When He Needs Space, Give Him Space
By Genie Joseph, M.A.
There is no horror film as scary as hearing the words “I need space" from someone you love. What do you do when he needs space? You imagine the worst. You are convinced it is over.
The truth is, if he’s asking for it, he needs it, and this article will give you some insight as to why he needs it. When you hear the words: “I need some space," your first job is to control your own emotional response. The last thing your boyfriend wants or needs from you in this moment is your pulling on him, reeling him back, demanding his declarations of undying love. If he is saying he needs space, he does! He needs to feel like he is not losing his identity in yours. He needs to feel in touch with his own rhythms and needs. Guess what? This is normal.
The first thing to understand is that men’s emotions are like rubber bands, they can stretch wide and connect, but then they need to contract and release. There is a normal pattern, just like breathing, where he wants to be intimate and close, and then he needs to feel independent and separate to maintain his sense of self. This is a natural ebb and flow of the desire to connect and the desire to be autonomous.
In a healthy relationship both people have outside interests, activities, friends, hobbies, and enjoy time with friends of the same sex. This time apart, and it could even be just going to work, (especially if that work is meaningful), is essential to maintain a healthy dynamic between the two of you.
People need different types of stimulation (I’m not just talking about sexual stimulation). We all need variety in life. Different conversations, activities, energies, entertainment, new experiences, help each individual stay balanced while in a committed relationship. Trying to get every single need met from one person is unrealistic and a little unfair, and can lead the other person to feel smothered.
If your boyfriend is asking for space, you want to gracefully give it to him. He’s asking because he needs space! You have a right to ask a couple of gentle, information-based questions, such as: “What would space look like? How often? How can I give you that space and still feel secure in our relationship?" The idea behind these questions is that you are honoring his request, not trying to talk him out of it.
If you suspect that this is really a back door way of breaking up, first agree to the need for space. Then once he understands that you truly are honoring this request without nagging, he may have more room to return. But you can ask: “Is this a need for some solo time/time with friends/time to study, etc. or is this you questioning whether or not you still want to be in this relationship?"
In other words, you don’t want to fight over his need for space. You want to be a big enough and a secure enough person to honor his genuine needs. No one can be always at your beck and call, or always responding to your needs for attention and security. If he is asking for more space, it is probably a sign that YOU need some more balance in your life. You need to spend some time with your girlfriends, or doing things that recharge your battery. If you are doing things you love, you will be happier and more attractive to him.
It is ironic, but the best way to hold onto a relationship is to loosen the leash to just the right amount. If you are holding him too tight, he will resist. You will start to feel like his mother to him, and he will start to feel like a rebellious teenage boy who needs to break free. Don’t let this unhealthy dynamic pollute an otherwise great relationship. Giving him the space he needs allows him to feel like a man in your presence, not a restless boy.
You may not realize it, but you need space too. You need some time so that you can put your focus on what re-charges your battery. That could be spending time nurturing yourself, exercising, doing hobbies, volunteering, doing anything that you love, spending time with friends, family or being in nature. It is healthy to want to spend some time without your beloved. It is not healthy to feel you have to be fused at the hip, always doing the same thing at the same time. He needs space and so do you!
As hard as it may sound to do at first, if he needs space, celebrate his honesty. Encourage him to take it and enjoy it. Support him in his desires to feel free and complete. This is why you fell in love with him anyway.
If you turn him into a stuffed animal that just lays there and cuddles, he’ll hate you for it. Instead, cultivate the love of the rhythm of connection. You come together and really connect, and then you allow each other to breathe, and move freely, and return out of true desire to be together again. That way you get to enjoy reuniting. It’s good for your love life!
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