Maintaining a healthy distance in relationships
Updated: Feb 8
I’ve never heard of the idea when it comes to relationships to “maintain a healthy distance while staying engaged”, until now.
In chapter 3 of his book “Independent Enough: A book about relationships”, author Larry Shushanskys talks about how “maintaining a healthy distance” while staying engaged is a key factor into having a closer and more meaningful relationship.
But what does it mean when he says “healthy distance”? For most of my adult life, I’ve always had the idea that the key to healthy loving relationships is by becoming fully committed 100%, loving a person unconditionally, and giving without expecting anything return. I’ve always frowned at the idea of “one foot in, one foot out”, where someone is only half there, have a wall built, or keeping a safe distance to protect themselves from harm. I always thought that doing so means someone is afraid of getting hurt and therefore not really built or ready for a healthy loving committed relationship.
But after reading the part of the book about the importance of maintaining a healthy distance in relationships, I realised that maybe I got it all wrong. The idea is something very new to me, however as I started to process the idea in my head, I started to realise a few things.
For one, maintaining a healthy distance could mean differently to different people. The “distance”, however far away or close that is, would depend on both people in the relationship and what they’re comfortable with. For some, that distance may be minimal, for others, it may be more.
In my relationship, I would say that I’m the “needy” one. I like affection and attention and spending quality time. My partner, on the other hand, is more independent. He values his personal time and space and likes spending some moments to himself. This is not to say he doesn’t get “clingy” or not want any attention. Of course he does. As a matter of fact, he is quite an affectionate and emotional person as well. He just has more control over it and can be more logicial when he needs to.
But in a way, I realised that throughout our relationship, we have been keeping a healthy distance between us. On some days, I would give my partner some space and time for himself. On other days, he would do the same for me. Some days, I would feel too distant from him and would ask for some quality time to connect, which he would happily give. On other days, I’d feel comfortable to just sit next to him and have each of us doing our own thing.
However, I also realised that the distance varies and changes day to day. Rather than maintaining a certain distance, we adjust it based on what the other person needs. So, some days we are more apart and distant (physically, emotionally, or psychologically), and other days we are closer and more connected. It simply depends on what each of us needs.
The important thing is, we are both “maintaining” a distance that we’re both happy and comfortable in, even though the distance itself changes from time to time. It’s not easy though, because it requires constant communication and willingness to open up and listen. It requires honesty and willingness to be open and communicate what we need from each other, and trust that the other person will listen with no judgement or criticism.
Most of all, it requires compromise. It’s almost close to impossible for both people to get their way 100% as they wanted it to be. Both people need to be willing to make sacrifices, give, but also take. In most cases, healthy relationships consist of back and forth of giving and receiving and giving and receiving.
Now I’ve learnt what it means to maintain a healthy distance while staying engaged in relationships. I’ve also learnt that distance is not a bad thing. Distance is an important factor to becoming independent enough, and in turn would lead to having a happier, healthier, loving, and fulfilling relationship.