Does Your Partner Need a Lot of Space? Introvert or Just Not That Into You?

cool couple

Do you want to be with me or would you rather be alone? 

Many of space2live’s extroverted readers have asked this question in various forms.

How much alone time do I grant the introvert before it ceases to be a relationship?

Her space is hurting our intimacy. What about me?

We only see each other once a month because he needs his alone time. Is this normal?

Magnificent alone but interested in connecting

In My Introverted Love Creed: If We Can’t Be Magnificent and Independent Together I’m OK Alone, I wrote, It seems I’m most alive when I’m dancing on the fringe of a relationship, either almost disentangled or almost entangled.

At the time, I hadn’t experienced the kind of intimacy that makes you want to caretake and bend  boundaries. There was still the possibility that the next romance would be the one where I’d fall so hard I’d want to give up some me time. I truly wanted to love with an open heart but I needed to find someone who understood and respected my need to renew and create in quiet as well as my wish to co-exist in deep companionship.

My point? Introverts desire love and connection.

Relationship material?

Introverts can be in committed relationships if we are mindful of our energy and create meaningful connections. If we create and maintain boundaries. If we act maturely and build trust by working through hurt/disappointment/frustration with our partners rather than running at the first sign of discomfort (like when we feel confined).

one waySome of us want to be single. If we are not interested in a relationship, we have to own that and be up front with potential partners.

Some of us will request time to ourselves but want to participate consistently in a relationship too. Some know how to show up as a partner and others primarily devote energy to themselves. Most of us will exemplify and experience both scenarios in our lifetime. Neither is a bad thing but one is a hell of a lot more conducive to deep intimacy.

Why we like space

We need it for personal clarity: We don’t want to spend all of our time alone but we do need a break from people in order to get back to ourselves. It’s necessary to spend time in our inner sanctuary of thoughts, ideas and dreams in order to reduce stimulation (introverts process information and stimuli deeply) and replenish our energy.

Want to see us glow? Give us uninterrupted blocks of time alone.

Autonomy is sexy:

I have noticed that not just with men, but with social groups I want to join, potential employers and the world at large, the energy of autonomy and self-driven movement are magnets for seriously good stuff. ~ K of Wealthy and Loved and a space2live reader

We are rewarded and revered for acting independently. It’s attractive to be confident and solid in yourself. It’s healthy to know your happiness and satisfaction do not come from the outside. There is a strength in knowing you will be OK with or without a partner.

We have a mission: Introverts are generally good at concentrating. Studies have shown that we can stare artist at workout windows the longest (great?). Many of our favorite endeavors require deep concentration — writing, research, creating art, behind the scenes organizing, internet surfing;) We tend to go deep into whatever engages us. Because information travels longer neural paths for storage and retrieval in introverts, it is very difficult to stop and start such focus. We want to continue enriching our minds and our spirits. We want to finish our creations. If we find a ’cause’ to champion, we want to see it through with minimal distractions (they pull us out of deep thinking, make our heads extra buzzy). We need time to work on meaningful projects that require our close attention and give us energy.

All of this space can feel like a distancing or a pulling away from a relationship. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is merely self-preservation.

How to tell if your person needs an introvert recharge or just isn’t into you?

1. If they simply need breathing space, they come looking for you after a break. Their eyes are bright and they want your company. If they aren’t that into you, they ask for more time or slowly drift away.

2. If they need an introversion escape then they’ll usually retreat somewhere by themselves or with one or two close companions. If they’re not that into you, they’ll voluntarily (as opposed to work or family related) socialize in groups or at bars/ parties.

3. If they’re introverted, anywhere from a few hours to a week should be sufficient for recoup time. If they are ditching you, they can go a month without connecting with or missing you. In my opinion, the relationship is on thin ice if someone voluntarily chooses to be apart for a month.

4. Considerate introverts ask for space but also set up a next time or let you know when they’ll be available. If they aren’t truly interested, they’ll keep you guessing.

The big question: How much tolerance do you have for your partner’s absence?

Have there been times when your partner asked for too much space? Did you wonder if it was lack of interest? How did you handle it?

