What you need to know:
- Popular culture states that if your partner needs space, then chances are they want a break-up
- But according to relationship experts, this is the wrong premise. Sometimes the only reason why men need space in a relationship and why men pull away in the first place is that they need a chance to make some room for themselves
Popular culture states that if your partner needs space, then chances are they want a break-up. But according to relationship experts, this is the wrong premise. Sometimes the only reason why men need space in a relationship and why men pull away in the first place is that they need a chance to make some room for themselves while still being with someone else.
According to psychotherapist Esther Perel, modern relationships can be stressful to couples, as they rely on the concept of 'the soulmate, and 'my everything' in a partner.
"Never in the history of family life was the emotional well-being of the couple relevant to the survival of the family. In the past, marriage was a pragmatic institution that the whole community provided needs for. We added romantic needs to it and the need for belonging and companionship. We keep wanting more. We are asking from one person what once an entire village used to provide," says the author of Mating in Captivity.
Four men share their experiences on what goes through their minds when they say they need some space.
'Men's brains are like a big room full of boxes'
Shem Mutugi, 36, married for 5 1/2 years
"I am a photographer by profession and I have an online TV Show 'Raising Giants' that discusses issues affecting men. In my early years of marriage, it wasn't easy for my wife to understand my desire for space. She would give me the remote and tell me to pick a movie we can watch and she would go to the kitchen and one hour later, she would still find me flipping through the TV. Often, she would ask me 'what is happening?' and I would tell her there is nothing to watch or I suggest I want to take a walk alone.
With time, I had to explain to her that a man's brain is organised in boxes. When men say they want to be alone in marriage it's not like they want to stop doing their duties or there's a dispute to be sorted out or they have been wronged. It's simply a time to reactivate just like the way you refresh a computer for better performance. I wish women would understand that when men are in their 'nothing box' it has absolutely nothing to do with them."
I constantly felt crowded and she felt that I was 'running away'
Drake Masinde, 42 married for 10 years
"I am an Online Content Writer and the founder of Breaking the Manacles and the Men of Order Programs. In our early stages of marriage, my wife had a hard time understanding my need for space, considering I am an introvert and she is an extrovert. She could not understand how I wanted to go on a drive alone for me to think and she thought that thinking together would help. I constantly felt crowded and she felt that I was 'running away' from her. Eventually, I took the time to explain to her my need for space and we have a better relationship.
From time to time, there are moments I am thinking of nothing. During this time, the man tries to find logic or a logical pattern to whatever is happening or the situation he finds himself in. After a man gets clarity it means he has found a solution to what he was thinking about. Every man needs space, though there are men who define that need for space in an unhealthy manner, like taking a break from the marital union.
Space is a time for reflection to gain a better perspective. Women should understand that giving a man that space is good for all. Let him be, leave him alone, and be secure in the fact that when he has figured himself out, he will come back. Men always come back when they are given that space."
'A marriage therapist made us understand how women and men's brains operate'
James Ndichu, 30, a student at Nairobi University
"I am a third-year student currently pursuing a degree of Bachelor of Commerce. I am currently in a relationship and we are set to wed in two months. Sometimes, I am thinking about nothing, something that my girlfriend does not understand. We disagree often as she thinks when I go quiet she has wronged me and this makes her apologise. I am glad, last month we visited a marriage therapist who made us understand how women's and men's brains operate. A man's brain operates in layers and each layer functions on its timing while women can be thinking of many things at a time. Any honest man will tell you that, at times his brain feels like it's running at a high speed. We feel the pressure to love, protect, cherish and we struggle to juggle these roles. That's why we get into our favourite 'nothing inbox'.
I wish women would give men time to be in their zone during this time. It can be 30 minutes where the man watches football, sleep, or just stare at the TV. The man comes back rejuvenated."
'What is bothering you, can we talk?' my wife would ask
Andrew Omondi, 55, married for 30 years
"I am a businessman in Nairobi. I am glad we are discussing this subject because often, the 'boy child' is misunderstood.
In the first six years of my marriage, my wife wouldn't understand when my brain was completely dead and I would go fishing. Often, she would join me and this would irritate me as she would ask me 'what is bothering you, can we talk?' and no matter how much I explained that all was well, she would nag incessantly. With time, I explained to her that being alone didn't mean anything was wrong. It's just a time of reconnecting to the world, relaxing, or zoning out.
I love the zone because I don't have to think about feelings or any task. Watching a game or fishing requires a little mind. So next time, your husband or boyfriend says he is thinking of nothing, just be confident and let him enjoy the silence and he will come back to you."
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