Whether you are single or in an intimate relationship, each of us faces the challenge of navigating the relationship terrain that arises when our individual lives offer us distinct opportunities from that of the other important people in our lives. Learning to navigate this with as much grace as possible is a life long journey of developing our self-awareness, creating clear communication, and growing our ability to sit with misunderstandings and conflict. This week I explore the beauty and the challenge of needing and creating SPACE within our relationships with others.

As individuals, we all have needs for both connection and intimacy, and autonomy, solitude, and separateness. When we are flying solo, our needs for solitude, autonomy, and to express our individuality are easily and naturally met. We may struggle more with meeting our intimacy needs and as such loneliness can and often does creep in. However, once we are in a relationship, the pendulum swings the other way. By this I mean, creating solitude, and the space for the expression of our autonomy, sovereignty, and independence often becomes the more challenging task for the lovers.

Ideally, in mature and healthy relationships, this not unduly challenging. When there is sufficient trust between the partners, respect for these needs for separateness and togetherness is fairly balanced, and clear communication around these needs paves the way for a relatively harmonious and smooth meeting of these needs. This may require levels of compromise for one or both partners, as well as the processing of disappointment and other less comfortable emotions that arise when certain needs cannot be met immediately.

However, for a lot of us, this is not always the case, and dealing with these conflicting needs is one of our biggest challenges. When we are needing to allow our partner the freedom to follow their own path, it is vital to recognise that SPACE is a necessity for the health of our relationship. This space has a certain beauty to it – it creates the space for longings to emerge, for urges to connection to be felt, even increasing desire to be experienced (this is especially yummy when we have been together for a long time!), and of course, most importantly, for contemplation and connection with ourselves. In this process of allowing, we may also be called to take care of our own needs, and manage our feelings, and expectations, whatever they may be. Our task here is to work through whatever emerges for us, without preventing our partner from living their life in a full and rich way.

When we are the one needing space, our edge of growth may be around acknowledging this need, owning as it something that we require for our personal well-being, and expressing this to our partner. Some of us, having grown up in a home where asking for space and solitude was not honoured and accepted, may find that we struggle with this process now. Here, our work first lies in becoming aware of these needs for more separateness and solitude. When we can see that we need more alone time or a retreat from the togetherness of our coupledom, we are then able to express this directly to our partners. We are then less likely to initiate conflict as a means to create space.

In summary, learning to express our need for more space, and allowing others their own space are two vital skills for creating and maintaining healthy and thriving relationships.