When we cross over from the first to the second stage of an intimate relationship, it is expected for our fears to come up.
During this second stage, the relationship is calling out for a little more space.
Esther Perel frames this concept just so beautifully.
She highlights that the (unconscious goal), at first, is to spend as much time together as possible …
... sharing our fears …
... our dreams …
... with this beautiful human, who is still very much a stranger to us.
She describes that in the first stage of love, we want to collapse any space between ourselves and our partner.
During the second stage of love, once we have become quite familiarized with one another’s internal world, we crave more space.
But here’s the important thing to note in all of this ... we don’t crave space for the sake of ‘having space’ itself.
Craving space doesn’t mean that there is anything WRONG with the relationship.
In fact, the more we feel trust in our relationship, the further we can explore the outside world because we know we have our partner to lean into.
We need that initial stage to the build a safe foundation and couple bubble to create this safety.
We crave that space in order to know parts of our partner that have not yet been discovered, even by them.
We also want space to go out and explore and bring new parts of OURSELVES to the relationship.
This is the point where many couples can get into trouble.
When one partner starts needing some space to explore those parts of themselves in the relationship …
... it can scare the other partner.
It can bring up fears of abandonment.
But we have to give ourselves (and our partner) permission to go out into the world and explore this new awaiting growth, otherwise, we can feel very stuck.
It’s okay to lean into the anxiety that this can bring up.
It’s okay to feel scared when our partner begins to courageously explore themselves in new ways.
It’s okay to acknowledge that it can trigger some of our own guilt when we begin to take care of some of our own needs too.
We can communicate those fears in ways that give (both) our pain a voice, and our partner, their freedom.
We can find safe places to reinvent ourselves so that we can bring those exciting discoveries into our relationship.
We can rely on outside resources in ways that can further nurture our relationship
We can maintain our sense of self and create rituals that foster the right amount of connection.
We can allow for different seasons of our relationship to shape and mold what feels right for both partners.
We can make space for this to look scary and confusing at times.
We can openly discuss healthy ways to make mutual self-discovery a foundational value.
I believe we can do absolutely that.