Come Closer: Please Take Some Space

Ed doesn’t want to take the garbage out at night. It’s too cold, he’s tired. Susan finds this frustrating. In the morning it’s too full, or too smelly. If he forgets, then she has to do it.

They have this fight a few nights a week, before bed.

In and of itself this is not an issue that would bring a couple to see me. Ed and Susan are very functional. I meet a lot of couples just like them, who operate as a team in one or two key ares of the partnership, such as parenting or finances, but the full spectrum of possibility for partnership is eclipsed.

These couples are reportedly very close, and often, as daily life requires, very tired. They are good at bickering. They are frequently pissy and edgy with each other, and on one level, accept it as “just the way things are”.

But not completely.

They struggle with physical intimacy. And usually, one partner misses it more. They try to soothe their ache for deeper contact with the facts that in a modern relationship the role of friend, employee and /or parent overrides the lover role. There simply isn’t time for it all.

And they probably feel guilty about this, because they’ve seen Dr. Phil, or Oprah, and they know that a “perfect” or at least healthy relationship is balanced and sex is a part of it.

There is a simple solution, but it’s not date night.

Perhaps even something else is going on. Perhaps deep down, they each mourn the loss of their alone time. Perhaps they are “too close” to effectively come together.

Taking Space

The concept of taking space in relationships is not new. If you’ve ever read those sublime and essential Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke encouraging the preservation of the other’s solitude, or newer publications such as Esther Perel’s groundbreaking Mating in Captivity, you understand why taking space is important for modern intimacy: it allows for the restoration of the magnetic forces that draw us together.

You cannot move towards another if you are never really apart. Share on X

I define taking space as the simple act of engaging yourself in your life (not only your work), apart from your partner. Intimacy expert David Deida suggests that only men really need space, but I see this as a gross distortion of the way the culture has shaped gender. Women need time with themselves apart form their partners. Sometimes, the space women take involves more connection with others. We often confuse “taking space” with isolation.

If you do not take space from your partner, you will, through unconscious means, create it. Share on X

You will provoke your partner and push him or her away in an effort to regain some personal equilibrium. But it doesn’t work. The fighting becomes all intertwined with intimacy, and, in a sense, a replacement for sex.

So when you are once again fighting over the dishes or the garbage or who is making the lunches tomorrow, keep in mind that the conflict may actually mask a deep inner one: “How can I be by myself without losing my partner?”

In a working team:

  • Together you must recognize the consistent bickering AS A SIGNAL.
  • Together you must negotiate and honor the needs for individual time apart.
  • Together you must endure the discomfort of separation, so you can long for and celebrate reunion.

Take an overnight apart, or start with 20 minutes. Even if you are not used to being alone or away from your partner in your down time, strive to make a habit of it.

See what happens.

Of course for those habitually entrenched in each other’s space, this will be easier said then done, and I am always here to help.

This was the third post in the Teamwork in Relationship series.

Do you resonate? How do you lead in relationship? Leadership skills can help reduce drama and increase fun, creativity and satisfaction in our relationships. Want to learn how to stand in your authority in intimacy? Don’t miss your chance, in the Intimate Authority Online Course,  starting May, 18 2015!

2 responses to “Come Closer: Please Take Some Space”

  1. Alli Polin says:

    Yet again, another great post that has me reflecting not only on the lives of the people I know, but my own. I miss my time in the USA mostly because I had access to a robust life outside of my relationship. I adore my husband and he is undoubtedly my best friend but I miss girls nights, going to hang out at Barnes and Noble (which has closed!) or even hitting a Starbucks with my laptop or a good book. I have less choices here but still work to carve out my time… outside of my home office and the time we’re both at work.

    I agree – when in conflict it absolutely does come down to what it’s telling us and what’s underneath.

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Thanks for yet another generous response.
      Amazing how the simple act of going to a coffee shop can be a restoration of sorts.
      And yes, when a repeated conflict is always a gateway to deeper understanding!

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