Relationships can be like rollercoasters. They slowly rise and then fall at terrifying speeds. And sometimes they even go off track. When this happens, there can be many outcomes - you break up forever and eventually meet someone else, you go to counseling and work on the relationship, or you take time apart to figure out what your future looks like. The last option often results in the dreaded, "I need space" conversation.
If you're living under a rock and don't know what I mean, I'll explain...Sometimes when a guy (or girl) is thinking about breaking up with a woman (or man) he'll sit her down (or worse, text her) and say something akin to, "I adore you and I love you, but I'm not sure if this relationship is headed in the right direction…so I need space to figure out what I want."
That statement is confusing enough as it is. And if it comes out of left field, the initial reaction of the injured party may be one of desperation: "What can I do to get him/her to want to be with me again? How do I know when he/she's going to decide? How many times should I call him/her in a day?"
Based on what I've seen in virtual and "actual" reality, it seems that a lot of people take this time while "in limbo" to smother their boyfriend/girlfriend. They call all the time to "just talk." When they do get together to hang out, they constantly ask, "How do you feel? What are you thinking? How do you feel about us?" Or worse, they keep offering up sex to see if it leads the person to figure things out more quickly.
Then guess what happens? The guy (or girl) gets annoyed and just gives up completely. No fun. No fair. And then you end up thinking to yourself, "If I had just given him/her space, then maybe things would have turned out differently..." and you kick yourself about it forever.
So, in the future, if your guy/girl says that they need space and wants to figure things out, then it's up to you to cognitively decide to give him/her that space. Don't smother. Don't be pushy. Don't be demanding. If you think you still want to be with him/her, then honor your friendship and your possible future by giving him/her the time they need. Don't play games. Don't act differently. Just be yourself, but give him/her the space he/she asked for in the first place.
If you can hold off contacting him/her (and I know it's hard!), then he/she may just miss you and decide that he/she wants the relationship to work.
Once he/she decides that he wants to work on the relationship, you have to decide if you still want to work on it as well. Once the decision is made mutually, get back into the rollercoaster car and work together on ways to solve issues that have existed in the past.
Just remember - when someone says that they want space, they probably mean it. Don't smother him/her. Allow him/her - and yourself - to breathe. And hopefully you can both figure out the future together.
For more musings about breakups, check out our blog., or get The Breakup Workbook to help you get over your ex.