How To Respond When He Needs Space

dating advice for women

An article I wrote for YourTango.com:

Is the man you love acting like a ghost in your relationship?  Maybe he’s even vocalized that he needs space? Perhaps he claims nothing’s wrong, but he just doesn’t return your texts and seems to be a whole lot busier than he was in the early stages of dating?

 

Before you convince yourself that he has one foot out of the relationship, ask yourself if you truly believe that he is capable of commitment and a long-term partnership.  Also ask yourself if you feel, on a gut level, that he truly loves you and wants a relationship with you.  If you feel confident that he is an emotionally available man and is in love with you, then this space could be a good thing.  If you feel doubtful that he has the ability to love, then it is time to say goodbye.

 

When a man pulls back or carries on like he needs space, it can mean that he is in fact so serious about the relationship that he needs time to assess his feelings and decide whether the relationship is healthy for him long-term.  Men are more in their heads than women and when the thunderbolt of love hits them, they may need to take a step back and look at things more logically.

 

The key for you is to handle his need for space in a way that’s respectful and dignified.  It’s okay to communicate your feelings (like in a letter) or to ask him questions about what he’s thinking.  But don’t smother him and don’t make him feel guilty and accused.

 

This doesn’t mean you have to ignore your feelings when he needs space.  It’s important to honor your feelings and to not reward behavior that hurts you by being too flexible.

 

Avoid Clinging To Him When He Needs Space

 

When he needs space and you feel really down about it, don’t punish him by also withdrawing or accusing him of being emotionally unavailable and beyond, and don’t start to cling.

 

When a man pulls back, it’s natural to feel like your world is suddenly shaken up.  This feeling can bring up abandonment issues and it can make us panic about losing him.  When we feel panicky and scared, we reach out.  We start to express love and profess devotion, and we apologize for past injustices on our part.  However, this is a form of rewarding bad behavior.

 

You don’t want to give a man more attention when he needs space; do this when he’s trying to please you and is available to love you.  Sometimes we take those good-behavior moments for granted and it’s important that you don’t.

 

love help, dating advice for women

 

Focus On Re-Directing Your Core

It’s common when a woman falls in love that her energy core begins to revolve around him, like the Earth around the sun.  When your man needs space, this can be a beautiful opportunity to re-direct your energy core toward things that were important to you before the relationship swung in and altered everything.

 

Focus on loving yourself during this time, too.  Be gentle with yourself and provide room to feel all of those panicky feelings.  Don’t act on them, but feel them; be a witness to them happening inside you and respect them without self-judgment.

 

You can also make a conscious effort to learn some self-soothing skills, so that you are less inclined to call him and are better equipped to deal with rejection and uncertainty in other areas of your life.

 

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20 Comments

  1. Mindy says:

    Hi Kristina :)

    I recently read your relationship articles on Your Tango, and I think you’re one of the best relationship experts I have come across to date. I wish I would have found your articles sooner. I have been in a relationship for 10 months and have experienced some of the same problems you discuss in your articles. I love the man I’m with more than any man that has come before him. Most of our problems stem from my impatience with him. His feelings for me don’t appear to have progressed as fast or to the same degree as mine that I would them to. This hurts my heart.

    Your advice on being an enchantress and using my feminine energy to draw him closer to me is amazing. Also, the advice on being grounded and confident in my happiness without him. Instead of exposing my vulnerability and telling him my feelings in a soft and simple manner, I was having “outbursts” when I felt like I was not being made a priority in his busy life. My question for you is this: I really want our relationship to work, but I fear that my past “outbursts” are permanently in his head now. Currently I would classify our relationship status as “complicated.” He still spends time with me but is a bit standoffish emotionally. If I heed your advice and become the enchantress that I think I am truly capable of, will he wonder if I am being authentic? Won’t he be confused by the radical change in how I deal with my insecurities/fear/impatience?

    Do you think a man can change his view of a woman over time if she begins to embody the things you talk about? I hope so.

