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Healthy distance is safe if intimacy has been established. For continuous growth to occur, closeness and distances must find a balance. The changes that arise from stretching the relationship need review.

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Often, this is best done alone. Solitude has a healing force that informs direction for the future. Emotionally healthy connections encourage their loved ones to find one’s self outside of the relationship. It is natural and healthy to focus on interests and goals other than those in the relationship. This space enables the realization that the partner can’t fulfill every need we have. Some needs aren’t intended to be met within the relationship.

Moving away brings clarity. Close relationships build in space whenever they need it. Time and distance lends perspective when negotiating disagreements over conflicting expectations, perceptions, and needs. Once the couple has a chance to work through differences, they can refocus on their new circumstances. This recharges the energy needed for the next phase of discovery.

Adapting with flexibility takes poise. Change requires partners to move away from established patterns. One way or another, the nature of the relationship evolves. The new circumstances require different skills and behaviors than were ever before needed. When partners give each other the gift of freedom, they also accept the loss that comes from the changes they have created. Eventually, the relationship will need to reinvest in the new circumstances. Change and loss are inevitable aspects of all relationships.

Finding the time needed to take stock of the changes that have occurred allows energy to be recouped. As partners position themselves to address their new circumstances, a new expenditure of energy will be required. The transition from the need for space into a renewed phase of discovery will provide an influx of new energy for the couple. Thus, the cycle of opportunities begins anew. In the strongest relationships, time and space provide the fuel and clarity to propel the relationship past the crisis into the next opportunity of discovery. Once the partners come back together and share the lessons enabled by the temporary distance, a chance to refocus on the new circumstances of the relationship unfolds.

Discovery Domains

Losses take many forms. In a healthy connection, partners are able to acknowledge change that has taken place and can cope with their feelings related to the change. When people struggle with loss, they may be sad and overwhelmed. It is difficult to attend to the needs of other when depleted from sadness. Lovers can have trouble with intimacy because it’s natural to become internally focused when hurt.

Any relationship moves quickly to a defensive position when partners anticipate rejection or abandonment. Self-protection becomes a high priority. Because of the level of depletion, relationships are vulnerable to breaking down during these periods of transition. Current losses have a way of triggering the feelings from past losses. It is not uncommon for old, unresolved memories to get stirred up when we experience a loss, failure, or disappointment. For that reason, our reactions to loss are often larger than the events that trigger them. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge specifically what has changed and what is different. This helps to separate current challenges from past pressures that may still have a lingering effect.

In time, the energy will return to tackle the challenges of our new circumstances. Accepting the feelings of loss is the first step. Clarity eventually follows. The exhaustion has purpose. It’s designed to allow the couple to regroup so the challenges of the new circumstances can be managed effectively. Healthy relationships find a way to respect this process.

Having acknowledged the loss, partners in strong relationships reset goals and work toward new challenges. When relationships struggle, new circumstances that have survived change may not always be accepted or understood. Many of the ground rules that governed the partnership in the past may no longer apply. Both parties may not feel equally ready to move forward. One partner may be slower to heal emotionally.

In some cases, the new situation has produced very different visions for the future. Refocusing is a way of starting over. Learning how to move forward together following a significant change requires a new phase of discovery. Different goals will strengthen the foundation. New conflicts will define day-to-day interactions. A greater level of intimacy will become possible.

The choice to refocus sets the relationship’s evolution in motion. The relationship has been gifted with an opportunity to redefine its direction. Any past struggles that were unresolved now have a chance to be addressed. This time, however, the partners bring the learning, tools, and resources that were acquired from change and growth. This begins the next cycle of evolution in the relationship.