So, you did it. After multiple failed attempts at dating, you finally found the one. Life is perfect- love prevails! Everything is all rainbows and butterflies. You are no longer the single friend and now have someone to spend your Friday nights with. Gone are the days you go to company parties alone. No more inquisitions from family members on where your special person is, and absolutely no more cuddling with pillows to go to sleep at night.
Everything is going great, so obviously you take the next big step together: moving in together. You cannot wait. Plans of getting a dog are in the works as you settle into your first apartment together. But then, all of a sudden, you feel trapped. You feel confused, as you do love this person, but why is it getting hard to breathe and have space to think? Is it perhaps the clash of your cute girly things becoming infested with masculine tones and items. Is it perhaps maybe you actually prefer sleeping alone (good thing you planned ahead and got a pull-out couch). Whatever it is, know that these are all normal feelings. From my experience, almost all couples feel this way once moving in together, yet it is barely discussed or brought up. It is seen as negative and almost a taboo topic because it is actually totally realistic and lacks romance.
Living with a partner is completely different than living with roommates. With roommates, there are (usually) separate rooms, shared lists of chores, and a clear distinction between shared and personal spaces. Most of this goes away when you live with a partner. It is the norm to share a bedroom with your partner, so your own personal space disappears. For this reason, many may feel suffocated when first living with a partner. If personal space is not brought up and clearly made distinct, both of you may go on quietly feeling suffocated and eventually may decide to go separate ways. When in reality, this can totally be avoided if the topic is simply brought up and discussed- the sooner the better.
So what exactly is personal space and why is it so essential? Personal space allows an individual to have a space where they can exist, act, feel, and express exactly how they want to without the presence of other beings, opinions and criticisms. Personal space is essential for each and every individual, as it provides us space to be with our thoughts and just simply be ourselves. If personal space is constantly intruded or does not even exist in a household, it could be significantly harmful to personal and emotional well-being. Personal space has a lot to do with boundaries, another topic that could be difficult for couples to bring up and discuss. However, placing clear boundaries and having clear distinctions of what is considered personal space can easily help a struggling couple. It would give the opportunity for both partners to have a space where the other is not present and they can put themselves first. You can finally take time to do things for YOURSELF and not for your partner or the benefit of the other person. Personal space could give many a chance to practice self-care, a practice that is highly necessary for mental and emotional well-being.
So, next time you feel the walls of your shared space with your partner get smaller and smaller, suggest craving our personal space areas. You might just be surprised at how much improvement you see after a few days!
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An experienced counselor specializing in Couples Therapy can help.