"bench time"

In the wake of the renegotiation of my sacred contract with a friend, I had an epiphany. In my close relationships, I have two opposing desires:
-the desire for intimacy and security
-the desire for freedom and autonomy

Every relationship is a dance of these two desires. So in one of my relationships, I feel a bit insecure, and our communication challenges leave me feeling distant, so I crave more intimacy and security. In another one of my relationships, I feel a little smothered sometimes, like we’re so codependent and enmeshed that I crave more freedom and autonomy.

I am neither a needy person nor a stand-offish person. But finding that perfect balance of closeness and space is a dance that has to be customized to the needs of each relationship. My easiest, most comfortable relationships flow effortlessly because we seem to have similar needs for intimacy/security and freedom/autonomy. When it gets challenging is when someone needs way more space than I do- so I wind up getting all clingy and insecure- or when someone has such an intense need for intimacy and security that I wind up feeling like I can’t breathe. My healthiest relationships sometimes need tinkering, but we don’t wind up with one person always getting hurt feelings or the other always jockeying for space.

When Things Get Out Of Balance

So what can we do when the dance gets awkward?

1. Meet your own needs first.

If you’re giving someone else responsibility for your happiness, you’ll wind up being a bottomless pit of need. I’m not suggesting relationships don’t feed us. They do. In fact, they’re arguably the most important part of our health. But healthy relationship occur between two sovereign individuals who take responsibility for their own happiness and then amplify that joy by sharing intimacy.
2. Ask for what you desire.

I know it’s uncomfortable to express your desires. If you’re feeling the need for closeness, you may be afraid of coming across as needy. If you’re feeling the need for space, you may fear hurting someone’s feelings. But what’s the alternative- letting resentment build up?

3. Be willing to make yourself vulnerable.

Rather than showing up with your armor on because you’re feeling hurt or smothered, be brave enough to be vulnerable. I know it can be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but if the relationship is worth nurturing, it will bring you closer and help your loved one understand what you need.

4. Learn to enjoy your own company.
Take yourself out for a date. Treat yourself to a spa day alone. Indulge yourself with a hot bath, a good book, a hike in nature, or a personal retreat. When you learn to enjoy your own company, others will enjoy spending time with you more.
5. Open your heart.

Many of us have been hurt by people we love, so it’s tempting to wall up.  This emotional armor leaves others feeling insecure and distant and may trigger needy behavior that wouldn’t exist if we were willing to love with an open heart.  I know it can be scary, but time and time again, I’ve found that if you give those you love permission to break your heart, your heart gets bigger, even if it gets broken. When you can let this happen without resistance, you’re more likely to find a good balance between intimacy and space.

Where Do You Lie On The Spectrum?

Tell us your stories in the comments.


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  1. Meg Sylvia

    Spot on!! I think we all fear both being smothered, or in essence, losing ourselves to a relationship, yet at the other end, we fear losing the other person if we do not feel a sense of closeness in the relationship. It definitely is a balancing act.

  2. Blue Russ

    Love this! I am on a personal retreat, spending a few days alone and feeling guilty even tho I know it is exactly what I need. Thanks for the validation.

  3. space2live

    I am working on a post with a very similar message. There is a sweet spot between space and intimacy, at least I hope there is.;) As an introvert I need a lot of space but I so adore deep intimacy. I’m personally working on a way to balance this dichotomy. Your ideas are excellent. Thank you.

  4. sarita coren

    This is so true! After being married for 14 years, I suddenly realized that I could not define what gives me pleasure. Because I could not do that, I was always trying to fulfill myself with external things. Yet I couldn’t figure out why I was never feeling satisfied internally. It is of utmost importance in a relationship to get in touch with yourself and vitally important to love yourself. Then send yourself love daily. That way you never look to your significant other or anyone else to fulfill those needs in you and you can enjoy a more balanced partnership. Thanks for elucidating the wonderful points you make here. Practicing each of them can lead to deep fulfillment in all areas of life.

  5. Linda

    How apropos for my current thought waves. I struggle with this issue a lot. I broke with a 7 year relationship 3 years ago, thinking I would not have another maybe ever. I was strangling as well as there were many other control and abuse issues. But anyway, now I have moments of extreme loneliness, times when I am just fine with the excellent relationships I have, times when I want more from my lover/friend and feel rejected because he does not, times when a girlfriend has a new beau and I feel left out of her life, times when i wish someone would call and ask me do do something, times when I go out alone because I just don’t want to stay home and wind up having interesting conversations with unlikely people and enjoying it, times when I am just fine with a great book or a good movie on my own with no make up and dressed in my house clothes. All in all, it is surely such a balance, I know I am not ready for a live in/with partner but have not found the magic balance to enough but not too much intimacy….whew. I will keep on and nurture what I have with an open heart and see if that balance can be realized at some point. Thanks for posting this very now post.

  6. WitchWay

    This came a the exact time I needed it most. I am transitioning into a new home with a roommate, and we are good friends. I really want this to work so I am trying to figure out the space giving and the whole plan of how to be a great roommate without being too needy or too much of a pushover.

  7. kapoor susheel

    well said

  8. kapoor susheel

    i am confuse my self . how to trust when you giving your 100 % . and in return i don’t have even 10% rites of expectation

  9. kapoor susheel

    people say just give your best n don’t keep any expectation . after all i am human being in general any one would think in same manner


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