Space in a Relationship

Written by Rinatta Paries

sexlove_spaceHow much emotional space do you occupy in your relationship? Could the amount of emotional space you and your partner each take up have anything to do with whether your relationship makes it or not? Indeed it does.

Just what do I mean by “emotional space?” It’s the time, energy, and space your partner spends dealing with or listening to your emotions, words, thoughts, wants, needs, etc. When it comes to the emotional space dynamic, there are three types of couples:

Type 1: One person in the relationship takes up most of the emotional space.

In this type of relationship, one partner seems to be super involved, expressing most of everything in the relationship. This person may seem extreme, emotional, needy, intense, and possessive, while the other person may appear to be uninvolved in the relationship, seeming to have hardly any needs at all.

The partner that seems super involved is typically filling up the most emotional space in the relationship, often out of fear that there will not be a relationship if the emotional space is not occupied.

Unfortunately this is a mistake. The emotional life of the relationship needs to be generated by two people as equally as possible. Otherwise, you end up with a lopsided relationship and with both people unhappy. One will be unhappy because he or she is always working on the relationship and the other one will be unhappy because he or she seemingly can’t get a break from the drama.

What’s more, the person who is generating the relationship will eventually get burned out and will need to stop. If the lopsided relationship has been going on for too long, it may simply fall apart.

Help for the “Type 1″ relationship

If you are the person taking up most of the emotional space, stop. By taking up most of the space, you prevent your partner from participating in the relationship. Stop taking up the space by shifting your needs outside the relationship (not infidelity). Instead of talking to your partner, talk to your friends or family or to your journal. Instead of asking for many needs to be met, ask for only some to be met, or for none to be met for a period of time.

Create a vacuum so that your partner has something to step into
. It will feel strange and uncomfortable, but it is necessary discomfort. If your partner does not participate in the relationship, he or she may look for more connection elsewhere.

Get help in learning how to stop taking up so much emotional space.
Hire a good therapist or a relationship coach to work on this. You may also need help as a couple in learning how to share the emotional space and in teaching your partner how to take up more space.

Type 2: Both partners alternate in how much emotional space they occupy
, with one person always taking up too much.

This type of relationship is a version of Type 1 above except the couple is more intertwined and involved with each other. This is a positive for the couple.

Yet often when the amount of emotional space partners take up alternates, the amount of drama alternates as well, never subsiding. A couple who frequently deals with drama gets exhausted and burned out and never achieves the closeness and connection they crave.

Help for the “Type 2″ relationship

Stop the drama. The key for both of you is to tone down all of your emotions, needs, wants, upsets, etc. The second key is to make sure your partner stays involved at all times. These steps may sound simple, but in fact are difficult to do. Get help from a coach or a therapist on how to stop the drama and balance your relationship.

Type 3: Neither person in the relationship takes up much or any emotional space.

This is a relationship where people reach a particular level and stay there. They may enjoy each other’s company, perhaps see each other on a regular basis, and they may even be intimate.They might have been together for a long time or may even be living together or married. Yet they do not move deeper into each other’s emotional lives.

For some people this type of relationship is more than satisfying, more than enough. For others, this kind of relationship is only a satisfactory prelude to the real depth any couple is capable of reaching together. If you are in this type of relationship and it works for you, great. But, if you are in this type of relationship and you want more, here’s a solution.

Help for the “Type 3″ relationship

If you are in a relationship where neither one of you takes up too much emotional space, the two of you will eventually simply drift away. If you want to keep the relationship, it’s time to both invest more and invite your partner to invest more as well.

But be careful not to cross over into a Type 1 relationship and take up all of the emotional space. Do go slowly, perhaps begin by sharing some small part of yourself that you have been holding back. Be a bit more open, and bit more authentic in your responses. Take small emotional risks and see if your partner will follow.

