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

70 Responses to “Space in a Relationship”

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Esther, I don’t think you are being rude at all. I am sorry about the loss of your husband. That is not something that a 27 year-old would ever expect to have to deal with. Did you experience God’s help through that time? Did you have a church family that supported you through that?

    I can understand how it seems like God has left you hanging these last 13 years without the love and support of a husband. I can imagine there have been some tearful nights spent sincerely seeking His favor in providing a love that will last. What are your expectations from God? Or maybe stated another way, what do you have faith in Him for? How did you come to a place of trusting in Him? How has He impacted your life? I ask these things just because I want to make sure we are on the same page about what it means to have faith in God.

  • esther says:

    I don’t mean to be rude but I’ve been single for the last 13yrs after my husband passed away.
    I’ve been waiting to meet the person god has for me in his time but my faith is getting low.
    Im 40this year and would like to meet someone.
    I have always put godd first but find this prayer unfulfilled.

  • Chris says:

    putra….thank you for your blog…from a biblical perspectve and Gods, we see how that God alone is the one who knows the person with whom we should marry. that means that we should give our lives to God the father through his son jesus christ and allow his plans and purposes to be accomplished in us. when God joins two people together, he puts his love in their hearts one for another. they build their lives upon his words in agreement and that is what holds them together for a lifetime. if you would like more information on knowing jesus personally as your lord and savior log onto or click talk to a mentor above. God bless you as you do!

  • Putra says:

    Can I ask something? When a man need a women and wanna be his wife. But he’s not already with the Financial. And second: I have two a girlfriend. Number 1. I really love her. She’s everything to me but my mom don’t like her. That sucks.. Number 2. I don’t lover her. She’s good. My mom thought she’s good for be my wife. But I don’t feel anything about of her like number one. I need your advice and suggestion! Sorry if it is not important. I just wanna say what’s on my mind. :( PS: I love my mom although she’s hurts me with her words.

  • Chris says:

    laura…i regret to hear of your struggles. . .honesty and transparency should be what characterizes a courtship because if not, it wont just suddenly appear when married. your boyfriend owes it to you to at least say what he is thinking and/or going through and his thoughts towards you. of course, only God himself can really show us whats ticking on the inside of a person for sure however. that is why i encourage you to develop your own personal relationship with jesus christ as he alone knows the hearts of all men. for more information on doing that log onto or click talk to a mentor above to start your personal and saving relationship with jesus today. all of us like sheep need a shepherd and someone to guide our lives. only jesus is capable. if you already know jesus then being in a strong Christian church with your friend is urgent also. i pray jesus guide and bless your every step and show you who it is he would have for you as a mate. blessings!!

  • Laura says:

    I loved your article and I’m looking forward to reading more off this site. I’m currently in a two year relationship with a man who pulls away from ‘is’ regularly. I’ve given him much space but need the continuity and predictable comfort of an a marriage. How can I tell if he is just taking time to heal from his failed marriage or just using me to hold space? I feel like there is definitely on- again/ off-again waves of committment but no sign of him truly buying into the bigger picture yet. Any conversations of the sort are met with vague answers that (I think ) are meant to placate me.
    I’m so frustrated.

  • Chris says:

    sam…i regret to hear that you are struggling. loneliness can be a very powerful enemy or we can turn being alone into our friend if we know that God is always with us. having a personal relatinship with christ doesnt exclude the need for human companionship but that should start in his church first. if we have a strong saving relationship with christ and his people, that will help safeguard us from making the wrong decisions about our other relationships and possibly jeopardizing our most important relationship to God himself. respecting God idea for marriage when living together is so important to be able to be led by him since you know what marriage is as you had mentioned. how can we expect our relationship to someone to work out, if we havent concecrated it first to christ since he is the one who designed marriage in the first place? has interesting insights to a true Christian married life. i would recommend you log on there. if you would also like more information on knowing jesus as your personal savior and the most important relationship you will ever have, you can log onto or click talk to a mentor above. i pray that you would consider the suggestions i have written here so that jesus and his words can become first in your life and direct you in the right way you should walk since this life is so short and the next one forever, we all need to look beyond our current circumstances and loneliness to something more that is so much deeper, higher and lasting for our lives in jesus name amen!

  • Sam says:

    Hi….I have been struggling with this concept of one partner needing space. I lost my wife 2 years ago but found a lovely lady one year ago. The relationship is going well but I fear that we will never live together as she prefers to just keep dating where I may stay at her house one or sometimes 2 nights per week and the rest of the time we live separately. We do see each a further 2 evenings per week but for an hour or two. She believes that this will ensure that our love for each other does not become stale. This is not a life I am used to as I had been married for 40 years and was very close to my wife. I am struggling with this concept of one partner needing space and may end up emotionally deprived and very unhappy. I have told that women need this space more than men. Additionally my partner has been by herself for a number of years and has learned to cope by herself. She surrounds herself with many friends and does not appear to suffer from loneliness. I am happy to be with her but I really feel the loneliness when we are not together. I am not sure what direction to take and whether I should just continue to see what happens as the alternative may be worse for me and I dont want to hurt her either.

  • Chris says:

    tiffany…i am sure jesus has a Christian husband for you. as you let jesus come into your life and heart, and yield all desires to him, recognizing any sin, then he will change and transform you into his perfect image. if you would like help in dealing with your issue you can at desert stream and their course, door of hope. if you would like to chat with a personal mentor you can at… blessings to you today!

  • Tiffany says:

    Hi I need your advice really bad! I’ve been in my relationship 1yr 3 months. My relationship was always great from the beginning. My girl change ever since her mom moved down here to georgia with her. Her mom came down here I say about eight months into our relationship. She lied to her mom about is for so long! And still lies…. She doesn’t want to tell anyone shes gay. I’m 26 and she is 30 I asked her for so long to be open and she won’t. My girlfriend and I barely talk anymore. When I bring up issues we need to fix or what I know would make our relationship better she gets upset and don’t want to talk about it. I ask her all the time about living together she tells me we are but i just found out she’s moving with her mom. She ain’t want to tell me till I asked. She doesn’t even come see me anymore and I don’t know what to do. I personally thinks she is a mamas girl. I’m so in love with this women, she’s always looking out for me and helps me with anything I need . I’m afraid to move on cause I don’t want to get hurt or lose the little I have left of her. I’m not happy at all I’m always alone it’s like I’m single. If she ever text me it’s always a hey what you doing and then she questions me about of I’m talking to someone els. I’m lost confused ect. Help me please!

  • Shelley says:

    Dear Father God.

    Lord i lift up Don to You at this time in his life that you will support them in there marriage and that You will heal old wounds that they have in there life. I pray that you will guide them as one under You oh Lord. Amen

  • Don says:

    I have been with my wife for 23 years and we both retired young in our mid-fifties. Recently she told me that she needs space and she goes out 3 times a week swimming which is fine with me! I told her I went through this with my ex-wife and she cheated on me. My wife told me there is no one else when I asked her to be honest with me. Part of the problem is I was laid up with my back for the last 6 months and was in the emergency room with my back going out on me. Also I was taking care of my 83 year old father who is dying of heart problems. I told her thank you for being so supportive of me while I have been going through all this! I told her I will not have sex with her until she gets her head on straight and boy was she happy I will not beg her for sex anymore! I was very calm and nice and told her tonight to do what ever she has to do! Her sister who is a friend of mine told her to run from me! I am very hurt and VERY angry right now! How should I handle this?

  • Michael Jantzen says:


    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:

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  • 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.

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