    Thanks for your advice and response,
    Mindy

    • Mindy! Thanks for your compliments! I do think you can undo the damage. You just have to regain his trust and show him that you aren’t going to startle his alert systems anymore with emotional outbursts.
      As far as your ‘outbursts':
      When you act out, you have fallen away from your higher being. Changing your resolution skills doesn’t mean you are not being authentic, it means you are maturing and learning better coping skills.
      However, it is important to look at your feelings and the reason why you outburst. You could be doing it because you don’t feel he hears you and understands your pain and frustration, causing you have to ‘turn up the volume’. It’s important that you listen to your feelings because they may be telling you something. You deserve a guy who has strong feelings for you. If you feel like he seems emotionally unavailable to you or just isn’t giving you the kind of love and emotional security you need, then maybe you need to move on. Give it three months of working with my tools and living in your feminine energy with him, and if you still feel he isn’t giving you the attention you need then maybe you should reassess the relationship. One thing it’s important to understand about love is that you can’t make someone love you or push them to commit. You deserve a relationship that’s not hard and doesn’t hurt your heart.

  2. Mindy says:

    Thanks for your reply, Kristina. I have to say I feel pretty hopeful about the future. I can’t wait to put into motion goddess love. It’s so empowering! I get to sit back and be myself– the awesome, sassy, sensual, sweet, soft, loving woman I have always been at heart. No pulling energy. No trying to be the perfect girlfriend. It feels good to have an open heart full of glittery pink sensual goddess love!

  3. Lyn says:

    Hi Kristina!

    I read about your articles and i find them very helpful. I have yet to see my value as a woman an I can’t wait to put it into good use. I am in a complicated relationship, now I’m having second thoughts on whether i’ll have my man back. I love him and I just want things to go its rightful course. While reading your article, I was fairly surprised at how I did all the stupid mistakes as per what you wrote. How do I correct these mistakes? How can I gain his interest back?

    Hope to hear from you! Thanks :)

    • Lyn,
      First, don’t beat yourself up. It’s all a learning experience and your self-worth lies at the end of your journey toward self-acceptance. Accept your flaws as beautiful and that your mistakes as blessings. I can’t really tell you how to make good on your mistakes if I don’t know what happened. Tell me more…

  4. Lyn says:

    My boyfriend and I, we’ve been together for almost two years, we were happy, there seemed to be no problem. Until one day he broke off with me, saying i deserve someone better. It burst my bubble. I can’t seem to comprehend and accept the sudden twist in our love story. And so the break up happened, i was crying; hurting and all. Until, i decided to fight for us. I tried all sorts of things to make up, not knowing i was becoming desperate. We’re back together though, because i asked him not to leave me for a span of time, just to buy time, but things are different and complicated. What to do? :(

    I duly appreciate your help. Bless you! :)

    • This is a tough situation and I understand where you are and what you are feeling. I’ve been there. It’s important to be kind to yourself and love yourself right now. When a man says you deserve someone better he’s acting self-loathing. Usually we think what he’s saying is a cop-out (the ol’ “It’s not you; it’s me”). But the truth is that this happens a lot and most of the time, the man means just what he’s saying. What he IS saying is that he doesn’t have the tools in his toolbox to take care of your needs and he realizes this. He probably feels up against the wall, forced to face his limitations: he needs so much space he feels guilty; he wants other women sexually and feels guilty; he feels fear about commitment and accountability and feels inadequate. He loves you and wants to be with you but he isn’t sure how to turn feelings into a real relationship that honors you the way you deserve to be honored. My advice is to fall back. Sign up for my Love Advice Newsletter and learn how to receive instead of give in the relationship so that he is forced to step up to the plate or lose you. And don’t be afraid to lose him. I know that sounds easier said than done, but you will get through it, I promise. If you let your fear of losing him dictate how you are treated then you will end up fighting for the relationship, investing way too much of yourself, and if he leaves, you’ll feel awful.
      It’s time to sit back, do very little for him and the relationship and open your heart to receiving what he does bring to the table with appreciation and warmth, while also being very open and honest with your feelings. When you do feel really bad, pull back, breathe, self-soothe and make a decision about whether it’s worth it to keep coming back for more of his disappointment. And you never know, he may step up and decide to become accountable to you as a partner and provider. But for this to happen, you have to step down.
      Make sense?