If you enjoyed Does Your Partner Need a Lot of Space?, then you may also like:

Introverts Explained: Why We Love You But Need to Get Away From You

Understanding the Introvert Cycle: Why We Go From Irritable to Ever-Loving

I’m Sorry I Hurt You in Order to Save Myself: What Introverts Feel but Don’t Always Say

Introverts Are Not Misanthropes: We Love Specifically, Individually and Deeply

Leave a Reply

18 Comments

  1. C
    October 15, 2016

    Hi Brenda,

    I am finding your website as an oasis in the middle of a year-long desert. I have been with my girlfriend for a little over a year now and its an accomplishment that we made it this far.

    She is very intelligent, capable, professional engineer. I was dazzled by her strength and determination from the first day and I still am. She is truly an inspiring person to everyone she meets and she connects with people and enjoys helping them feel like they can achieve their goals.

    She is the most severe introvert I have met in my life though. I am introvert TOO! I was always the one that needed more space in my previous relationships. Now I am on the other side and it feels horrible. I want to apologize to all the people I dated because I didn’t realize how awful it feels to be insecure and lonely in a relationship.

    In the very beginning, it clicked immediately and we were in our own little bubble for about 3-4 months. Despite being an introvert I am INFP and I communicate my emotions very well and have always done so. She does not. She has had relationships in the past that made her feel bad about needing the space she requires so she tried to be “on” the whole time we were together. I definitely need space but its mild to moderate (a few hours per week at the very least of alone time). It turns out she wants days and weeks apart. She has said she can spend months apart. Don’t get me wrong, she texts me everyday and we interact with each other and friends on social media all the time. But actually needing to SEE me or spend time with me is “unnecessary” to her. Which was hurtful to hear the first time.

    I don’t like being around people a lot but I do need it at a point. I prefer working from home alone (which I am allowed to do) but I like seeing friends once every couple months to catch up. When I was single, I would catch up with friends or go on dates once per week or every couple weeks. Sometimes I would book 1-2 weeks with activities every day after work but then take 1-2 weeks afterwards where I had almost no contact with anyone and it suited me just fine. One thing is, I need affection and intimacy on a regular basis. When I am in a relationship, I want affection but its ok if there is time and silence in between it is stable and secure.

    Now, that I am with my girlfriend, I could see her everyday and not have a problem. I am capable of being in the same room as her and zone out into my thoughts easily and feel refreshed. She does not feel that way, at least not anymore.

    We moved in together after 4 months and the fights started. It was the first time either of us lived with people we were dating. Previously, we both lived alone. She was trying to be something that she thought I wanted, in essence, someone not as introverted as she is. She DID say she was “Very Independent” but this is different. She has other trust and dependency issues apart from being an introvert. Her childhood made her a small adult very early on and had to care for herself and her family.

    I moved out last month because it was breaking us emotionally trying to stay together. Over the course of the time we lived together, I almost walked out a few times (she won’t let me forget) and she ended things once but then said it was a mistake. We don’t want to hurt each other but its almost like we are incapable of not doing so.

    My fear is that we will spend so much time apart that the relationship dissipates and we look up one day and say “Are we still together?”.

    I offered her a month, where we would not see each other at all. At first she didn’t want to take it saying that she feel guilty since she knows it hurts me because of my need for affection regularly. Unfortunately, after this year of fighting and heartache, I cannot stay in contact with her during this month that she has now agreed to. It would hurt me to text her every other day and have “light” convos with her when SHE feels like it and pretend that I am not hurting. I feel rejected whenever a Friday comes and she doesn’t ask to see me. I feel rejected when she tells me about trips she wants to take in the coming year that she doesn’t ask me to join her in. I feel rejected when I see her post something happy or silly on her social media accounts with her friends and talks about her interactions at work or the gym.

    Perhaps she is not that into me. She tells me she loves me and that she wants to make this work. I feel like toy on a shelf that she can call on to play when SHE in the mood.

    I don’t know which one it is, honestly. Any advice please?