Do be aware that your partner may not want to follow you into deeper emotional waters — some people are highly uncomfortable being close. If this is the case, you will need to choose whether you want to continue the relationship or not. You will need to decide how emotionally close a relationship you ultimately want to have with your life mate.

Type 4: Both people in the relationship take up enough emotional space to feel connected and loved.

Obviously this is what a healthy relationship looks like.
One aspect of a healthy relationship is that both people can stay involved emotionally and flow in the amount of space each one takes at any given time. Some periods of time may be predominantly about one person, while most of the time the couple will stay fairly balanced. Neither partner will shut out the other or be too far removed emotionally from the relationship at any given time.

As in all other things, when it comes to relationships, balance seems to be the key. Work on balancing the amount of emotional space you take up in your relationship so that both of you get the room you need to be yourself.

Your Relationship Coach,
Rinatta Paries

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58 Responses to “Space in a Relationship”

  • Michael Jantzen Michael Jantzen says:

    Maine,

    If feel like you could really benefit form communicating privately with one of our confidential online mentors. Just click here and fill out the form if you’re interested and someone who has experience in your area of struggle will contact you, usually within just a few days: http://powertochange.com/discover/talk-to-a-mentor/

    I hope you have a wonderful day.

  • Maine says:

    Hi! Im thankful i got a look in this site. Its been a couple of days im depressed. Many times I’ve told to myself i should not hold back anymore, but i kept on.
    Most likely its type 1.
    I feel that im just the only one working it out. i cant feel him anymore. im tired.

    as of now we are in different countries so its very hard to maintain what we have especially when you dont know your position and our only communication is thru online. we are not yet into boyfriend/girlfriend stage. i dont know what to do. i told him everytime i feel this way but he always saying that i shouldn’t think about it. its been 2 years we haven’t seen each other. he’ll be back next year.

    should i still hold on? am i just being paranoid? am i doing too much? or should i let go?

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Nollis I would just like to share that in my life I have found that my relationship with Jesus Christ has really helped me deal with fears and anxieties. Jesus said–and I believe it–that He has a plan for my life and will lead me exactly into those relationships and situations that are the best for me–not always the easiest but the best. Because I have found His plan to be perfectly trustworthy I don’t have to worry about what all the “what if”s that come up in life and relationships. I focus my efforts on knowing what He wants for me and then follow where He leads, trusting that He will work out all things for my good. It is a wonderful way to live and gives me the freedom of letting negative stuff have less of an impact on me.

    Have you ever heard about how Jesus can make that kind of difference in a person’s life?

  • Nollis says:

    Thanks Jamie and i will take it into consideration, I’ve been trying really hard but i cant seem to keep her out of my mind or thoughts. At work she’s on my mind and whenever i get home i cant seem to not call or text her and then she gets pissed and again says am not respecting her request of time. Am also worried about where I really stand if she’s coming back to me as a better person or if she just wants the time to get over me. Am not thinking negative but I asked her why she wanted the time and she didn’t reply so now am in wonderland

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Nollis, I am glad that this article has been a help to you. It is so good when you are able to honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses and make positive choices. Can I suggest that you don’t make her wants your primary motivation to making healthy changes in your life, but instead you make those changes for your own benefit. You will be a far happier individual if your strength is in yourself and not in your relationship to another person. If you make changes for her you are still making her the center of your world even though you are giving her space. If you make the changes for yourself you will become a much more content person.

