The art of giving and receiving space can be difficult, especially at the beginning. We love spending time with our partners, but there are times when we need to give space to enable each other to grow as individuals.

Learning how to give space to the person we love, however difficult it may be, is vital to a trusting, secure and happy relationship. As a couple, each individual needs to learn to give physical and mental space to the other. These spaces can be to explore personal direction, to enjoy a friend’s company or for quiet meditation [1].

“Real love is one that triumphs lastingly, sometimes painfully, over the hurdles erected by time, space and the world.” – Alain Badiou

Relationship advice from Rilke
In a letter addressed to the young poet and cadet, Frank Xaver Kapus, German expressionist and painter, Rainer Maria Rilke offers some advice on managing the line between togetherness and distance in a way that protects love from self-destruction [2].

“It is a question in marriage, to my feeling, not of creating a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries, but rather a good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude, and shows him this confidence, the greatest in his power to bestow. A togetherness between two people is an impossibility, and where it seems, nevertheless, to exist, it is a narrowing, a reciprocal agreement which robs either one party or both of his fullest freedom and development.”

“But, once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky! Therefore this too must be the standard for rejection or choice: whether one is willing to stand guard over the solitude of a person and whether one is inclined to set this same person at the gate of one’s own solitude, of which he learns only through that which steps, festively clothed, out of the great darkness.”

Loneliness and its role
On the importance of loneliness and its role in human relationships, Rilke wrote,

“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation.”

Respect for each other’s loneliness is a principal worth applying to human relationship. As Rilke pointed out, disconnecting from oneself to be together with another ensures that there is ‘no ground beneath them’, and thus may make the relationship become intolerant and imperious [3].

References:

  1. The art of giving space (Relationship advice from Rainer Maria Rilke)“, Faena Aleph. December, 2018.
  2. The Difficult Art of Giving Space in Love: Rilke on Freedom, Togetherness, and the Secret to a Good Marriage“, Brain Pickings.
  3. Mastering the Art of Giving and Taking Space“, Psychology Today. February, 2014.
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