He’s told you that he’s unsure about the relationship. He’s told you that he “loves you” but not “in love with you.” He’s told you he needs time to think about the relationship. He’s told you not to keep asking him the same questions over and over. He’s told you he needs space to figure things out.
If you’re faced with this, it can be an uncertain and confusing time.
Any number of factors can contribute to a relationship getting to this point. Here are some possibilities: lack of communication; partners having different ways they deal with emotions; partners not getting their needs met; an emotional or physical affair; partners feeling guilty that they can’t meet each other’s needs, etc. The factors are endless.
My point is you alone can’t figure out what happened that got the relationship to this point.
You can’t come to a clear understanding about your relationship until both of you are willing to have an open and honest conversation.
But until then, what can you do?
Stop focusing on the relationship and begin focusing on you.
No matter how complicated your situation is there are simple ways you can empower yourself when your partner tells you that he needs space.
1. Accept your situation
Begin by accepting that your situation is confusing and that you’re in limbo. Accept that you’re not responsible for figuring everything out and that it takes “two to tango.” When you accept your situation, you can take the next steps that are good for you.
2. Stop over-analyzing
The more you keep wondering and trying to figure out what happened, the more anxious you’ll feel. When you obsess, it will keep you stuck in a never ending cycle of worry, fear and doubt.
Stop the “analysis paralysis.” Instead focus on the facts.
Focus on what your partner has said to you that is clear and concise. Don’t make assumptions or jump to conclusions. Focus on what you have control over – which is you and your daily life.
3. Ask for clarification
As much as your partner may not want to discuss the issues, you have the right to ask questions or express how you feel. For example, “What does needing space mean?” or “I’m confused about where we stand.”
But at the same time, respect your partner’s need for space. Don’t keep pushing for an answer when he doesn’t want to talk.
List the items you need clarification or have questions on and share it with your partner. Some couples choose to do this with a therapist where they can feel emotionally safe to open up.
4. Identify your boundaries
When couples are in this type of situation, setting boundaries in the relationship is critical. Whether you’re married and unsure if you’ll separate, or living together or dating, knowing what is good for you is the first step in the process.
Make a list of your boundaries.
Examples are: how will you address sleeping arrangements; whether or not you’ll remain physically intimate; how will you communicate and how often; how will difficult issues be discussed – in a neutral place, outside the home, in the presence of a therapist etc.
5. Engage in self-care
Proper self-care is vital during stressful times. Make yourself a priority. Take time to get adequate sleep, eat healthy, engage in daily exercise, and reach out for support to family and friends.
And most importantly, stay in the moment. Remember that being in the moment will bring you clarity and peace.
6. Recognize the pursuer-distancer cycle
In a relationship when your partner is in conflict about the relationship, he may not know how he really feels, may be worried he’ll hurt your feelings, may feel guilty or want to avoid conflict altogether.
The best you may get in the beginning is mixed messages and “I don’t want to talk about it.”
This doesn’t at all mean that communication is not important, but it does mean how you cope with the lack of communication will set the tone for how you feel.
In a classic pursuer-distancer relationship, the pursuer keeps pursuing and the distancer keeps distancing. This dynamic is not only toxic but emotionally draining.
Recognize when you’re pursuing the relationship in unhealthy ways with little response from your partner.
Instead, change the dynamic and set boundaries, express your feelings and needs and let go of the outcome.
If you’ve told your partner that you love him and that you want to work on the relationship, constantly reminding him of that will only push him away.
Respect your partner’s needs and request to have space.
You’ll be glad you did and more likely receive the honest, less reactive side of him in the long run.
It’s never easy when relationships get to this point. The uncertainty is the most difficult part. But remember to focus on what you have control over.
Your communication, your boundaries, your self-care and “your truth” will set you free.
And trust that staying in the moment will guide you and give you the answers that you need.