  • Nollis says:

    HI THIS IS NOLLIS,,WELL I MUST SAY THAT THIS LITTLE ARTICLE SHED ALOT OF LIGHT INTO MY LIFE. I REALLY LOVE MY GIRLFRIEND BUT I THINK AM SLOWLY BECOMING A MONSTER BY BEING A TYPE 1, THIS IS PRETTY HARD TO STOP BECAUSE I WASN’T ALWAYS LIKE THIS BUT SHE’S SIMPLY EVERYTHING MY HEART DESIRES, THANKS FOR YOUR ADVISE AND I WISH I COULD GET SOME MORE. AM GOING TO START WORKING ON EVERYTHING YOU POINTED OUT AS THOSE ARE THE POINTS OF INTEREST. SHE ASKED FOR SOME TIME AND AM REALLY SCARED BUT AM GOING TO HONOR HER REQUEST AND TRY TO BE A BETTER PERSON AS SHE WANTS, I HONESTLY THINK AM SUFFOCATING HER

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    I am so sorry for your loss Crys. The death of a parent can be a real life-changer. What kind of support have you received through your grieving process? I don’t know where you live but if you look at http://www.GriefShare.org you may be able to find a GriefShare group that meets in your area. I have gone through the 13 weeks of GriefShare a number of times and it is so helpful to understand grieving better. The meetings consist of watching videos that have experts sharing insight into the different aspects of grieving, a work book that allows you to journal your own personal experiences and a discussion time where you can interact with other people who are grieving as well. One thing I have learned in that even though no one follows the same path there are insights that we learn from each other that help each of us. It is so good to be among a bunch of people who sincerely care about my pain and are willing to listen and encourage me. You may find that if you take the time to focus on your grief that the changes that have happened to you emotionally may just reverse themselves.

    I appreciate that you are taking responsibility for your part in the arguing. Have you talked to him about that? Have you talked about how he can help you in the moment of anger? The more that the two of you can talk these things through before an argument starts the better prepared you will be to interact in a way that is healthy for both of you. If he knows that you are struggling with anger due to your mother’s death he will be less likely to take your outburst personally. If you have talked with him and agreed on a phrase that he can say in that moment which will be a reminder for you to stop and check to why you are reacting like this the both of you will feel like you are working together.

    In my marriage the biggest factor that helps us is our relationship with Jesus. He lived such a great example of how to really love people and He helps me to follow that example in all of my relationships. When I feel my temperature start to rise I say a quick prayer asking that He help me to see the situation through His eyes and to keep me from losing my cool. Right away I can sense His guiding hand in my life and I don’t get so riled up about things. If you want to find out more about how Jesus can make a difference in your life check out http://powertochange.com/discover/faith/discoverpurpose.

  • Crys says:

    I am in an extreme type one relationship & I am the one who is taking up the emotional space. This is not something that is natural for me or my character. I have never been this emotional or needy or desperate for anyone’s attention the way I am in this relationship, ever. This comes because I am grieving a mother I lost 10 months ago. When it comes to my relationship we have been through a lot of rough patched because of this. Our arguments become explosive and they are about nothing. Most if not all of the time the arguments are started by me. Something so small can become so big in my world now a days. I had a big problem with anger that is slowly subsiding and becoming a lot better now than it was in my beginning months. Now the problem is we argue a lot. Almost daily. Then we’ll spend days apart bc we’re arguing and come together and do it again. Sometimes we have really good weeks or a week where we don’t and we’re so in love and then I’ll get right back into my cycle of arguing with him about something. He says I’m complaining and I say I’m just telling him how I feel or the things I don’t like about the relationship. His reply is that everything cnt be perfect and everything doesn’t need to be acknowledged. He also says I never allow him to fix an issue when I come to him with them. When he does acknowledge my feelings like I ask him to do & he says okay, I hear you, I’ll do better all I do is keep beating a dead horse which then turns into us having a bigger fight and me asking if he wants to break up which he hasnt ever said he wanted to do. It’s only been me. When things get too hard or when I know what a complete jerk ive been to him with my constant arguing, and role reversal of being the victim. He feels I am not happy with anything although he tries and I just wnt to have a better relationship with the love of my life cause had it not been for him I wouldnt have made any improvements in the grieving department. I don’t act this way with anyone else and I wanna no longer be this way because it’s hurting him and it’s hurting me as well. I don’t know how to stop but I need to! For the sake of me and the woman/girlfriend I know how to be and for our relationship. What can I do?

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