Stay-at-home orders can complicate how we meet our needs for personal space. Nate Klemp and Kaley Klemp make the case for creating a little breathing room—even in intimate relationships.
Over the last six or so months, many couples have experienced the disappearance of space. We used to have business trips, gym sessions, outings with friends, and all sorts of other activities that provided the kind of physical space and separation needed in a healthy relationship. Now, because of lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing measures, most couples are stuck at home together, all day, every day.
But that’s only part of the problem. We are also experiencing the disappearance of mental space. This form of space is less tangible but perhaps even more significant. It’s space from screaming children, your partner’s virtual meetings, and other distractions. It’s the space that allows your mind to rest and open up to new and creative possibilities.
The loss of physical and mental space is a problem for many reasons. And yet, it’s particularly problematic in marriage because space is essential for love and intimacy. We found this again and again when interviewing over one hundred people for our forthcoming book. Couples told us that, with physical and mental space, they experienced a heightened sense of love, connection, and intimacy. Without space, they experienced the opposite: more conflict, resentment, and stress. Space, it turns out, is like rocket fuel for desire and love.
So how can we create space in marriage when we’re stuck at home together?
The Power of Emotional Space in Marriage
1. Create Physical Space
The new normal of pandemic life limits our ability to do this. But it’s still possible. You can create physical space by making an intentional effort to go for a walk each day alone or by reading your favorite book outside with headphones on. Even if it’s only for 30 minutes or an hour, giving yourself space away from your partner leaves you refreshed, excited to come back, and more open for connection when you return.
2. Create Mental Space
One of the key insights from the mindfulness practice is this: your experience of life is a reflection of your mind. If you live with a claustrophobic mind, churning through endless streams of thought and digital distractions, all of life can feel like you’re crammed in a packed subway car. The world begins to reflect your cramped mind. If you cultivate a more open mind, however, this expansion of mental space changes everything. It makes life feel slower and more manageable, regardless of your external circumstances. That’s the power of creating space around your thoughts.
To get more mental space, you can use daily meditation, mindfulness, or yoga practices. You can also build more mental space in less formal ways. Lie down in the grass for 10 minutes and gaze at the sky. Wander around your neighborhood while paying close attention to the sound of the birds.
The more you do this, the more you may notice that the space you crave most in these challenging times isn’t physical. It’s this subtle space in the mind—a kind of space that allows you to be connected, engaged and attracted to your partner.