"I Need SPACE": Here’s EXACTLY What To Do Next

July 1, 2021
▪ 5 mins read

The message you dread to receive - he needs space

When you receive the 'I need space' message, your whole world is turned upside down; and how you may instinctively want to react, often sets you up for disaster. Today I want to explain to you what he means when he says that he needs space, and how to handle it with confidence. Like a pro.

What does "I need space" means?

Sometimes when people say they need space, they genuinely need space. Maybe they've had a bereavement in the family or a difficult time at work. And sometimes people deal with that stress and pressure by withdrawing into their own company. But, if this is cyclical (they keep withdrawing and needing space) or you sense that they're not being fully sincere then 'I need space' is often dating shorthand for, "I'm not ready to commit to this yet."

If someone saysI need space, it's obvious that they're not comfortable with communicating their needs to you. Or they don't feel that the relationship is at level where transparency is the right route forward. All in all, it's sending a bad signal about their confidence in the relationship. This can be particularly bad if you've been feeling close to them and suddenly there's this destabilising pullback.

This is also a red flag. If you have had a moment where you've experienced connection, you felt closer, and this is how they're reacting to it, this might well be a signal of how they engage in relationships generally. Think of it this way; we all have different levels of intimacy and closeness that we like and that we want in our lives.

It's like being in a swimming pool. You might like to be in the deep end of intimacy, and you feel comfortable being close to people. You in fact love feeling closer to people. But someone else might be in the shallow end. They don't feel that comfortable with having the level of intimacy, closeness and commitment as you do. This is not a reflection of you. This is them often signalling what kind of relationship they can offer.  

Why Your Instinct Is Wrong

When you have been close to someone and they pull away, your automatic reaction is going to be the need to fix it. You might be wondering what have you done wrong? How do you fix it? Because even on a very primal level, everything about you is going to want to get back to that feeling of safety and closeness.

You will want security and to know where you stand. Because of that you might go into the repair mode and want to talk about it. You will want to figure out what's going wrong here, and come out with a plan to fix it, talk it out and spend time together. And yet all these things that your instinct is driving you to do will actually giving them opposite to what they've requested. Which is to have some space.

When you go from being close to out in the cold, your body may be screaming at you to fix this now. You may feel restless, find it hard to sleep, not want to eat, so it’s understandable why you want to reach out.  

The kicker is, whether they need space because they need space, or they need space because they’re starting to check out of the relationship; chasing them in this position isn’t going to do any good.

How to fix it?

In a perfect world, if someone says I need space, you'll be able to sit down opposite them and have a mature adult conversation about what they mean by that. Whether that's about the relationship, or a signal they can't commit. But unfortunately, we do not live in this perfect world.

If someone has asked for space: I’d listen and give them space.

If the request for space is not to do with the relationship, this is you being supportive. But if someone has pulled back it’s also really important for you to do a little check in here and question if this is okay for you.

Sometimes people signal to you through their actions exactly what they're able to offer you; and by taking a step back now, it isn't that you're being unsupportive. In fact, you're giving the person exactly the support that they asked for. But what's more important than you giving the other person what they want, is for you to do a bit of a rain check on the relationship as a whole.

Rather than going into repair mode and losing sight of your own feelings in the process, now is the best time to reflect on whether this relationship is able to meet your needs.

If you are someone who seeks to be closer with people, if you prefer direct and clear communication, then if the needing space thing continues or is a pattern within your relationship, it's a clear signal that you are not that compatible. Rather than worrying too much about how you can fix it for them, spend time reconnecting with your own feelings.

Ask yourself if this okay with you? Should you be having a relationship with someone who can't show up for you in the way that you want? Someone who's on and off like a light switch and inconsistent? Asking yourself those questions is going to be more powerful in shifting your focus from how do you fix it with this person to, is this relationship going to actually make you happy?

Putting yourself first

We cannot control other people's thoughts, feelings or actions, but we can get clearer what we are happy with. By not interfering and taking a step back, you will give yourself the best possible opportunity to take a read on how invested in relationship this person is. Do this rather than responding to your knee jerk reaction to sit down and have a conversation to figure out what is going on.

If you take that step back and spend some time apart, you will see how much effort that person makes to reconnect with you. What their intentions are. This will give you the best insight possible into whether this relationship is workable nor not. So as hard as it is when someone says I need space, do nothing. Look after your own needs first, accept what they've said. Suck it up because I know it's hard. I know it's disorientating. But trust that by spending this time having some space for yourself as well, you will get the clarity about what you want and what you need.

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