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      October 15, 2016

      In many relationships there is a pursuer and distancer. This dynamic often does not show up until after the honeymoon phase. As soon as the relationship is viewed as permanent by one of the partners, the push and pull begins. The introvert could be the distancer but so could the partner who is less introverted. It has a lot to do with their attachment styles (see my posts on these) and being in the power struggle stage of a relationship. In order for the relationship to grow and be secure you both would have to work toward a win/win set up. You would have to give her more space/freedom and she would have to offer you more intimacy and reassurance. Could she do that for you? I’ve been on both sides of this situation. She’s probably learned how to self-soothe based on her childhood. It’s easier for her to regulate her energy and moods if she is alone. She would have to learn how to let you help her regulate her nervous system. You said you can relax with her around. You are able to rely on your relationship to regulate your mood in a positive way. If you can provide a safe emotional space where you both can be yourselves (even if it means her asking for space sometimes) then your chances of connecting are better. Connecting leads to intimacy and calmer nervous systems. Wishing you the best with your relationship. I am available for coaching for further exploring.:)

      Reply
  2. J Skinny
    September 2, 2015

    Brenda,

    I have been “creeping” your blog for awhile now, at first it was to better understand someone really introverted that I care about. It helped clarify a lot of things as I am extroverted. Unfortunately he doesn’t want to communicate his need for space or respect my needs etc so that has put a total ruin on something that could have been great.

    I come back to this because although I am extroverted, I am a highly emotional one that needs her space. I’m an ENFP- I feel too much, it can be draining at times as if my emotions are drowning me. I always would say I’m “moody”. But I need a great deal of time a lone ( at least a day or two a week spread out). The kicker is because I am extroverted I will get depressed if the alone time goes for too long since I do get my recharge by being around people. I hate always being “on” all the time. My alone time is for deep reflection etc. I have read a lot of these replies and now that I am doing more self work I can see myself in a lot of these posts that introverts write. The thought of having to be with someone 24/7 makes me feel smothered and drained, I have always lived alone and needed my space. The idea of sleeping in separate bedrooms or living in separate houses has always appealed to me. The funny thing is before I could see how I was so pushy with said introvert and a lot of the “mistakes” I made, but I am also here feeling a lot of it. Its a rough contradiction to need a fair amount of alone time but physically have the need to be recharged by people otherwise I get in a deep depression. This could be nurture vs nature as I had a pretty rough upbringing. I have read ENFP’s are the most introverted of the extroverts and I can see this ringing true. I wonder if there is hope for me to find someone but I am having significant doubts.

    Thanks for the website its helpful 🙂

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      September 3, 2015

      Dear J Skinny,
      You are an Idealist temperament given the NF in our Myers Briggs type. I actually believe that space2live is geared more toward the Idealist than just the introvert. I am an NF too, only an INFP. Idealists are relationship and meaningful work oriented. It is very important to us to be our true selves. Because we strive to have good rapport and positive relationships with everyone we have excellent diplomacy skills but all that harmony seeking takes a toll on us. We are so aware of other’s needs/emotions/feelings that we can’t help but get fatigued, which allows emotions to spill out. If other’s feelings don’t align with ours the inner conflict we feel because we want to make everything smooth, can be very draining and upsetting. We simply have to get away from others in order to find relief.
      The P in your type will also leave you wanting freedom to create your own schedule. We Ps can be very motivated and active but we work best on our own timeline and on activities of our choice.
      I’ve dated ENFPs and my sister is one too. Your enthusiasm and energy are incredible when you are well rested and allowed to follow your excitement. Your energy, like everyone’s, will ebb and flow. Practice self-care when it is ebbing. Get away from it all. I recommend finding another NF. You’ll recognize them for their creativity, authenticity, abstract thinking and people-oriented (vs. task oriented) behavior. Although, any other temperament can work too as long as there is mutual appreciation and a willingness to learn about each other. I’m so glad you have found space2live helpful. I actually talk with a lot of extroverts like you.:)

      Reply
  3. Best of Space2live 2014: Most Popular New Posts and a Return toThose With Staying Power | space2live
    January 2, 2015

    […] Does Your Partner Need a Lot of Space?: Introversion or Just Not That Into You? […]

    Reply
  4. J
    May 6, 2014

    Brenda,

    First, I wanted to just say thank you for this excellent blog. I, like many readers, am an in an extrovert-introvert relationship, and care enough about my lover that I’ve been researching and trying to better understand her.

    Most of the relationship blogs articles on the internet seem to be written from the perspective of extroverts, and using that lens to analyze and ascribe (often incorrect) thoughts and emotions to introverts. So it was just a joy to stumble upon your blog. I liken it to finding the rosetta stone to decrypt the language/thoughts of introverts.

