A reader wonders how to give a man space and whether space will work to bring him closer.
I’m really confused about something my boyfriend said and I was hoping you could help. After a wonderful weekend together, I didn’t hear from him like normal on Monday (we usually text every day) so I texted him on Tuesday. I asked what happened on Monday— and he told me he needs space. He really hurt my feelings.
He still texted me first the rest of the week. I didn’t bring anything up with him because after he told me that, I got scared he was pulling away and didn’t know what to do. We usually see each other every weekend and he hasn’t made plans.
How do I give him space? Does him wanting space mean he’s pulling away or losing interest in me and our relationship??”
Okay, I’ve been EXACTLY where you are and I know how crappy and vulnerable you feel right now, especially after you had such closeness going on before he told you that he wanted space to figure out what he wants.
What you’re going through is really common. After an intense time of closeness, healthy men need space.
Just the same, when a guy says, “give me space” it can mean a lot of different things. It can feel confusing and hurtful. I get it.
Let’s go over why men need space and then what to do when he asks for space.
Also, some readers might wonder what to do when a man wants space during a breakup. I’ve included that too.
Let’s do this.
Why Men Need Space
A man’s need for space can feel confusing and hurtful. It feels like rejection.
It can feel like he’s saying that the close time you spent together didn’t matter to him, or he didn’t enjoy it. When we get close to a man, we want that closeness to continue the same way so we feel safe and secure in the relationship.
When a man experiences this kind of intense closeness with a woman, he enjoys it for a while, but it eventually raises his anxiety levels.
This is why men withdraw after they have spent a lot of intense time with a woman who they feel close to. They need a breather to get back to equilibrium.
A man’s natural process of coming close to a woman and then stepping back before coming close again is completely normal for him.
For women, closeness represents emotional security. And chemically, we can handle a steady dose of it, so the fact that it doesn’t work for him feels like veiled rejection.
The real problems begin when we take his need for space personally and start trying to force closeness or fix it. All of these “solutions” imply there is a problem.
What NOT To Do When A Guy Wants Space
Don’t automatically take his asking for space personally.
Don’t plot with your girlfriends about how to bring him closer when he clearly wants time away from you.
Don’t obsess about his reasons for wanting space or repeatedly ask him what’s wrong. If you feel you absolutely must, you can ask him if something is wrong once. If he says “nothing,” drop it and let him come to you if he wants to talk about things.
I have personally sabotaged relationships by freaking out and trying desperately to bring a man closer when all I really should have done was given him space to figure out what he wanted. I understand the tendency to worry when it feels like he is pulling away. However, how you handle his need for space is absolutely crucial.
Guys don’t usually even consciously realize they need space until you either complain that he’s distant or he feels completely suffocated. If you push him for more closeness, it will make him feel like his natural impulses are wrong and you will accidentally drive him away.
That’s why drawing attention to the fact that he’s become a little bit harder to connect with lately will only hurt you. He’ll start thinking you are the problem!
This is how men get spooked and pull away for good!
I don’t mean you should walk on eggshells with him either. While he has his alone time, just go about your own business as usual. My favorite strategy for when a man pulls away is to pause, distract and manage my emotions.
How To Give A Man Space
Simple (but NOT easy). Give him as much time and space as he wants.
Back away and immerse yourself in your own hobbies, goals and life.
The more emotionally centered you can stay at all times— not just when you feel close to him— the better your relationship (and life) will be.
Getting upset when a man takes time to himself is a huge sign that you need to nurture yourself. Enjoy your time and freedom while you’re away from him.
If you confront him about backing off when you haven’t done anything wrong, he will get a needy, dependent vibe from you and you’ll get even less closeness.
Does The Fact That He Told Me He Wants Space Mean That He’s Losing Interest In Your Relationship?
I’ll be honest. The fact that he had to actually speak the words, “I want space” isn’t a good sign, but it definitely doesn’t have to mean that your relationship is doomed.
When it comes to wanting alone time, men usually use their actions before their words. This is because most guys older than 22 have had a woman confront them about “not spending enough time together” at some point in their relationship history. If he tried to say what he actually wanted– time to himself— it is most likely that the person he was with freaked out and tried to use logic and reason to talk him out of wanting distance.
That made him feel even more wrong and smothered!
So, it might feel like he is distancing himself by taking more time with his friends, working a lot or otherwise staying away from you. That’s why when a guy needs space, he’ll suddenly become more difficult to reach, either because it seems like he’s screening your calls and texts or because he’s suddenly busy a lot.
That’s why trying to talk about why he wants space usually results in him angrily shutting down and going further away! The very act of talking about “space” makes him feel even more claustrophobic and determined to get away from you.
Luckily, your relationship might be salvageable depending on how you act right now.
Keep in mind that when a man says he needs space, he’s telling you that right now his needs aren’t being met– either because he’s not getting something he wants in his life as a whole OR because you and he have spent so much time together that he needs time to recharge.
Luckily, to at least get started meeting his needs, all you have to do is back off and give him the time to figure out what he wants!
Up until now, he has probably already tried to show you through distancing action that he wants a little alone time and you’ve either confronted him about it or repeatedly pushed for more than he wants to give. You can turn this around, but you’ve got to back way off and let him come to you.
Let Him Come To You
Don’t keep checking on how he’s doing. He may rejoin you when he’s ready as long as you can maintain emotional detachment about the whole situation and not force him to come closer or have deep discussions about the relationship.
Space in relationships is a little like stretching a rubber band. He will eventually snap back and come close again as long as you don’t release the tension by chasing him. Just do your thing and remember:
He is not a pot that you are bringing to a boil.
He must decide on his own to come out of his hole. The more you push for his attention, the more he’ll resist your pressure and the worse you will both feel about each other and your relationship.
How Long Should You Give A Man Space?
If your guy has asked for space either by distancing himself or telling you explicitly he needs space to think about things, you should give him as long as he needs.
Generally, the more intense things have been between the two of you, the more of a breather he might need.
When He Needs Space After Breaking Up
Up until this point I’ve been talking about how to give a man space when you’re either dating or in a relationship with him.
That was about good, healthy space and letting your man recharge. If you’re still together, give him that good space whenever he wants it.
If he has broken up with you and given you the “I need space” line as part of the breakup speech, I have some real talk for you.
He could have told you that he wants space.
He could have told you that he wants to date Jennifer the bartender.
He could have said that he’s feeling conflicted right now and can’t get his shit together.
Hear me now:
The fact that he told you he wants space does not matter.
Do not tell yourself that giving him space now means that there is hope for your relationship in the future.
I don’t want to break your heart, but when a man says he wants space during a breakup, that’s a gentle way of telling you he wants “forever space” to live without you.
You must leave him alone. Go no contact with him. Leave him in the dust to miss you. Don’t wait around, hoping that the situation will change or that he’ll forget that he dumped you after he “finds himself.”
Consider the relationship over and move on.
In the future, reflect on whether or not you might have been a tad clingy and don’t do that with the next guy. Lick your wounds, tie up your unfinished business and leave him alone.
Have you been asking yourself what you did that made him create distance?
Weirdly, men are just as emotional as women.
I know it sounds strange but it’s true.
The problem is that men aren’t as emotional as often.
When they experience feelings that they don’t understand, they tend to pull away from a woman while they sort it out for themselves.