How much emotional space do you occupy in your
relationship? Could the amount of emotional space you and your partner each
take up have anything to do with whether your relationship makes it or not?
Indeed it does.
Just what do I mean by "emotional space?" It's the time, energy, and space
your partner spends dealing with or listening to your emotions, words,
thoughts, wants, needs, etc.
When it comes to the emotional space dynamic, there are three types of
Type 1: One person in the relationship takes up most of the emotional space.
In this type of relationship, one partner seems to be super involved,
expressing most of everything in the relationship. This person may seem
extreme, emotional, needy, intense, and possessive, while the other person may
appear to be uninvolved in the relationship, seeming to have hardly any needs
The partner that seems super involved is typically filling up the most
emotional space in the relationship, often out of fear that there will not be
a relationship if the emotional space is not occupied.
Unfortunately this is a mistake. The emotional life of the relationship needs
to be generated by two people as equally as possible. Otherwise, you end up
with a lopsided relationship and with both people unhappy. One will be unhappy
because he or she is always working on the relationship and the other one will
be unhappy because he or she seemingly can't get a break from the drama.
What's more, the person who is generating the relationship will eventually get
burned out and will need to stop. If the lopsided relationship has been going
on for too long, it may simply fall apart.
Help for the "Type 1" Relationship ``````````````````````````````````
If you are the person taking up most of the emotional space, stop. By taking
up most of the space, you prevent your partner from participating in the
relationship. Stop taking up the space by shifting your needs outside the
relationship (not infidelity). Instead of talking to your partner, talk to
your friends or family or to your journal. Instead of asking for many needs to
be met, ask for only some to be met, or for none to be met for a period of
Create a vacuum so that your partner has something to step into. It will feel
strange and uncomfortable, but it is necessary discomfort. If your partner
does not participate in the relationship, he or she may look for more
Get help in learning how to stop taking up so much emotional space. Hire a
good therapist or a relationship coach to work on this. You may also need help
as a couple in learning how to share the emotional space and in teaching your
partner how to take up more space.
Type 2: Both partners alternate in how much
emotional space they occupy, with one person always taking up too much.
This type of relationship is a version of Type 1 above except the couple
is more intertwined and involved with each other.
This is a positive for the couple.
Yet often when the amount of emotional space partners take up
alternates, the amount of drama alternates as well, never subsiding. A
couple who frequently deals with drama gets exhausted and burned out and
never achieves the closeness and connection they crave.
Help for the "Type 2" Relationship ``````````````````````````````````
Stop the drama. The key for both of you is to tone down all of your
emotions, needs, wants, upsets, etc. The second key is to make sure your
partner stays involved at all times.
These steps may sound simple, but in fact are difficult to do. Get help
from a coach or a therapist on how to stop the drama and balance your
Type 3: Neither person in the relationship takes up much or any
This is a relationship where people reach a particular level and stay
there. They may enjoy each other's company, perhaps see each other on a
regular basis, and they may even be intimate. They might have been
together for a long time or may even be living together or married. Yet
they do not move deeper into each other's emotional lives.
For some people this type of relationship is more than satisfying, more
than enough. For others, this kind of relationship is only a
satisfactory prelude to the real depth any couple is capable of reaching
If you are in this type of relationship and it works for you, great.
But, if you are in this type of relationship and you want more, here's a
Help for the "Type 3" Relationship ``````````````````````````````````
If you are in a relationship where neither one of you takes up too much
emotional space, the two of you will eventually simply drift away. If
you want to keep the relationship, it's time to both invest more and
invite your partner to invest more as well.
But be careful not to cross over into a Type 1 relationship and take up
all of the emotional space. Do go slowly, perhaps begin by sharing some
small part of yourself that you have been holding back. Be a bit more
open, and bit more authentic in your responses. Take small emotional
risks and see if your partner will follow.
Do be aware that your partner may not want to follow you into deeper
emotional waters -- some people are highly uncomfortable being close. If
this is the case, you will need to choose whether you want to continue
the relationship or not. You will need to decide how emotionally close a
relationship you ultimately want to have with your life mate.
Type 4: Both people in the relationship take up enough emotional space
to feel connected and loved.
Obviously this is what a healthy relationship looks like. One aspect of
a healthy relationship is that both people can stay involved emotionally
and flow in the amount of space each one takes at any given time. Some
periods of time may be predominantly about one person, while most of the
time the couple will stay fairly balanced. Neither partner will shut out
the other or be too far removed emotionally from the relationship at any
As in all other things, when it comes to relationships, balance seems to
be the key. Work on balancing the amount of emotional space you take up
in your relationship so that both of you get the room you need to be
Your Relationship Coach,
"(c) Rinatta Paries,
1998-2002. Do you know how to attract your ideal mate? Do you know how to build a
fulfilling relationship, or how to reinvent yours to meet your needs? Relationship
Coach Rinatta Paries can teach you the skills and techniques to attract and sustain
long-term, healthy partnerships. Visit www.WhatItTakes.com where you'll find quizzes, classes, advice and a free
weekly ezine. Become a "true love magnet(tm)!"
posted on Saturday, May 15, 2004 8:58 AM