Jorge's relationship advice is based on experience and observation. Let his trial and error be your success (hopefully).
How to Give Your Boyfriend Space When You'd Rather Pull Him Close
If you landed here, then you're probably wondering how to give your boyfriend space without building walls between the two of you. It can be tough sometimes to find this balance, especially if you're in a long-distance relationship.
Whether you're long-distance or you live together, though, the principle is the same: People need enough space to be their own person, while still forming an interdependent (not co-dependent) bond with their partner.
You could say that when you come together as a couple, you form a new unit together, but that unit still has its individual parts. These parts are joined by communication.
Communication Is Key
It's normal to be a little afraid that the bond will be broken if your boyfriend asks for space--but as long as communication between you continues, the relationship can continue.
When communication is poor or broken, on the other hand, it doesn't matter how physically close you are anyway. Have you ever met an old married couple that spends hours together on the couch every night, but they hardly interact at all and no longer know each other?
This is what happens when people no longer want to put effort into communication. Even if your partner lived on the moon, in theory you could still cultivate a relationship if you had a deep level of regular communication. Obviously, it's better to be together physically because so much human communication is not verbal at all, but it can be done.
Your partner probably doesn't live on the moon, though, so your job here is a little easier!
Try applying some of these ways you can give your partner space without having to launch yourself out of their orbit:
8 Tips for Giving Your Boyfriend Some Space Without Being Too Distant
- Be focused and deliberate about spending time together.
- Relax into trust.
- Make space by dropping the stuff that doesn't work.
- Create less duty and don't make him feel guilty.
- Find ways you can grow together.
- Have your own interests.
- Have your own social circle.
- Find what roots you.
1. Be Focused and Deliberate About Spending Time Together
One of the ways that we might fall into a rut in a relationship is that we're spending a high quantity of time together, but our interactions are unfocused and low quality.
For instance, maybe you and your boyfriend watch TV shows in the evening to unwind. You're in the same room together, but you each kind of zone out, don't notice each other much, and fiddle around on your phones. Then, every once in awhile, someone might start a random conversation and someone else might give a random answer with half of their attention.
In other words, you're not fully conscious of the other person in that moment, even if you're physically sitting right next to each other.
And there's nothing wrong with that. We all need to zone out and let our attentions drift every once in awhile. However, if it's usually like that when you're together, then that's a recipe for feeling both distant and suffocated in the relationship at the same time.
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How is that possible?
The Quality of Your Attention
The problem is that you are not able to give your partner your full attention when you are half-distracted, nor are you able to fully focus on spending time alone (or with others). Intimacy requires attention--and so does recharging from being around each other.
How do you fix this, then?
By being more conscious about the time you spend together. It may sound silly, but if you have to put together a regular schedule and mark it down on a calendar (2 hours together every Friday or whatever), then do it. Use this specifically as quality time.
Set aside sacred time where you can be together with your partner and you can bond with full focus. Then, try to minimize the times when you're just going "through the motions" of being together, but your attention is somewhere else.
When your attention is scattered, but you're not actually bonding, it's much easier to get tired of each other. When you're very deliberate about the time you spend together and make sure that it is a high-quality experience, then it is actually possible to spend fewer total hours together, while feeling a deeper sense of intimacy.
That is the key to giving your boyfriend space without either of you drifting off: Make sure you do something together where you can both be fully present in that moment.
How Much Time Should We Spend Together?
What you do with each other and how many hours you put aside depends totally on you. Some people can focus on their partner 12 hours per day, while some people don't have the energy to spend time with another person for more than 12 hours a week. Find a balance that works for both of you.
If being very deliberate about this sounds nerdy and weird to you, then of course you don't have to follow this advice. Keep in mind, though, that the reason it might sound weird is because we live in a society that makes people feel awkward for consciously relating to people. Instead, we're taught to let our unconscious minds control our relationships, and yet somehow we should expect success. (In what other part of life does that work?)
Making consistent improvements to anything requires conscious intention. If not, you'll just fall into the same cycles of behavior over and over without knowing why. Do you want to actually be in your relationship or do you want your habits to have your relationship for you?
Make the closeness conscious and the space will take care of itself.
