My Girlfriend Says She Needs Time — Now What?

Claiming to need space and time alone is often touted as an unequivocal sign that the relationship is drawing to an end. But is it really?

Before burning your bridges or dive for the phone in a panic, I present my highly subjective opinion on what I feel is really going on. And why believing that the end is near is usually a tragically ironic, self-fulfilling prophecy.

Accept her need

The bottom-line is that your girlfriend feels suffocated and needs some breathing room. The reason is almost always immaterial (confusion, stress, e.t.c) because the end result is the same. Unless we can unconditionally accept this primal cause, we are liable to make matters far worse than they could be.

We don’t have to like it, we don’t necessarily have to believe it — but we must take it at face value. We cannot argue people out of their feelings due to the fact that seeking space is both a psychological need as well as a physical one. Bargaining, manipulating, apologizing or pleading will only reinforce their decision to seek personal sanctuary.

If we give chase in order to parachute our own ballooning sense of insecurity, expect them to run even more quickly towards the hills. So, what does that leave us with?

Be proactive

Don’t forget that a break for her, is a break for you. If you find yourself unable to stop analyzing every perceived mistake that led to her desire for distance, or hard-pressed not to seek validation by constantly “checking up” on how her feelings are progressing (despite her need to for limited contact), take it as a sign that you too may very well need a period of emotional detox.

Use space and time wisely, not as a gimmick to starve her of attention in order to get her back, but as a way for you to shore up your own insecurities. Re-acquaint yourself with ailing social circles, focus on your job, pick up a new hobby and actively wear at the seams of accumulated co-dependence.

Why this works

Focusing on our own life is almost always the perfect way to deal with moments of romantic turbulence. I’m painfully aware of how counter-intuitive my reasoning is, but — and forgive me the weathered cliché — matters of the heart are not governed by logic, but by feelings. Here’s why I feel making yourself a priority works:

  • By giving her the space she needs you are showing not only respect, but a healthy measure of selflessness.
  • You are demonstrating strength, worth and emotional security. Strength because you are able to turn vulnerability into opportunity. Worth by not chasing and security by not requiring external validation of your feelings. Yes, emotional self-sufficiency is sexy.
  • You are reducing the potential impact of breakup trauma (should the worst come to pass), by re-acquainting yourself with “everything else” and by realizing what you stand to gain, and not only what you stand to lose.
  • And lastly, but certainly not leastly: You are actively cleansing the aura of suffocation that led her to desire distance to begin with.

Easier said that done

This article is obviously highly idealistic, and matters are rarely this clean-cut in the “real” world. Perhaps your girlfriend is unable to decide what it is that she needs and is frustratingly back and forth. Perhaps you live together and are unable to detox due to your constant proximity. Kids, mutual acquaintances, work,  and on…

Remember also that if you do have genuine questions to ask her (and not excuses to contact disguised as questions), then you should absolutely do so. After-all, if she professes to care about your feelings then it would be unjust to demand unconditional understanding from you,  and then refuse to reciprocate at any level. It takes two to tango.

The important thing is to realize that the need for sanctuary is both natural and common. And that should you be willing to wholeheartedly accept this need, your chances at long-term reconciliation are better than you think. In many cases, needing space and time is not a reflection of whether a relationship is unhealthy or not, but is merely a physical and psychological need. However, should you allow insecurity (possessiveness, jealousy and anger) to dictate your moves, you may have needlessly built a romantic funeral pyre.

Images courtesy of digitalart  /