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5 Ways to Balance Intimacy & Space In A Relationship

5 Ways to Balance Intimacy & Space In A Relationship

I had an epiphany. In my close relationships, I have two opposing desires:†The desire for intimacy and security … And†the desire for freedom and autonomy.

Every relationship is a dance of these two desires. In one of my relationships I feel a bit insecure, and our communication challenges leave me feeling distant, so I crave more intimacy and security. In another one of my relationships, I feel a little smothered sometimes, like weíre so codependent and enmeshed that I crave more freedom and autonomy.

I am neither a needy person nor a stand-offish person. But finding that perfect balance of closeness and space is a dance that has to be customized to the needs of each relationship. My easiest, most comfortable relationships flow effortlessly because we seem to have similar needs for intimacy and security, as well as freedom and autonomy. This gets challenging when someone needs much more space than I do — so I wind up getting all clingy and insecure. Or when someone has such an intense need for intimacy and security that I wind up feeling like I canít breathe. My healthiest relationships sometimes need tinkering, but we donít wind up with one person always getting hurt feelings or the other always jockeying for space.

When Things Get Out Of Balance

So what can we do when the dance gets awkward?

1. Meet your own needs first.

If youíre giving someone else responsibility for your happiness, youíll wind up being a bottomless pit of need. Iím not suggesting relationships donít feed us. They do. In fact, theyíre arguably the†most important part of our health. But healthy relationships occur between two sovereign individuals who take responsibility for their own happiness and then amplify that joy by sharing intimacy.

2. Ask for what you desire.

I know itís uncomfortable to express your desires. If youíre feeling the need for closeness, you may be afraid of coming across as needy. If youíre feeling the need for space, you may fear hurting someoneís feelings. But whatís the alternative — letting resentment build up?

3. Be willing to make yourself vulnerable.

Rather than showing up with your armor on because youíre feeling hurt or smothered, be brave enough to be vulnerable. I know it can be the†hardest thing youíll ever do, but if the relationship is worth nurturing, it will bring you closer and help your loved one understand what you need.

4. Learn to enjoy your own company.

Take yourself out for a date. Treat yourself to a spa day alone. Indulge yourself with a hot bath, a good book, a hike in nature or a personal retreat. When you learn to enjoy your own company, others will enjoy spending time with you more.

5. Open your heart.

Many of us have been hurt by people we love, so itís tempting to wall up. This emotional armor leaves others feeling insecure and distant and may trigger needy behavior that wouldnít exist if we were willing to love with an open heart.† I know it can be scary, but time and time again, Iíve found that if you give those you love†permission to break your heart, your heart gets bigger, even if it gets broken. When you can let this happen without resistance, youíre more likely to find a good balance between intimacy and space.

Where Do You Lie On The Spectrum?

Tell us your stories in the comments.

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the†Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.† She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.† Lissa blogs at† and also created two online communities -† and† She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


+ add your own
11:24PM PST on Mar 7, 2014

Balance isn't always easy to achieve unless your partner has some sensitivity to your needs. Loving yourself and accepting the uniqueness of who you are will enable you to set boundaries (gain balance) if your sig other doesn't come around. Rather than remaining in a relationship where support is missing and each other's differences keep you at odds, loving yourself will allow you to correct the scales...and walk away. Vickie Fowler

2:42AM PDT on Sep 19, 2013

Thanks for the article Lissa. :)

10:51PM PDT on Sep 8, 2013


5:09PM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

...people are getting more and more self centered.

2:00AM PDT on Aug 30, 2013

Thank you :)

11:44PM PDT on Aug 29, 2013

Thank you for sharing

8:15PM PDT on Aug 29, 2013

If it ever comes to the point where you tell your partner, "get out of my face", (or vice-versa) it's probably over.

6:52PM PDT on Aug 29, 2013

thank you for posting

1:31PM PDT on Aug 29, 2013


10:42AM PDT on Aug 29, 2013


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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