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4 min read

What Is Shared Space in a Relationship: Navigating Boundaries and Intimacy

A couple who needs space

No matter how much we love another person, we all need alone time at some point or another. Living together can make this need even greater, and sometimes when sharing space, it becomes difficult to navigate that quiet time for ourselves. Let's take a look at how to learn to give and take space in a relationship.

Understanding Personal Space in a Relationship

The first step is to define personal space and recognize its importance in mental health. Personal space in a relationship is when you take time to put yourself first, and to do things that make you feel great about yourself. This can be something as simple as taking out time to read a book you love, or to schedule a weekly "girls" or "boys" night with your friends.

In a loving relationship, it can be essential to prioritize your own needs and well-being. Especially in the first stages of emotional connection when a couple wants to spend time together constantly, many couples end up neglecting their own needs and interests.

How much space is too much space in a relationship?

While giving your partner space can actually bring you closer together, it can also be essential to find a balance between giving space and making sure you don’t drift apart. It's one thing to have time for your own friends and hobbies, but not making time together at all is another. Being in a serious relationship is a huge shift in your lives, and you may have to learn to compromise with each other.

Why Personal Space is Essential for a Healthy Relationship

No matter how in love you are, two people shouldn’t spend 24/7 together; space can be healthy and necessary for individual growth. It can also be a positive force in a relationship and it is totally normal to require alone time. In fact, if one partner demands all the time of the other person, this can be a red flag.

Navigating Boundaries and Intimacy

Granting that personal space is important in a romantic relationship, how exactly do you go about setting boundaries with your partner?

Communicating Clear Boundaries with Your Partner

Open communication is vital in any relationship; both parties should feel comfortable discussing their needs for space. Be ready to listen as well as share about what is important to you when it comes to needs. Setting boundaries should be a collaborative process that respects the needs of both partners.

Designating Specific Periods for Alone Time

Next, take some time to pick specific time slots for individual activities; having designated “me time” can be beneficial. If you prefer to have quiet time in the morning, maybe make a point to share food in the evenings. If your partner likes to do game nights with a group of friends on Fridays, then plan a date night for Saturdays. Having specific times picked out allows each person to engage in self-care or to explore personal interests without feeling pressure from their partner.

Switching Up Your Routine to Maintain Individuality

That's not to say that every minute needs to be scheduled, or that the schedule must be maintained at all costs. Change is good; whether it’s spending a weekend apart or taking solo trips, it can bring back the spark. Keep a little novelty and unpredictability to create space for each person, but also to bring yourselves together in fun and different ways.

Balancing Shared and Personal Life

Respecting each other's personal life and interests can be essential. Sharing a space requires giving each other the space they need and respecting personal boundaries. Think about making room for each others habits and routines, showing respect for each other's personal boundaries. Little things like understanding that your partner doesn't like to be spoken to through the bathroom door can go a long way toward avoiding conflict.

Create new habits and routines that work for both partners, including scheduled "we-time" as well as time apart for individual activities and interests.

How to Balance Shared Closet Space with Personal Needs

Sharing physical space in a way that allows room for both can also be important. In your pantry and fridge, be clear about food distribution to avoid confusion and resentment (don't eat your partner's ice cream!)

In your room, have your own drawers or space to maintain personal boundaries and independence. And don't go rifling through your partner's spaces; if you need them to find something, ask.

Overcoming Challenges in Shared Space Relationships

Managing Conflicts and Disagreements in Close Quarters

Head off conflict at the pass by creating a plan for moving in together, including essential tasks and responsibilities. Discuss beforehand and agree on household chores, finances, and decision-making processes.

Dealing with Feelings of Suffocation or Claustrophobia

At times, your partner may need space due to stress at work, lack of time with friends, or feeling claustrophobic. It's important to understand the root of the issue to know how much space to give and how to give it. Don't be afraid to ask questions and to communicate doubts with your partner. You can ask how long your partner needs space for and what the parameters and boundaries of the space will be. It's essential to be on the same page.

Sharing Space in a Relationship in Brooklyn

It can be difficult when you first start living with a partner to understand what kind of space you or your partner may need. Some couples find that it can help to talk about how to create space (as well as other things that may come up at the start of living together) with a professional.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offer a number of evidence-based therapeutic approaches, both in-person and online, so that communication with your therapist and your partner can be scheduled conveniently for everyone.

Give us a call today, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right Brooklyn couples therapist to offer emotional support as well as tools and strategies to help you and your partner create a sense of physical and emotional space for each other, help you to maintain your other relationships, and offer each other the respect to decide how to approach your life together. 

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