“I just need space – you’re smothering me!”
Have you ever wondered how a desire to be close to your spouse or partner, could possibly be interpreted as smothering?
Most relationships operate with one person desiring closeness and the other, distance. In the early stages of a relationship, a couple (or at least one person) will accommodate for this, willingly tolerating the difference due to the ‘heady’ dose of the pleasure chemical dopamine that is being produced in mega amounts in the brain.
However, as ‘being together’ becomes less of a novelty and more your daily experience, less dopamine is produced in the brain and the things you once were able to tolerate, you find you are no longer able to do so. In practice, this means that a couple begin to function less in a symbiotic (being as one) fashion and more as two people who identify as a couple but are also able to function as individuals with their own identities.
It can be quite tricky for a couple to navigate this particular transition in a relationship. If you desire closeness, then you will feel that your partner is pushing you away and distancing themselves, becoming more private and less open. You may even feel rejected. This can cause us to overcompensate (which may feel reasonable to you and not them), and all but force our time and presence on our spouse, which can cause them to feel smothered.
The only way to get on the same page as each other – so you both have enough space and affection to flourish – is through open communication. But to begin this process, it helps to understand why you may be smothering your partner in the first place. Here are three common reasons it happens in relationships.
- You become scared
Feeling ‘pushed away’ by your partner may feel scary. If you are being accused of ‘smothering’ your partner, it is probable that your anxiety has been aroused by the feeling of distance. This is a normal reaction that happens because we are biologically wired with an ‘inbuilt’ alarm system that lets us know when our personal safety and/or security, is under threat.
Having your partner close alleviates the anxiety you experience because their presence soothes and calms a place within you. For your partner, your need for closeness is matched and balanced by their need for distance. Having you too close will activate their internal alarm, warning them that their safety and security is under threat.
Your lesson then, is to understand and accept that your partner’s distancing behaviour is less likely to be a rejection of you, but more likely a biological need that allows your partner to feel relaxed and safe.
- You become distrustful
Before jumping to the conclusion that your partner is not being honest about their behaviour, check out what your distrust is about for you personally. If you are feeling scared, anxiety can become highly persuasive, suggesting any number of scenarios that invite you to collude with. The best ‘medication’ for this type of anxiety is to ensure that you remain calm and grounded: exercise, meditation and creative pursuits.
I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to pay attention to self-care strategies like these, as they will serve to give you clarity of mind and an inner peace. Learning to self-care and calm self has the additional advantage of increasing your own sense of security and self-effigy, so that you feel less needy and reliant upon your partner.
There are times when distrust is warranted: your partner is behaving differently, secretively or deliberately avoiding you. Your partner may have a history that suggests the possibility of repeat behaviour. If this is the case, take steps sooner rather than later, in order to give your relationship the best chance of repairing.
- You become nervous
Sometimes ‘suffocating’ behaviour is about the anxiety that my partner will not cope or will be unable to carry out certain tasks without my supervision. If you identify with that, I encourage you to reflect upon what you think will happen if your partner does not have your supervision. Will they do the task as well as you? Will they be able to do the task at all?
If you are nervous about your partner’s ability to do certain tasks, deal with your own anxiety without making them responsible for it. Giving your partner respect by listening to their desire for space and allowing them to operate independent of you is necessary for their independence and self-confidence. You will also develop a healthier couple relationship.
Do you feel distant, or misunderstood by your partner or spouse? Have they said that you’re ‘smothering’ them and they need space? Here’s what you need to do: Contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 for a FREE 10 minute consultation on how we can best help you or book online.