Can you be too close to your partner?

26 September 2016

It might seem like a strange question. When we think of closeness in relationships, we don’t tend to think of it as a bad thing.

And of course, as long as both of you are happy with how close you are together – even if that’s very close indeed – then there’s not necessarily going to be a problem.

But it’s when one of you starts to feel like they’re being suffocated by the other’s affections, or you start to feel like you’re being rejected by the other wanting more space, that conflicts can start.

As relationships develop

You might think of a relationship as like a Venn diagram. If each person is a circle, then how far these circles overlap is how much their lives overlap with one another. A couple whose circles only just touch are living almost independently, whereas if they’re almost totally overlapping, they’re basically living on top of each other.

You might expect a lot of couples to be like the ‘overlapping circles’ example at the start of their relationship. In fact, it might be seen as a necessary part of its development – this stage, where you’re really infatuated with each other, can help to create the bonds that will last long-term as you go forward.

But as time goes by, it’s likely one or both of you is going to want to regain some of their independence. This can happen simply as you get to know each other and get used to each other as time goes on, or it can happen because of specific instances creating distance or putting pressure on you, for example: moving house, one partner getting a new job, or a baby coming along.

A mismatch in levels of closeness can manifest in lots of different ways, one of you might:

  • Want to spend more time with the other whereas the other might want more space;
  • Wish the other was more open with their emotions, while the other may feel like they’re already open enough;
  • Want to know where the other is most of the time, while the other might find this quite suffocating.

Who’s right?

It’s not usually about being wrong or right. Different people often simply have different needs. And these needs can change over time or due to circumstance. Understanding this is often the key to beginning to resolve conflict.

The person who feels rejected may find it useful to know that their partner isn’t usually doing this on purpose or to try and antagonise them – and vice versa. It’s not always easy to understand, especially if this is something that didn’t used to happen but has started happening recently, but it can make a real difference.

What then?

If you feel like your level of closeness is an issue in your relationship, you may find making a little change is all that’s needed to create a big difference.

For instance, you might be arguing about how much you stay in contact when you’re not together. One of you may feel like if they give any ground, they’re going to lose their sense of independence – and that things would only get worse. But it could be that just sending the occasional text is all that’s needed to reassure their partner – a compromise that, all in all, isn’t that big.

Sometimes, just taking the time to talk things over in a constructive and calm manner is all that’s needed to start making positive changes. If you’d like some help with this, you may find our three key communication tips very useful.

It can also be very useful to think back on and talk about anything that’s happened in the relationship recently (or in the last few years) that might have changed things. It’s not always easy to view your relationship objectively (feelings so often get in the way) but you may find that doing so can suddenly make certain things more understandable – or even less painful.

You might understand that your partner becoming more withdrawn recently isn’t necessarily because they’re trying to shut you out, but because they’re having a hard time at work. Or your partner’s apparent clinginess might start to make more sense when you consider it as a consequence of a family bereavement.

What if we need more help?

Of course, issues surrounding closeness or feelings of suffocation can stem from other, more complicated problems.

If one partner can’t stand the idea of the other being away for any period of time or needs constant reassurance about their whereabouts and what they’re doing, there could be some serious trust issues at play. They may desire to control their partner because they can’t stand the idea of them leaving them – which, at its worst, could develop into an emotionally abusive relationship.

Likewise, if one partner simply doesn’t want to spend any time together, they may be avoiding dealing with certain relationship issues by simply making themselves unavailable.

If you think you’re going to require some support, Relationship Counselling can help you get to see your relationship from a wider perspective or assist you in working around any unhelpful communication habits.

Issues surrounding closeness can often stem from two partners having different attachment styles. Relationship Counselling can also help you understand what your attachment style is and why you may follow it.

Or it can just help you to understand that this kind of issue is normal – and that you aren’t alone in finding things difficult as a couple.

Want more information?

Want more information on Relationship Counselling? Or just need someone to talk to? We can help. Call our friendly appointments team on 01234 356350 or email us.

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