Romanian version, here.

The need for space differs from one person to another according to their education, their background, their culture and their job. We come to appreciate a space as we get older. Our perception of distance is not an innate gift, but one that we learn after many experiences, and with each of them we review our concept of distance.

There is an experiment carried out in a community of porcupines which proved that animals need an individual space where they can feel safe. In frosty winters, porcupines gather and huddle together to get warm. But the closer they get, they touch each other with their quills and they hurt each other. Sometimes they bleed, and then they disperse. But the cold comes in through the empty spaces and they come closer again. Slowly, they come to approximate the right distance to stay warm without pricking each other. Likewise, people feel the need to come closer, enough to feel each other’s warmth, yet without being invaded and hurt.

The principle of distance and closeness explains the large spaces that some people keep around them, precisely because they have been hurt. And those who want permanent closeness, verging on dependence, do not feel safe in their personal space.

In the exploratory talks before getting into a relationship, we estimate distances, see how many steps ahead and how many steps back we can take without losing the other. Any type of connection comes with these trials, when we don’t know the rules, such as spaces in the official environment. Estimating distances is a form of code decryption to be able to communicate to as to be understood. Offences, insults and yelling are part of the rampant invasion of someone else’s space, it disturbs balance and breaks reference points. Just like specialists recommend four hugs a day, which stimulate endorphins, violent touches cause real hurricanes in organising the space of the hurt one.

Distance and closeness define us, stimulate us and set our limits as regards what we can build in our relationships with those around us. It is on empty spaces that love can grow, which is why we may not feel it as an invasion, as long as it fills them perfectly.