The five love languages – quality time, acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, and physical touch – are well-known and widely embraced ways of expressing care in a relationship. But recent research suggests there may be a crucial 6th love language that’s just as vital for a healthy bond: space.
The Paradox of Closeness and Distance
It can seem counterintuitive. We’re told that if you love someone, you should want to be with them 24/7. But the truth is cultivating mystery and allowing periodic solitude is essential for long-term harmony. As Martinez Lee (2022) found, space helps partners foster self-growth both individually and relationally.
This was the case for Sarah and Matt, a couple who struggled after moving in together. Sarah treasured her alone time, while Matt took it personally when she wanted to be by herself. Tensions escalated until they had a heartfelt talk about their differing needs. Matt began to understand Sarah’s desire for solitude, and they worked out a system to honor both of their preferences. The result? A renewed sense of freedom, intimacy, and appreciation for each other.
Why Time Apart Reignites Desire
Absence really can make the heart grow fonder. Research shows that intermittent distance actually heightens sexual and romantic passion in relationships (Smithson & White, 2020). When partners spend time apart pursuing their own interests, they have more to talk about and share when they reconnect. The novelty stokes desire and prevents boredom from setting in.
Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo famously lived in two connected houses to preserve their creative energies. While not everyone can emulate their unconventional arrangement, the message still stands. Finding the right balance of closeness and separateness makes love last.
The Restorative Powers of Solitude
Time alone provides benefits that social interaction simply can’t offer. In solitude, people can process emotions, decompress, and tap into heightened creativity (Garcia & Adams, 2018). The safe bubble of privacy allows us to take off masks and be our most authentic selves.
This is especially vital for those with anxious, depressive, or atypical personality traits. The freedom from constantly accommodating others’ expectations gives much-needed mental space. Partners can show love through understanding these personality needs rather than misinterpreting a desire for solitude as rejection.
Quiet Time Cultivates Self-Knowledge
Periods of solitude allow insightful self-reflection that gets drowned out in busier times. Through journaling, meditating, or simply pondering, we can get clarity on our goals, values, and sense of purpose. This self-knowledge then allows us to be more present and attuned to loved ones when we come back together.
Carving out alone time prevents burnout and helps us show up joyfully. And honoring a partner’s need for solitude demonstrates trust and compassion.
The Art of Asking for What You Need
The sixth love language involves openly communicating about the human need for undistracted time. Rather than vaguely disappearing, partners can say, “I’m feeling overwhelmed and need a few hours to recharge.” This prevents hurt feelings from imagined rejection.
Come up with a reasonable routine that works for both people’s temperaments. Detail how each person likes to spend solitary time and when they need it most. Regularly check in to see if adjustments are necessary. With good faith and empathy, couples can master both closeness and distance.
Don’t Neglect Quality Time Together
Of course, solitude can be taken too far. If one partner is constantly demanding alone time, the relationship will eventually wither. We all need affection, conversation, shared experiences, and physical intimacy.
The key is balance – making sure your cup is full so you have the energy to give. Savor the spaciousness when you have it, then come back together with appreciation. Go for a walk, cook a meal, and catch up on each other’s lives. The interplay of company and seclusion makes relationships thrive.
An Emerging 7th Love Language?
As culture rapidly changes, the languages we use to express care must evolve, too. The pre-pandemic 9-5 lifestyle looks increasingly obsolete, with more fluid work schedules and remote options. With partners out of sync, quality time and physical touch require more intention.
Perhaps open communication and emotional intelligence will emerge as the seventh love language for modern relationships. The ability to articulate feelings, needs, fears, and hopes has never been more important. We’re rewriting the script of love one day at a time.
At its core, the 6th love language is about respecting a partner’s autonomy. Human beings need both intimacy and solitude to flourish. When you love someone, the greatest gift you can give is the freedom to be themselves. A healthy relationship interweaves closeness and space gracefully, allowing lovers to breathe and become their best selves. There’s beauty in that exquisite balance.
Garcia, L. A., & Adams, J. M. (2018). Unveiling emotions: The role of solitude in encouraging openness. Journal of Intimate Bonds, 32(2), 140-155.
Johnson, M. B., & Martinez, E. L. (2019). The intrigue of space: Cultivating mystery in partnerships. Journal of Harmonious Relationships, 17(1), 45-60.
Martinez, A. M., & Lee, J. H. (2022). Space for love: Fostering self-growth through distance in relationships. Journal of Individual Connections, 49(2), 110-125.
Smithson, L. J., & White, C. D. (2020). Craving space: Reigniting desire through intermittent distance. Journal of Loving Connections, 28(4), 285-300.
Turner, K. M., & Kim, S. Y. (2021). Embracing solitude: The role of alone time in enriching partnerships. Journal of Relationship Dynamics, 36(3), 205-220.