Jennifer is stunned. Her long-term, live-in boyfriend, Rob, came home from work last night and announced to her that he is moving out temporarily because he needs some “space.”
Rob's announcement took Jennifer completely by surprise. She knew that their relationship had its challenges and rough spots, but she felt like things between them were starting to even out. They hadn't been arguing as much lately.
Jennifer wants to do whatever is necessary to win back Rob. She can't understand why he would move out and she keeps wracking her brain to figure out what she's done wrong. When she asked Rob why he is doing this, he only re-stated that he needs some space to sort through some things.
If you've been hit with the news from your partner that he or she needs space or wants to temporarily separate, you might be thinking and feeling the same way as Jennifer.
You may or may not be surprised that your mate is asking for space.
But, if you want to stay in this relationship and your partner informs you that he or she needs to get away from you and your relationship for awhile, you're possibly searching for ways to change your partner's mind.
You might also be dealing with worry or fear that this space and separation will only grow into a permanent breakup or divorce.
We can't guarantee that you and your partner will get back together again or that this separation will not lead to a breakup.
It's understandable that you might feel powerless to change what's going on. You cannot force your partner to stay with you and you cannot force things in your love relationship or marriage to happen in a particular way.
To be honest, there are quite a few things that are out of your control.
However, there are so many things that you DO have power to change. First and foremost, you get to decide how you will respond to this upsetting news from your mate. You can also make a conscious choice about what you will do during this time of space and separation.
We urge you to focus on what you CAN do when you are facing a situation like this. Here are a few suggestions...
#1: Care and nurture yourself.
For many people, hearing that their partner wants space can be quite a shock. When a person is in shock, he or she might walk around dull and dazed or have a difficult time just getting through the normal routine.
Make a conscious effort to give yourself extra care and nurturing right now. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water. Treat yourself to bubble baths, relaxing music, get a massage, or whatever helps you feel just a bit more soothed.
#2: Gather a support system around you.
Take a look at your friends and family. Who are the people that help you feel supported and uplifted?
Make a list of not only these people, but also the books, music, activities and groups that are truly supportive of your healing and then deliberately spend more time with these people and doing these things.
#3: Resist the urge to predict the future.
It's natural that your mind might drift off to the future when all of these unknowns in your relationship are finally resolved. Depending on how you feel at any moment, this “prediction” of your future might be hopeful or it might be depressing and bleak.
It can really help you to stay present. As much as you don't like what's going on in your life in this moment, try to be present anyway. The benefits of being present are that you can base your response to whatever happens on what you know to be true instead of on what you are imagining.
#4: Set “ground rules” for this time of separation.
Just because your partner is the one who is asking for space, it doesn't mean that you have no voice or say. While you cannot force your mate to stay with you when he or she wants to separate for awhile, you CAN request that the two of you set down some “ground rules” for this time apart.
Create clear agreements about topics like these: fidelity, appropriate and inappropriate interactions with others, how much (or how little) contact with one another, financial matters (if applicable), child care issues (if applicable), etc.
You might also request a specific period of time for this space or separation. After this time, perhaps the two of you could come together to talk and make some decisions about your relationship.
#5: Allow your emotions.
Let yourself feel whatever you are feeling. While it's important not to become stuck in the sadness, fear or whatever emotions are coming up for you, it's just as important for you to let the feelings flow.
When you ignore or try to stuff down the way that you feel, it will almost always come up later in more intense ways.
In fact, when you take regular time to allow yourself to cry when you need to or get angry when you feel angry and you do this in ways that don't hurt you or another person, your emotions can more easily move through you.
#6: Become a better partner.
Take some time during this separation period to work on yourself and become a better partner. Please hear us... We are NOT saying that your partner asked for space because there is something wrong with you or you are solely to blame.
We ARE advising you to recognize and take responsibility for the role that you might have played in some of your relationship challenges. This could be a time to develop new habits. You might have a tendency to get jealous, to withhold intimacy when you are angry or to hold a grudge, for example.
Even if you and your partner do not get back together again after this separation, you can benefit from this.
As you courageously look at some of your habits, you can also assess your relationship as a whole. Acknowledge the patterns that you and your partner have and ask yourself if they are healthy and desirable.
Really give yourself the freedom to decide whether or not staying together is a good idea for both of you.
Keep returning to what you CAN do during this time. A sense of empowerment can help you make requests, create agreements and make decisions that will better serve you.
Susie and Otto Collins are relationship coaches and authors who help couples communicate, connect and create the relationship they desire. Click here to get their free ebook, Passionate Heart-Lasting Love.