  5. Lyn says:

    Ohh Kristina! I totally see your point. Now i know where this was coming from. I once told him to step up and not remain left behind (i was angry that time). You see, iam an achiever in school and in my chosen career, I only meant to tell him that he needs it for himself, not for me. Things have changed so much for the better (for him) since we became together. He even introduced me to his family. It’s sad how I failed to understand him — what he wants and needs. He is self-loathing and I couldn’t do so much about it. What you mentioned about himstill loving me and all, he has told me that. After i read your article, i’ve fallen back quite a bit. I quit the texting, and kept it morning and night or once in a while. I’ve also gained more appetiteto at least eat. Then it does’nt hurt so much. Since then, he started to text me first, but he’s still somewhat cold or far off. He’s like limiting his actions and gestures of showing affection. He said things have changed for when we first met. But i’m glad that i’m able to manage my feelings, though thereare times when i’m so much eager to communicate or see him. Nevertheless, I am so blessed to be able to have received your kind words of wisdom. I wouldn’t know what i’ve done if I hadn’t.
    Thank you so much for being a blessing!

    PS: Can I do anything for him to feel better or uplifted from his burden?

    I’ve subscribed to your newsletter. Looking forward to it. And I really want to have a copy of your books!
    Lots of love. :)

    • Lyn,
      I’m glad to help. My best advice is that you refrain from any impulse to act like his psychologist or mom. It’s all up to him. Anytime you feel like you want to come closer to him, to fill in the gap, to advise him, to coax him, to help him, to encourage him, to motivate him to come closer, stop yourself. I feel like you are drilling into him that the relationship is helping him and that he should fight for you. You can’t tell a man something like that, it will backfire. He has to discover that on his own. He’s a big boy, he needs to take responsibility for his relationships and his life and that can’t be something you help him with or tell him how to do.
      When you feel compelled to do something to help the relationship, breathe and immediately go do something for YOU (take a walk, take a hot bath). I would advise stopping the texting and calling altogether. And I want you to pay attention to your feelings. When he gets cold and distant, take inventory of how that makes you feel. Anxious? Sad? Angry? Then ask yourself if you want to continue feeling that way. You are going with an impulse to pull him closer and to fill in the spaces where he isn’t pulling his weight so that you two can be together AND so that you can avoid what you are feeling inside. You have to stop that and see that this guy is making you unhappy more than he is making you feel safe and loved. Only give him attention when he is appreciating you. ZERO attention when he isn’t.
      Are you opposed to start dating other men? I suggest you start. It will help you to not spend time thinking about how to “help him to love you better”.
      Sending you strength! xx

  6. Emma says:

    I really like my exboyfriend and I don’t wanna leave him.we have sex occasionally but he has a girlfriend. I can tell he still feels something for me because he displays it in more ways than one.
    Should I make him fall in love with me again? If so how ? Or should I let go ?

    • Dump him. What you are doing to that girl is wrong and he is wrong for you. If he can treat her that way, he’ll treat you that way. I know it’s hard, but you have to move on. He’s not respecting either of you. You are giving him the milk for free. Go find a good man who will buy the cow and make you happy. You deserve better than this.

