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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Am I Smothering?

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Author Topic: Am I Smothering?
Haleigh H
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Am I smothering my partner? How much is too much? How do you find balance?

It can be really hard to get to a place where you have a good balance of time together and time apart. Should you go out with your friends and leave your partner at home? Should your partner be with you to experience everything?

In my first serious relationship this was definitely a struggle. My partner made me feel so good, great, the happiest and I wanted to be around him all the time. It was a bit of a blessing, although it didn't seem like it at the time, that we lived 30 minutes from each other, we were both working and I was in school. The distance and both of us being busy forced us to find balance in the time we spend together and the time we spent apart. Although at times it was still difficult to not try be with him all of the time, to do things without each other and maintain some independence.

How do you navigate this in your relationships? What strategies have made it work? Any advice for others?

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Haleigh

Posts: 176 | From: Kansas City, Missouri | Registered: Feb 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
September
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Great topic!

Striking the right balance has often been a struggle for me, too. I am super introverted and I need a lot of time to just be with myself. On the other hand, I also get insecure easily when I don't at least hear from the other person at some point during the day.

The result of that has been that I've sort of switched from one extreme to the next with relationships: my first serious relationship was long-distance, and I felt really insecure a lot of the time. So in the relationship following that, I wound up with someone who needed a lot more interaction, to the point that I felt crowded and trapped.

So, I really had to learn to recognize when I need space and when I need company, and to learn how to ask for what I need and say when I've had enough. I've gotten a lot better, but this topic is still the main source of my difficulties in relationships.

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Johanna
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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Haleigh H
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Joey,

I'm right there with you. How do you recognize when you need space? Do you have any good strategies for recognizing when your partner needs space.

Communication is of course the easiest way but I feel like this can be an especially hard thing to communicate. I feel like sometimes you just really need to be perceptive to what you need or what your partner needs in order to get the conversation started.

What do you think?

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Haleigh

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September
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The biggest thing is not being afraid to ask for what you need, and to make sure your partner knows they can always ask, too. I used to be scared (and still am, sometimes) that my partner would feel rejected if I said something like, "hey, I know we had plans for tonight, but I had a really busy day and I just need to veg out on the couch and be by myself." On the other hand, I don't want to come across as clingy, and often think twice before sending that text message.

But I have gotten a lot better at pushing those fears aside. It helps to imagine how I would feel to be on the receiving end. Would I feel rejected if my partner asked for space? Or would I be a bit sad, but understanding and supportive?

How do I recognize when I need space? I start to get annoyed at tiny things that normally would not bother me. When that starts to happen, I know that I need to take some time to myself to recharge my batteries.

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Johanna
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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blueberry
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I've struggled with this too, especially at the beginning of our relationship two years ago. We had been living basically in the same house for months and then suddenly could only see each other at weekends, and I ended up being really clingy. I feel a lot more comfortable now, since I can enjoy having time for myself without missing my boyfriend all the time. (I've always needed a lot of time for myself before).

Do you have any advice for how to ask for more space in a relationship when you're living together? I'm not afraid to ask, but it's been hard to work out how to do that in practice since you're stuck in the same house anyway, and I often find myself feeling rejected when my partner asks for more space even though I know it's a bit silly.

September: I like your idea of knowing that you need more space when you get easily irritated, that's something I could be a lot more conscious about to avoid unnecessary arguments.

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Molias
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This has been a struggle for me at various points. I used to be a pretty insecure person, which made it easy for me to be clingy and want a lot of reassurance from a partner that things were ok. I think I needed too much of that in some of my earlier relationships.

Two things have really helped me cut down on this behavior:

First, I've learned that many people, my partner included, tend to act withdrawn and/or very quiet when they're stressed out. Early in the relationship, when I was less certain about things between us, I spent a lot of time worrying that when they needed quiet time to process stressful things or to be alone for a bit, it was because they were irritated with me, or less attracted to me, or something like that. But then I just got better at understanding that state of mind, plus I was able to come out and ask "do you need time on your own right now? Can we get together to talk or hang out at X time in the future?"
(I also became better at noticing when I needed that same sort of space for myself and taking it; it's harder to worry when someone else says "I need to read alone for a while" when I said the same thing the day before.)

