All of us have those times in life where we get overwhelmed for whatever reason and need personal time to recharge, deal with life stressors or get clarity on our feelings. Maybe work is crazy and you just need time to just relax for a bit. Perhaps you are dealing with a tragedy in your family and you just need time to be by yourself and cope in your own way. Or possibly you are just experiencing a time where you just need time to yourself and you cannot really explain why or have a specific reason.
Every one of us has varying levels of extraversion and introversion. When I’m feeling stressed I tend to want to be by myself and watch a movie, get take out and avoid social interaction for a little bit. Other people handle stress by going out, socializing and surrounding themselves with loved ones. Neither way is wrong, but everyone does cope with stressors differently.
And hey if you are the type who likes to be alone and needs space from your loved ones, then that’s perfectly okay! But how do you go about respectfully asking for that space. It can be difficult to ask for space, especially when that person is your mom, boyfriend, wife, best friend or a group of friends you regularly spend time with. As tough as it may feel to ask for space, there are a few good ways to go about asking for space.
1. Be specific about what you mean. If possible, try to avoid using the words “I need space.” Space is a very vague concept. If I ask for a space from a loved one, that might mean I might take longer to reply to messages today or maybe let’s not get together this week but to another person, space might mean let’s not communicate or see each other for weeks or even months at a time. In a romantic relationship, a partner may feel you want to breakup if you ask for space. With a close friend, the person may feel like you don’t want the friendship or are unhappy with them as a friend if you simply just ask for space. To avoid any misunderstandings or hurt feelings, be specific with what you are asking for. If possible, give the reasons for why you are asking for space. Let your friend know that you’ve had a very stressful time at school or work and need a couple of weeks where you guys don’t see each other for a bit so you can relax. Be open with your partner and let her know that you might need a week or two where you just focus on your own thing.
2. Be specific about the type of space you need. The importance of communication with the request for space is so significant that I have to mention the need for specificity again. Do you need space to read a book? Do you want to talk to your loved one everyday but just not see them for a few days? Do you want to spend a night out with other friends, uninterrupted? Are you a bit overwhelmed from hanging out with a group of friends but are happy just catching up one on one? Do you want to go see that movie but just not tonight, maybe next week or another time? Do you need space for a month but still want to text a few times a week? The more specific you are, the easier it will be to successfully get the space you want without hurting feelings or creating misunderstandings.
3. If you want extended space (weeks or months) from someone, be honest with yourself for the reasons. Needing space from a person, especially extended space could signify that there might be a problem in that relationship. What is the problem? Has the relationship become toxic? Do you feel like you and the other person are becoming co-dependent and you want to do things more independently? Are you spending too much time with this person and not enough time on your own hobbies? Are you actually unhappy with this person in your life and simply just want to end the relationship with as little as conflict as possible so asking for space seems like a gentle way out. Are you dealing with depression and need to go to therapy and deal with your issues before investing in this relationship again? Do you feel your friend doesn’t respect your feelings and will lash out at you, so asking for extended space is a way for you to avoid their anger with you? Whatever the reason you need extended space from someone, you need to figure that out. If you still want this person in your life, simply asking for space for extended periods of time is probably not the solution and could severely damage your friendship with them. Sure you may need extended space, but you need to resolve the issues together at some stage. Needing a week or two of space is perfectly normal in any relationship, but when you need weeks or months away from someone, you need to assess what the issue is.
4. If you actually don’t want the friendship or relationship in your life anymore, then be clear and honest about that. Asking for space can spur up negative feelings and delay the inevitable. If you want to breakup or divorce, then it’s best to communicate how you feel rather than asking for space and creating distance with your partner. Your partner doesn’t deserve that confusion and you don’t deserve that either. Likewise, if you have decided it’s time to end a close friendship, then be upfront about that. I know how hurtful it can feel to hurt someone’s feelings and say goodbye to a friendship but it’s easier when you are honest rather than making someone feel like the friendship will go back to normal in a few weeks or months. If your need for space is a precursor to ending a relationship with someone, then you need to reconsider asking for space and instead have a conversation about how you would like the friendship to end.
5. Be understanding and reassuring with your loved ones. Have you ever had someone ask for space from you? That request can hurt, quite a bit. Your loved ones might feel rejected or wonder what they have done wrong. To prevent hurt feelings, reassure your loved ones and be understanding of their feelings. Because we all handle things differently, your loved one may not genuinely understand why you need space. The best thing you can do is reassure your loved one and let them know that your relationship with them is okay. You still love them. You are still my best friend. I still want to talk to you every day after I get a few weeks to myself. We can still go to that fun event we have planned. You still care about them and are thinking of them. Try to meet in the middle with this as well. Sometimes you can still get space from someone, but see what you can do to help them feel like you are still invested in the relationship. Too much space can damage a relationship so do your part to continue to nourish the relationship while respecting your own needs for space.
6. Encourage your loved ones to do things with other people or pursue their own personal hobbies. Your loved one’s life doesn’t have to be on hold just because you need space. You know this and your loved one may know this too, but it helps to encourage them to do things on your own. You might notice that even when you ask for space, your loved one may still ask you to do things with them. This is completely normal, especially if you are used to regularly communicating with this person. Let’s say your best friend asks you to go to a movie with her next week. Let her know that sounds like a fun idea, but you still need space but will be happy to check out a different movie in the future. Encourage her to go see the movie with other friends, a family member or that you guys will watch it together when you are ready. Be understanding and remember that it’s great that you have loved ones who adore spending time with you. Your loved one may violate your need for space unintentionally, but take a deep breath and gently remind them to respect your space and that you’ll be happy to spend time with them again soon.
7. Develop healthy boundaries with your loved ones. When you find yourself frequently wanting space from a person, then it may be best to establish boundaries with this person. Be clear and specific with what you aren’t okay with in the friendship. If you don’t like how your friend consistently expects you to hang out with them very last minute when their plans fall through, then make that clear. If a friend is constantly messaging you and expects you to reply to them quickly, then you need to establish boundaries that you need time to reply to messages especially at work or at school. If your friend has a habit of making you feel guilty when you spend time with other people, then you need to be specific that you aren’t okay with that negative reaction. If you are an introvert, then it is essential that your close friends understand you need personal space to be functional and happy.
8. Don’t feel guilty because you want space. If you are an introvert, then space is healthy and normal for you. You actually need space to have a healthy and content life. Not everyone may understand that requirement but it’s what you need and it’s good to be honest and accepting of that. Also as hard as asking for space can be, often times space is good for a relationship. In a romantic relationship, getting space allows you to focus on strengthening your relationships with friends and family, and gives you time to pursue your own hobbies independently. Your partner also gets space to explore their own hobbies and spend time with their loves ones too. You can create a healthier friendship by getting space too. When the dynamic of a relationship has become unhealthy, space gives you the opportunity to heal, grow and change. Space also gives you the clarity to know if it’s time for that relationship to end. If you and another person are not compatible, then it may be best to let go of that relationship.
Regardless of your reasons for wanting space from someone, your best bet is to be honest and open along the way. Remember the people in your life are not mind-readers and may genuinely not be able to relate to your need for space, so try to explain to your loved ones how you feel and what you are going through. Stay strong and respect your own needs for space. Whatever the reason for needing space, remember that it’s okay to get space to recharge, deal with life stressors in your own way and that space can give an opportunity for an even healthier and better relationship! If you need to respect someone’s need for space, then read this article here