  7. Kris says:

    Hello-
    I’m stuck in a situation where I don’t know what the guy I’m involved with is feeling. First, it’s long distance and we have engaged in a relationship for 3 months. I have only seen him 1x and he keeps blowing off the times he is suppose to visit. I am not sure if he is scared? He mentioned that he really likes me and would marry me in a heart beat, yet he says its bad timing and there are many factors. One of them being not ” financially too strong” I understand. But he also blurted he isn’t looking for anything serious and few hours layers after not hearing from me, he apologized and said it was a asshole move and he just is questioning what if it doesn’t work out. I’m not too sure what to do here. He blows hot and cold. Lately, he was suppose to fly for the holidays ( thanksgiving) and a few days before he said he thinks he is getting a cold. I lashed out. We had a fight about it and he said I accused him of lying. Now we haven’t spoken. I gave him a week. I reached out apologized and told him where I was coming from. He reasoned why respond when you would turn it into an argument. I replied, with point taken and I’m ready to move past this if you are. No response yet. What do I do as I feel very uneasy yet I like him????

  8. Kris says:

    His response was ” yes and no” what does that mean? I lashed out and now he said he is over it. I am so hurt and confused. What do I do now?

    • I’m sorry you are feeling this way. First, long distance relationships are very hard. Second, you aren’t really in a relationship. I hate to say that, but it’s true. You need to be around a person more than once to get a sense of who they really are (their body language, their energy) and how they behave in a relationship. Relationships take time to build when you do live in the same place. This guy sounds scared and so do you. You are both moving forward and pulling back (I call it the anti-love dance). He pulls back by withdrawing and you push him away by lashing out. If you know that lashing out doesn’t work, why do you keep doing it? I know how tempting it is to go with your impulse when you feel emotionally un-contained, but let this be a lesson to you to not keep acting on your emotions. Lashing out will only make you feel worse.
      Why do you want to be with someone who makes you feel so insecure and brings out the worst in you? I suggest dating locally and seeking out a guy who doesn’t act so wishy-washy. He is making things very unstable for you. A long distance relationship only works when both parties feel extreme emotional security and neither one of you are providing that. I say move on to a guy who brings out your best, not your worst. He’s just a frightened little boy.

  9. JeanJ31 says:

    Hi Kristina,
    First, I want to thank you for this post. It really has helped me with understanding and trying to reel back the urges I had to completely freak out when my boyfriend told me he needs a break. We’ve been together for 10 months and during the course of that we’ve both been working through divorces. Mine has been a much longer time since we separated ( 2.5 years ) and has been slowed due to moves to different states and our two children together; things like that. Overall, a relatively low drama divorce ( comparatively speaking ) though my ex likes to get very mean when he’s angry. My boyfriend was married for almost 15 years when he discovered his wife was having a 9 month affair last year. It turned his world upside down and during that time, we were just friends and he started to open up to me about everything that was happening because I could relate. In hindsight, while it seemed like we spent several months together just being friends before we started anything romantically, it just was not that long. I should also mention he was my boss for the majority of our relationship. So, there’s been an added layer there as we’ve tried to keep things pretty private. He has always been very honest, loving and caring with me and has said that he cares for me very much and can see a future with me… Wants me to be his long term… But right now, he needs some time and space because he just doesn’t have sure footing. Which I completely understand. The timing of his needing this break is very unfortunate though as I just found out about some health issues I’m having and I struggle with feeling abandoned at a time when I need him there the most… But, in my head, I do understand that he just has so much of his own to deal with ( a new job, moving into his own place where he’ll actually start taking the kids – he’s been staying at his brother’s and switching off in the old house when it’s his time to have with them ) that it’s just not really within his capability to give what I need right now. And I know this causes him a lot of guilt. So, I got angry and hurt and upset and had a little bit of a fit but reeled it in and used the steps in this post and wrote the letter. To which he responded in a great way. Thanking me for my patience and understanding and telling me he thinks I’m amazing and how I’ve helped him in this difficult time. What I failed to do was get definition around this break. When we talked on the phone about it, he just said he feels like he is not ready for this relationship because of how intense it got so quickly before he took time to figure himself out. That it is nothing about me or a lack of feelings and that he is very invested, but just incapable of giving me more right now. So, my question is this… Do I just let it lie and wait until he reaches out again? We did have some interaction in the two days following the request for a break. One, he felt like he needed to let me know about something and asking me a few questions. I responded politely and answered his questions, but didn’t do anything more. I feel it might be too late to try to define this break and that I probably need to just let him be and perhaps ask for definition later. Also, with all the factors here, am I foolish to try to wait a little and give this time? Or should I go ahead and move on? I appreciate your input. Thank you!

