home together. Many couples experienced a deeper appreciation for their partner during this time of crisis around the world. Over two years into the pandemic, however, some partnered people are feeling bored, lacking excitement, and craving something new. This is understandable and does not mean that your relationship is doomed.

When you think of “taking space,” you might immediately think of sadness or a break-up, but taking space can also be something amazingly positive that each person in a relationship does regularly. A healthy relationship requires a balance of connection and distance. On the one hand, people appreciate the safety, predictability, and stability of partnership. On the other, experiencing newness, surprise, and mystery are also fundamental human needs.

Taking space allows each person in the relationship to:

  • Connect with and maintain relationships with the other people who are important to them
  • Feel personally fulfilled by focusing on their own interests and hobbies
  • Breathing room to process disagreements, upsets, and misunderstandings

Taking space is also an investment in the partnership itself as it allows you and your partner to miss each other. Absence actually creates more longing and desire and can result in increased connection. How do you intentionally create healthy distance in a partnership? According to psychotherapist and sex and relationships expert Esther Perel, the answer is imagination: “Our capacity for imagination goes way beyond the boundaries and the limitations of our physical reality.”

Now is the time for you and your partner to get creative and imaginative. Have a conversation with your partner about what taking space would look like in your relationship. Embrace the excitement of time alone or time with people besides each other. Use this as an opportunity to practice communication by aligning on what time away from the partnership will look like, when it will happen, and for how long. This could look like a few hours on a Saturday morning, an evening after the workday, an entire weekend, or something else. After you take space, enjoy reconnecting with your partner. Perhaps spend some time sharing how taking space felt for you both, and what you love and appreciate about each other. This is how taking space can feel nurturing and beneficial in a relationship.