Perhaps you’re familiar with the concept of a personal bubble.
It’s the idea that we need a certain amount of personal space to feel comfortable.
For some folks, being packed like sardines on the subway is no big deal.
For others, the closest they want a stranger to be standing is 5 feet away.
No one likes it when their bubble is violated.
When someone is standing too close to you, it can raise the hair on the back of your head. It feels creepy!
It turns out that we also have an emotional bubble.
This is how close we like people to be emotionally.
Some people feel happy sharing everything they think and feel.
Others feel awkward when an acquaintance starts talking about personal matters.
Like the personal bubble, our emotional bubble shrinks or expands based on who the other person is.
We don’t like allowing strangers to get too close to us emotionally, but we welcome emotional closeness with a family member.
How Bubbles Are Formed
For most people, the size of their emotional bubble was set in childhood.
Every child yearns for closeness with their caregivers. But caregivers aren’t always able to respond to those demands for closeness in a healthy, appropriate way.
Some children find that their caregivers are there for them sometimes and not others. They grow up wanting more closeness and feeling anxious when they don’t get it.
Their hunger for closeness and intimacy can make their emotional bubble small or nonexistent.
Other children are mostly left alone to raise themselves. They’re taught to be self-sufficient.
When they grow up, they find it strange or uncomfortable to be overly intimate with someone. They have a big emotional bubble.
Still other children experience inappropriate closeness with a caregiver (known as enmeshment).
They grow up feeling a strong aversion for anyone who violates their emotional bubble. They want to keep people at a distance and control how close others get.
(Do these ideas sound familiar? That’s because they’re the basis of attachment styles. Learn more here.)
How Big is Your Bubble?
What’s the size of your emotional bubble?
How do you feel when someone comes too close?
How does the size of your bubble compare to your partner’s?
How does he react when you or someone else pushes him to be closer than he’s comfortable?
It can be incredibly helpful to talk with your partner about the concept of emotional bubbles.
Sometimes you might think he’s pushing you away when in fact he’s trying to protect his emotional bubble.
If I could give you one piece of advice, it’s to work with your guy’s bubble rather than against it.
Our emotional bubbles are deeply rooted in the past. He may wish he could let you in closer but feel unable to.
If your guy’s bubble is so big that it’s become a barrier to your connection, you need to talk about it. Your intimacy needs may not be compatible.
It’s better to find a partner who enjoys a similar level of closeness, rather than spend the rest of your life banging your head against an impenetrable bubble.