  10. Brokenheart says:

    My loving boyfriend of ten months out of the blue says he loves me but thinks he wants to be single.

    This was such a blindside to me, he says he been unhappy & needed space. But there never was sign was loving we never fought he would say to me he had never been happier inhospitable life. His family and friends say they havenever seen him happier and they would say they can see how happy we are.
    He lives at home he is 42 and not holding a steady job I was fine with all that because I take care of myself and im ok with that i love him so much.

    He says he needs time to see if he wants to be in a relationship with me a week a month then he would let me know
    Should I wait because I did the panic and text him all my feelings and how this is killing me
    What do I do?

  11. Ruby says:

    Hi Kristina,

    I came across your website on Google and I really hope your advice can support me to make things right in my relationship again.

    I have been with my guy for just over three months, it has been amazing and flawless for most of that time until about three weeks ago. He text me last thing on a Friday to tell me he was meeting his ex. Throughout the whole relationship I had been so laid back and when he told me this I instantly became anxious and insecure. I text him to tell him I was not happy with it and I did not want it to happen. He tried to reassure me I had nothing to worry about and proceeded to meet her. Because of this, I chose to ignore his calls until later that night – where I answered and burst into tears. We worked things out but since then each week has just got worse.

    The following week, I spent a long weekend with him at his house, we were supposed to go for dinner (which he cancelled because he was “tired”) and the whole time I was with him he complained he was run down. A few times I said I’d go home but he insisted I stay – yet had absolutely no enthusiasm to take me out and seemed off with me the whole time. We then argued about this and I told him it’s important we make an effort with each other so early on in our relationship. He didn’t agree and said we had been having fun, he was just tired and exhausted from a busy work week and looking after his money.

    This now brings me to the past week – texts and calls from him are at an all time minimum. When we chat he’s “tired and run down” – he isn’t the happy chirpy and overly affectionate person I fell in love with. He’s been quite mean at times, calling me a dickhead etc… He says it in a playful way but this is new and I don’t like it.

    He’s gone from texting me every morning wishing me a great day and calling me to say sweet dreams at the end of the night – to nothingness…

    I’ve booked and paid for us to go away for a weekend on the 22 feb. I feel like a bit of a mug for doing this.

    This guy is perfection – what do I do to get this back to normal!? He’s not stupid, when I withhold from texting him, it’s like he knows I’m playing a game. I don’t want to make it obvious that I’m trying to make a point?

  12. Rose says:

    Hi Kristina,
    Thank you for your wonderful advice. I have followed the love him, letter him and leave him rule you suggested. I am now upto leave him. We have been together for three happy years. he suffers from depression but he normally leans on me. He also suffers from Crohns disease which often makes him feel broken, physically and then mentally. He said he feels like he is growing apart from me and he doesnt know why and that his depression has been really chronic. He is getting help and on his meds but also wants space. I have sent him the letter and he really appreciated it. Now I am letting him contact me if he needs but I am not contacting him unprompted. I fear that he will spend the three weeks he has asked for just on his own and come back even more depressed and uncertain. I love him deeply and the intimacy in our relationship has suffered as he does not feel like it much. Is there a different appraoch when dealign with a very depressed and very sensitive person?

  13. clarissa says:

    Dear Kristina
    I been with my boyfriend for 3 years. Everything was doing fine .We had a child together . He said that he was gone to be with me for along time but now has became emotionally unavailable. I have no where to go. My family lives far. Im stuck here and he won’t talk me. Talking about he needs time to think. Please help. I need advice.

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