“I feel claustrophobic; I want space in my marriage. I feel as though Shaila is breathing over my shoulder all the time, suffocating me. Before we got married she was possessive; I found it cute and felt cared for in those days. After marriage it moved from caring to being interfering in daily activities and I felt smothered. She questions every action of mine and expects me to tell her my every move. Shaila thinks that everything has to be done only as a couple and every moment shared. Shaila says ‘space’ is a new coinage that men use to get away from closeness.” So said Raj, two years into his marriage with Shaila.
Why can’t she understand?
“I have always believed that the power of space between two individuals is one of the key factors that helps to maintain a relationship. Shaila feels that giving space means letting go of me; she feels by asking for my space I am running away from the marriage. I’m not hiding things from her nor cheating on her. I need the space and me-time so that I can stay connected better. I consider space as a telltale indication of a healthy and on-going marriage. Negative thoughts have been deluding her mind about divorce and an extramarital affair with me wanting space.”
“My friends have been complaining that they never see me after marriage. Shaila doesn’t let me leave the nest and she accompanies me anywhere I go. Once when I was leaving for a boys’ night out she told me that I am getting all the emotional nourishment from outside and that’s why I am not part of the marriage emotionally. I have always loved my ME time because it lets me tap into my internal well-being. We are a couple, but we are individuals first and knowing there is space in my relationship for our personal freedom will make me respect Shaila more. Emotional and physical freedom is very important to me,” said Raj, a Marketing Manager in a firm in Pune.
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I feel stressed
“Shaila feels that space will make me get used to being without her. The lack of space is bringing stress in our relationship. To me space is like a timeout to preserve the strength of the togetherness. Shaila sounds like the lady at the tele-marketing from my office who is constantly force selling our product,” Raj confirmed.
Having space in a relationship is essentially about staying connected through a comfortable distance. Just like we keep a physical space between two individuals, mental space is also very essential. It is like being in solitude, while celebrating togetherness. Most men are solitary seekers, while women like to be in company all the time. Having space only means that there is something in him that he wishes to handle alone. The wife naturally feels he is deserting her and she gravitates more towards him.
The need for space
When a man withdraws to his cave, he is not falling out of love with the wife, he is only going away because of his genetic makeup. He does want to feel loved but he also doesn’t want to be caged and trapped like an animal. It is something he has to do to feel right about himself and at that point of time he doesn’t wish his wife to be in his circle of experience. A woman, on the contrary, often fantasises doing everything with her partner and when it doesn’t happen her way she gets paranoid and insecure. It is difficult for the woman to understand this space, because in her world there is no room for space.
No matter how much you like your work, you still need that weekend. No matter how much you love your family you still take a vacation. Mental space is the same. Space is an element of privacy.
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Space is essential
“If I remain crowded all the time then this marriage will break down. I don’t even have the space to sit down and think, leave alone watch the cricket match. She even follows me while I go to the balcony for a smoke or while I sit to read the morning news,” Raj lamented.
Space in a marriage is of prime importance. The person wanting space could define the kind of space he wants, like emotional space, physical space, quiet space, working space, fun space, creative space, away space or financial space. Do not wait for the eleventh hour to ask for space. As soon as you feel suffocated, discuss the need for ME time. At this instance, do sincerely convince your spouse that it is not about her and that the marriage is functional; and it had better be the truth.
How to give space in a relationship
- To give emotional space, do not talk when your spouse is at work.
- If the need is physical space, such as a corner of a room, then work together to create this convenient physical space.
- For an away space, let the spouse go away on a movie or a trek alone or with friends.
- If quiet space is the request, then when the spouse goes quiet, leave him alone till he comes back to talk.
- When the spouse is at his hobby, give him creative space.
- Financial space can be created by having separate bank accounts and statements.
- Plan a day or two completely off marked in your calendar, which gives each spouse some space from all responsibilities to rejuvenate.
A word of caution: I said giving space and not growing apart. This space should be comfortable enough for the partners and not big enough for the entry of a third party.