    Our introvert-extrovert relationship, I (and we) feel is incredibly expansive and energizing. There’s mutual understanding, intimacy, connection, and spark on so many different levels – emotional, intellectual, physical/sexual, shared career-mindedness. And this doesn’t necessarily mean that we are identical in all way. Rather, and this is a bit of a paradigm shift for me, we have many huge differences, which seem to be complementary, and embrace them in a positive way.

    Most of the time this works, and works well. However, I admit, It can be difficult to think from the other persons perspective, all the time. For example, we have very different communication needs. I work long hours in finance, and have very little capacity for relationships . We also do not live in the same time-zone so we see each other infrequently. I am fine with not speaking everyday, but, I do appreciate some sort of electronic communication daily just to stay connected. Sometimes emails go unanswered, and although I try to reassure myself that this is natural. But I am not a robot and do feel a bit rejected and bit despondent at times.

    Personally, I do not feel like a particularly needy man. I However, in this current relationship, I do feel *very* needy, that is, relative to my better-half. And honestly, I have a hard time coping with feeling that I am the needy one!

    My question is simply: under what circumstances (if at all) would you think it would be appropriate for an extrovert to ask for more from an introvert? (It could be more communication/affection/etc.) If appropriate, how could I frame the discussion to make it less threatening or demanding.

    Or am i asking for too much? Part of me feels that perhaps I should just accept her the way she is, and not try to change anything. And most of the times I do feel this way. But it’s the 5-10% of the time when on occasion I’ll say write a long note with no response that makes me want to pull my hair out. Or, if she’s having a rough day and just doesn’t want to engage. Sometimes a bit of signalling or just a one-liner would help.Thoughts?

    J

    Reply
    • Kera
      September 13, 2015

      Hey J. I realize that you wrote in to this over a year ago. I find myself in a similar situation with my current boyfriend. We’ve been dating a year and a half and now that the honeymoon is over, we are having some of our first big fights and not communicating well. Some of the fights are because of the same things you have mentioned. I feel ignored. Did you ever come up with something that worked for you and your girlfriend?!!

      Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      September 14, 2015

      Hi J. Another reader’s comment prompted me to look at your comment. I realized I never responded to you. I do not know what happened. I try to get back to everyone. I humbly apologize. I realize you left your remark in May of 2014 so you probably don’t even remember it, but I’ll respond nonetheless. Your questions are good ones.
      I definitely think it is OK for an extrovert to ask for what they need from an introvert. You seem like you have been very respectful and appreciative of your differences. Kudos to you for learning about introversion and embracing differences. I do not think it is too much to ask to expect an electronic communication every day when you live in different time zones and don’t get to talk each day. I am sure the lack of response to a lengthy text or email is simply because she does not have time to respond as thoughtfully as she would like or she simply wants to use her precious moments of free time to be still and recharge. I understand how this can leave you hanging, wondering why she isn’t connecting with you. Introverts are big proponents of quality time over quantity. When she is with you or communicating with you she will most likely be very present. When she is not, she is working on the ‘have to’s’ of life and spending time doing things that conserve or boost her energy. A lot of back and forth texting or emails can feel like interruptions to her work/processing. Even so, a daily text or email is not too much to ask if you are in a long-distance relationship. It may not be super long, just a nod in your direction letting you know she is thinking of you. I would approach her with your request for more communication. Start with vulnerability. Let her know you miss her and it hurts a little when she doesn’t respond to you. I would also ask yourself if you are OK being the one who reaches out more with emails and texts. My boyfriend sends me more emails than I send him. He even gives me the gift of saying I don’t have to respond. I would say we text equally though. Short messages with limited back and forth are easy for me to fit in during a break between work projects. Hope that gives you some insight. I hope your relationship is still going strong and you flourished despite my lack of response.;) Again, so sorry about that.

      Reply
  5. Is It Love or Are You Just Filling a Void?: Mastering Aloneness and Creating a Real Relationship | space2live
    April 18, 2014

    […] Does Your Partner Need a Lot of Space?: Introversion or Just Not That Into You? […]

    Reply
  6. Confused !!@#$%!@##$#
    February 10, 2014

    Hey Brenda,

    I am in a relationship with a very very introvert guy. Brenda he just dosen’ t speak. Its been 2 years that I am with him. I used to feel earlier that since there are many good things about him like his career orientation, the freedom he gives me, his fabulous family ties and his stable behavior this would not be such a big problem and he would open up eventually. But this did not happen.We took a break of 2 months as we used to fight a lot on the issues of he not giving me time since he was busy in his studies. In this time I have realized that I get really bored with him and he kind of sucks up my energy. There are awkward silences in our conversations. Otherwise I am an extrovert but with him I just don’t happen to speak. I find him disinterested in my stuff. There is a certain bag of expectations that we have for each other. Communication is very important for me but I don’t want to end up in an arrange marriage where the guy way too much and he dosen’t give me freedom to live my life. I have talked about this to my boyfriend and he acknowledges this quality of his but he says that he is helpless, he just cannot strike a conversation.