The other thing I've gotten better at is asking for specific types of support as and when I need them. If I feel comfortable saying to my partner "I know you're busy doing something right now, but when you can take a break it would be really helpful if you could snuggle with me on the couch for a few minutes" or "I'm excited that you're going out for a nice dinner with your girlfriend, can you take me to that fancy restaurant soon so I can enjoy it with you too?"
If I know that I can ask for and receive some support and attention from a partner when I need it, it helps me feel more relaxed in the relationship in general, even if there are times when one or both of us feel like we need a lot of space to ourselves.

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Redskies
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In terms of sharing a living space with someone while still needing one's own space, I've found things like partnerships who've been on a very small boat together for weeks on end, for example, to be interesting. It seems like they say that the more closely in contact a partnership is, the more there is a need for very clearly demarcated "personal space"; for example, sitting in a cabin 1 metre apart, but if the other was reading a book, that was the equivalent to "currently, we're in different rooms, so Of Course you can't talk to me, for any reason other than an emergency", and each would act as if the other wasn't there.

I think similar principals can be used with more conventional living arrangements. "Alone time", in varying amounts, is a pretty universal human need, so of course we should be able to set up a system where people can have that. I think that observing one's own patterns can help with setting up some sort of system: for example, some people feel grumpy and tired when they come home, and some partnerships make an agreement where they don't interact for the first 30 minutes or whatever; others might have a brief catch-up and then take some time. Some people prefer a bit of "time-out" later in the evening.

Some people need something a bit more free-flowing, but then, it can be helpful to discuss how everyone feels at times when no-one is feeling particularly in need of space or insecure. Some people agree on some kind of code-phrase which communicates in a very quick way something like "I need some space right now to recharge/deal with my grumpiness/etc, it's not about you, I still like you, and I really want to spend time with you when I can actually enjoy it and when I'll be better company!" without having to actually explain that when they're already short on patience or communication ability.

Whichever way, I think that establishing space-having - however much - as a normal and given part of a relationship can really help reduce the difficulty of asking for space and the insecurity of being asked, because it becomes just another part of the relationship. I think that it's also helpful if we're able to ask and be asked for the kinds of closeness that we need within that relationship, because the two things balance a bit. It's harder to be freaked out by a request for space if, earlier in the day, the same person asked to talk about something that was bothering them or said they'd like a cuddle.

I think it was somewhere on Scarleteen where there was a discussion on how someone not wanting some kind of physical contact with us isn't a rejection of us, personally, but about their own feelings and needs. I think personal space operates in a similar way, and if we can find a similar head-space about that, then it's easier not to feel it as a personal rejection.

I think I lucked out in my current primary relationship by blundering into someone who needed a similar kind of relationship to me. We both need loads of frequent signs of affection but also a great deal of independence; for me, only one of those things would be either hugely smothering or extremely emotionally unrewarding. Together, they seem to create a sort of balance of extremes! I've always got very insecure and worried about whether I'm being perceived as too clingy or too stand-off-ish with anyone else, but somehow never in this relationship. Still plenty to negotiate about how to make it work best in the moment, though, because I'm typically super-focused while my partner is more rapid-changing-split-attention, and establishing for sure what is and isn't "personal time" can be a bit muddling for the both of us. Mine's crystal clear, and they don't interact with me at all; my partner's is very flow-y, and often even they don't know quite what's what, and I don't know if and when it's worth trying to communicate with them. But at least we recognise that we work differently and that we need to use a different approach for the other than we ourself needs. My partner is the only person who has totally respected my "do not interact" preference, and I love that and it helps me feel safe and respected, and as a result my partner is the only person I'll happily have in the room while I'm working because I get just as much useful work done and don't feel like I'm disappointing them in any way. In return, my partner's said how much they like it that I feel comfortable with them, given how much I dislike other people's presence at those times. So, strangely, honouring my need for space has given my partner a kind of closeness that no-one else has.

[ 05-06-2013, 07:02 PM: Message edited by: Redskies ]

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

Posts: 1786 | From: Europe | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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