2. Relax Into Trust
Spending time by yourself isn't very fun when you spend that time worried that your partner is drifting away. Then when you do see them, you might be unable to relax, overwhelming them with fear and needy energy. This could push them away even more!
It's not your fault. This is probably just a mental habit that came from your past experiences. Long ago, did someone walk away from your life before you were ready for them to leave? This might make it hard for you to trust your boyfriend enough to give him the space he needs.
Loving someone means being able to allow someone their freedom, though. This doesn't mean that you should continue a relationship that is not fulfilling your emotional needs, but it does mean mellowing out a little bit.
Maybe you don't have to see your partner every single day. Maybe it's OK to have other interests besides each other. Maybe it's OK to have friends that aren't mutual, and it doesn't mean that he prefers to be with them instead of you.
If you're having trouble trusting that he won't just leave you, this may be a sign that you need to spend some high-quality time with yourself. This doesn't mean vegetating in front of distractions, trying to make the time pass faster. Spend the time journaling, meditating, and learning more about what's going on inside of you.
3. Make Space by Dropping the Stuff That Doesn't Work
Are there any activities that you both hate that you do together all the time? When you have to run an unpleasant errand, do you insist that your boyfriend comes along to keep you company?
On the surface, it might seem to make sense to bring someone who makes you happy in order to balance out the negative experience, but how does that affect you both in the long run?
Without realizing it, you may be associating each other with stress and ill feelings. If this happens too often, it may in fact be the whole reason why your boyfriend asked for some space. He may be dreading spending time with you if he thinks it will involve an annoying or draining task.
Do you sense that there are parts of your relationship that are like this? Consider dropping them.
Do those activities separately or don't do them at all if you can manage. Obviously, as partners, you may need to take care of some practical life matters together. There's also nothing wrong with your partner cheering you up every once in awhile.
But navigating drudgery and negativity shouldn't be most of the time you spend together.
When the main role our partner plays is helping us "feel better" about life's challenges, it's much too easy to fall into a pattern where we're simply using our partner to distract us from life. If we use their constant presence to help us "deal" with the moment, that is more of an addiction than a relationship.
You may have seen other people do this in their relationships--maybe even your own parents--but it's not a healthy way to live. It can easily lead to co-dependency.
What if you can't help but do this because your life sucks in general, though? What if it seems like your partner is the one good thing in a sea of misery?
Be careful, then. Work on getting to a better place as much as you can without expecting your partner to rescue you from your negative feelings.
This doesn't mean that you have to fake that you're happy when you're not (nor should you). It simply means that it's better to be conscious of why you're hanging out with him. Spend time with your boyfriend when you're prepared to focus on experiencing your connection to each other (and not as an escape from your feelings).
Sometimes this alone can create enough "space" for your boyfriend. He will probably feel a bit less burdened when he no longer gets the vibe that you need him to change the way you feel.
4. Create Less Duty and Don't Make Him Feel Guilty
For your boyfriend to be able to enjoy his time alone and feel recharged when he comes back, he can't be made to feel guilty about it. He can't feel like the time he spends with you is a "duty"; it has to be something he enjoys willingly.
So what is it like when you spend time together, and do you let him bow out of activities without guilt-tripping him about it? Or are there certain things that he hates to spend his time on, but that you insist he must do to fulfill some "relationship duty"?
For example, maybe you love spending every weekend with your family. You always want him to join you so that he can get to know them, even though he gets bored and spends the whole time on his phone. Afterwards, you argue the whole trip home about how he ignored your sister or said something rude to your mother or whatever.
You're livid because he doesn't spend more effort bonding with his future in-laws; and he's frustrated because you guilted him into coming along in the first place.
It doesn't have to be this specific activity, of course. It could be any situation where you expect (or insist!) that he spend his time and attention on what you think he "should" do, but his efforts seem lackluster.
If any of this sounds familiar, then reconsider your approach. He may just want space to himself because he feels that you're attempting to "trap" him in situations he doesn't want to be in. That may not be your intention, but it could be the way he feels.
5. Find Ways You Can Grow Together
Now that you're shedding the things that aren't very productive in your relationship, what are some things you can do together to help it flourish?