    Also, his fears in life resemble my fears and he gets upset on those things on which I too get upset. I just don’t know what to do. What is it that needs to be addressed here?

    Am I expecting a lot out of him, what if I keep getting bored all my life. Please provide guidance.

    Thanks…..

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      February 11, 2014

      Hi:) Thank you for sharing your story. What I am hearing you say is that you like many of the extraneous things about this man but you aren’t all that interested in him. That’s OK. As you figure out more and more about yourself a man with a similar or complementary temperament will appear (if you truly want a partner).

      Many introverts are quiet but not all. Does you boyfriend get animated and talkative about anything or with anyone? Usually, a topic very meaningful to us will open us up and make it difficult for us to STOP talking.;)

      I would not recommend dating or marrying someone for security. I walked that path and in the end I couldn’t hold back the truth that I was deeply dissatisfied with our relationship and I hurt a good person.

      I wish you the best of luck. Remember extroversion should be honored as much as introversion. It takes respect and even a sense of humor to make a relationship with differences work.

      Reply
  7. 6 Tips On How To Handle “The Break” | TheLatestReports
    January 16, 2014

    […] Does Your Partner Need a Lot of Space?: Introversion or Just Not That Into You? […]

    Reply
  8. Sher
    January 13, 2014

    This has been an area of enormous difficulty. I had moments of great passion and sexual intensity with my former partner. He would take those wonderful moments as an indication that we should spend even more time together. I, on the other hand, could relive them in my mind for weeks without needing to reconnect that way again. We never did manage to yield to each other’s needs-or at least neither of us cared to.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      January 14, 2014

      I love that you mentioned re-living highlights for weeks. I agree, replaying those lovely memories can be so nourishing and non-invasive that we can go for a while without needing the actual physical interaction. The actual physical presence of someone all the time can be draining. Meaningful physical presence can be energizing but for me (most introverts?) there needs to be breaks in between. Thanks for sharing Sher.

      Reply
  9. November
    January 13, 2014

    After a 4 years of marriage, I realized I have not had any “me” time since we got married and started living together. Sure, I get a few hours here and there to be alone, but it’s not enough. I always have to be “on”, which I realized was killing me.
    Knowing he will be coming back to the house after a few hours, is a buzzkill. That alone “cancels” those few hours of alone time.
    I can’t handle being with someone 24/7 (even though we’re not physically together for 24 hours a day). I NEED to have my own time space that NO ONE else has control over. Having my “own room” to retreat to, is not enough.
    Unfortunately, this has most likely ruined my marriage. We love each other and really enjoy the good times, but I just can’t handle it. I’m ok with this realization, but I hurt because he hurts…..and it’s my fault. I think it’s a horrible setback, something that I might always regret. I really wish I’d known this about me before I got married, but I suppose there was really no way to know.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      January 14, 2014

      I went through this too, except I added children to the mix.:( If there is any way you can get away each week for a day or two, try that. I know it is a rather unorthodox way to share a marriage but if it helps your relationship it would be worth it. I know some couples that live in separate houses. I’m sorry you and your husband have to go through this pain. I understand the very real need to be alone. It helps if your partner has friends/commitments/projects that he can gravitate to when you need space. I hope you find peace and growth as you move through all of this.

      Reply
  10. Ruth Rainwater
    January 10, 2014

    I love, love, love, the ‘we have a mission’ paragraph! It describes me better than I could have described it myself. Your blog has helped me to articulate to my partner and to others why I act the way I act sometimes. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      January 11, 2014

      Woohoo! I love to help relationships.:) I totally am with you on the ‘mission’ paragraph. I have experienced both sides of that scenario. I can get lost in a project but also frustrated when a partner devotes too much time to his mission.

      Reply
%d bloggers like this: