The cliché is that men are the ones who need their space, but Match.com’s annual Singles in America study finds that more women than ever are seeking out their own “me time” in relationships — so said a staggering 77% of approximately 2,000 female respondents across all age ranges (21-65+). In addition to wanting more quality time to spend alone, we also want more nights out with our (girl) friends and to take separate vacations.
What’s driving the trend? “This is generally a natural progression of the Woman’s Movement,” suggests Lee Bowers, a Villanova, PA-based psychologist and author of Divorce Proof Your Marriage Before You Say “I Do”. “Since World War II, women have been increasing their numbers in the workforce. This brings more economic and social autonomy. We want to be equals in the decision making, and we want to make the decisions about our own lives — including how we spend our time.”
The “always on” mentality also has an impact, notes Nancy Irwin, a psychotherapist and clinical hypnotist in Los Angeles, CA: “We are all becoming ‘victims’ of technology to a degree.” As a result, “down time” of any kind is rare, so we’re more likely to defend our need for it. As a result, more women recognize the importance of establishing a balance in their lives by fostering a healthy sense of individuality, explains Tami Kulbatski, a psychologist in Toronto. “There is a fear — sometimes based in reality — that committing to a partner could result in the loss of self,” Kulbatski explains. “Rather than allowing themselves to be defined by their partners, more women today are creating and nurturing the important life-balancing act of making time for both ‘I’ and ‘we’ in their relationships.”
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How to get the time you need for yourself in the relationship
When it comes to asking your man for personal space, how can you be sure you’ll get what you need without causing any kind of rift? “The best time to establish a healthy balance is right from the start,” Kulbatski says. “The beginning of a romantic relationship is often a whirlwind of feel-good emotions and sensations. It’s also the time during which women are most likely to lose their balance [in regards to ‘me’ time]. Take the space you need for yourself right from the start.” The key is clear and compassionate communication with your partner about this issue. Instead of saying you want your space or need alone time, give your guy a little more information so he can truly understand your situation. “Keep in mind that without elaboration, your partner’s imagination could run wild,” Kulbatski cautions. “He might jump to numerous wrong conclusions, including many that can wreak havoc on his self-esteem.”
Here are a couple of examples by our experts on how to begin a productive conversation:
“Simply saying, ‘I need 30 minutes to close up shop for the day and clear my head so I can be completely devoted to you for the rest of the night’ is pretty smart, honest and clear,” suggests Irwin. “If anyone is hurt by that, then that person may have some unreasonable dependency issues to straighten out.”
“Try saying, ‘I would like to spend Tuesday evenings with my sister. My relationship with her is very important to me and I want to make sure I give us the time we need to stay close,’” offers Kulbatski.
Make sure he understands that his needs are a priority, too
Since men and women can be equally insecure about relationships, it’s important to state your intention to spend time with him even as you’re explaining your need for time away. “Refer to your relationship in the future tense,” Kulbatski says. Saying something as simple as, “I’m looking forward to having more time together” could do the trick. “This way, your partner will understand that wanting space away from him does not in any way threaten your future as a couple.” And be sure to make the most of the time that you are together, says Tina B. Tessina, author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. “Make sure you’re into your date when you’re together,” she counsels. Tell your partner how much you value your status as a couple. “Don’t take him for granted. If you are fully present when you’re together, your date will have a difficult time believing you are not into him,” Tessina explains.
Skip the subterfuge and be honest...
Now, if you really aren’t that into the guy you’re currently seeing, don’t deploy the “I need more space” line instead of telling him the truth. “I really do think honesty is the best policy,” says Bowers. “Most men are going to get the hint fairly quickly if you’re never available to do anything when you get asked out, but if a man doesn’t get the hint, you need to tactfully say that you don’t think you’re a good fit. Try to say it in a way that doesn’t make [it seem as though] one of you right and one wrong — just that you’re different in a way that’s incompatible.” Sometimes finding a little more time just for you — whether it’s spent alone, or with family and friends — is just what you and your guy need to have a healthy and happy relationship. With these tips, you can have the space you need while keeping the man you love!
Carrboro, N.C.-based freelance writer Margot Carmichael Lester also writes for International Cinematographers Guild Magazine and Architect.