Again, it's much easier to make space when your relationship is fulfilling. Ironically, it's when you feel the connection is lacking something that you're more likely to keep grasping for more of a person's time, to no avail. It's like a bottomless hole that you can't fill up.
Instead, fill the relationship with activities that help you grow together. What part of your life intertwines well with your boyfriend's? What are some common goals that you share together? Put your energy into that.
"Focusing on each other" or "focusing on the connection" when you're together doesn't mean (necessarily) diving into your problems, or trying to diagnose and fix everything all at once. It means focusing on what you have in common and amplifying that.
You might find that sometimes "problems" will naturally become irrelevant when you stop forcing each other to change and instead focus on the things you do have in common. What sorts of positive things can you do together that will improve both of your lives and move the relationship forward?
Sometimes you do need to address problems directly, of course--but it's important to have fun most of the time. If you're not having fun, what's the point?
Again, productive quality time will help you give your boyfriend space when the time comes to be apart. He'll also feel less guilty when he's spending time alone.
6. Have Your Own Interests
Having shared interests is important, but so is having your own hobbies. This could be the source of much of your "lack of space." One of the easiest ways to give your boyfriend space is to simply focus more on your own individual interests for awhile.
Now, do you have a tendency to pick up your partner's hobbies until that's all you're into? This is actually a fairly common problem. I've known my fair share of people who drop everything and take on their partner's interests so that they can spend more time together. Next thing you know, they don't do anything on their own anymore.
If this happened to you, it's not too late! Unless you are your partner's clone, you do have an individual self in there. You have separate desires from him, and you can consciously work on getting back in touch with yourself.
Think back to the things you were into when you were a child, before being in this relationship could have even crossed your mind. Maybe it was something simple like doodling, or maybe you had more elaborate aspirations like becoming a world class chess player.
Spend some time enjoying what you used to love. That will naturally make space for you both.
7. Have Your Own Social Circle
Along similar lines, it's easy to watch your mutual friendships fuse over time to the point where you don't have any friends that are just yours. It could be that your friends became his friends, or that you simply dropped the friends who weren't already acquainted with your boyfriend.
Well, get re-acquainted!
It's normal to have a lot of mutual friends, but don't you also want someone to talk to who is outside of this circle? Sometimes it's nice to hang out with someone who doesn't automatically expect your boyfriend to show up, too. It's also nice to be able to talk about the relationship without your friend having an automatic opinion about the situation, as they might if they were also friends with your boyfriend.
Spend time with friends separately every once in awhile. This will give you and your boyfriend a healthy breather.
8. Find What Roots You
So, moving along to simpler and less deep topics: What's your purpose in life?
What do you feel roots you?
What do you spend most of your time focusing on as the center of your existence?
Is it your boyfriend?
It might seem sweet at first when your romantic relationship is the center of your life and your whole world would crumble without it, but this robs you of living a genuine purpose outside of that person.
People can come and go. They have their own desires and paths in life, even if they might share that path with you part of the way. But your life is your own. Never give that to someone else! Not only will it take its toll on you, but it can also ironically put a strain on the relationship and lead to its end.
Your partner may also be able to sense this unconsciously. When we feel that we are "too much" of someone else's life, a natural reaction is to ask for them to give more space. I've definitely been in this situation before, feeling that too much of my partner's life was based around being with me. It was not healthy and we were much happier when we pursued our own respective paths.
In that sense, just being yourself can be how to give your boyfriend space in the best way possible. You won't have to force yourself to give him space if your focus is naturally on what makes you happy, and he is simply a part of that. Being the main source of happiness for someone else is a huge burden.
You might worry, "What if I pursue my own genuine path, but it turns out it's not compatible with the relationship, though?" For example, maybe you want to be a professional surfer, but this would require moving close to the ocean and your partner can't do that without giving up his career.
That's a risk you'll have to take. But by taking that risk, you gain the world--you gain yourself.
Your relationship with yourself is the source of all the others.
Giving Your Boyfriend Space: Putting It All Into Practice
All right, enough theory!
Time to start thinking about what your needs are, what his needs are, and where they intersect. It's time to start communicating, since this is not a one-person show, after all. It takes the both of you.
What can you do today that will help give your boyfriend space in a way that works for you, too?
© 2021 Jorge Vamos