How to Give Someone Space Without Losing Them: What You Must Know About Giving Space in a Relationship
There will come an inevitable point in your relationship where your guy starts acting more distant. Maybe he tells you he needs space, maybe he just takes space without saying anything. Maybe he even insists he doesn’t need space even though his actions say otherwise. Any of these situations will leave you confused, panicked, and devastated over what it all means.
We’ve written a lot about how men deal with emotional difficulties in life. Short answer: they prefer to retreat and work things out internally. You can’t control what’s going on with him or how he handles it—he is who he is—but you can control how you respond.
The way you react when he retreats can have huge implications for your relationship. Will you push him away even further, or will you draw him back in and make the relationship even stronger?
Take The Quiz: Is He Losing Interest?
1. Give him space
The best way to give him space is to do just that … give him space! This means backing off.
If he’s not calling or texting or trying to spend time with you as much as he was before, do your own thing. Let it pass that he didn’t send his normal goodnight text. If he doesn’t suggest weekend plans like he normally does, make your own plans, or casually ask what he’s thinking about for the weekend.
If he says he doesn’t know or acts like he wants to keep it open, say okay, and maybe let him know you’ll be getting together with a girlfriend on Saturday but are free Sunday if he wants to do anything. No pressure. No drama.
It can be really tough to adjust when a guy suddenly changes his behavior after months of consistency. If he sends a goodnight text every single night for 6 months straight, it’s natural to wonder what’s up or worry if you suddenly don’t get one. But wondering or worrying a little bit is very different from freaking out. And you have to remember that the only constant is change. Try to be flexible and adapt if he does something different instead of panicking and thinking things are going downhill.
Now, if it goes on for a while and it’s making you really unhappy, tell him you’ve noticed he’s been a little off, or seems different, or seems to need some space, and see what he says. Let him know you still care about him, but you will give him some time to figure things out.
Make sure he knows you aren’t angry and resentful. If he thinks you’re mad at him it will not only stress him out further when he’s already trying to deal internally with something else, he’ll also be less likely to reach out once he’s handled whatever is going on, for fear of experiencing your wrath. He’ll see you as a source of stress instead of a source of support, and that will ultimately make him disappear for good.
2. Put the phone down
Once you’ve made the decision to give him space, do not call and text him constantly, or at all.
It’s fine to send out a nice, “I’m here if you need anything” text, but then leave it alone. Don’t keep finding ways to remind him you exist, because that is basically the opposite of giving him space. He didn’t forget about you, and just because he’s not texting doesn’t mean he’s not thinking about you.
Whatever you do, don’t come up with all kinds of excuses as to why you simply must contact him, like “I have to show him this article” or “I have to tell him this funny story.” This will reek of neediness and insecurity and not having your own life.
You can enjoy life without sharing every moment of it with him. Just leave it alone for now and be patient.
3. Step away from social media
Maybe you’re not contacting him, but you’re obsessing over his every move on social media.
Has he followed new girls? Have new girls followed him? What has he posted? He’s smiling in that picture, does it mean he’s happy without you? It looks like he went out with his friends the other night, is he moving on? And he said he was dealing with things, he doesn’t seem to be dealing with anything other than the bar tab!
Stop the stalking. It’s unproductive, not at all helpful, and it will make you crazy.
If you’re not stalking but just looking at his social media like you always do and can’t help feeling a pang seeing him out having fun when he’s being so distant with you, that’s understandable. But don’t overthink things and analyze his every move and start thinking along the lines of “If he were ___ he would be ___.” This type of thinking will get you nowhere. People surprise us all the time, not doing things the way we would do them or the way we expect them to.
He can be dealing with stuff and still go out with his buddies—that may be how he deals with something. You probably turn to your friends when you’re going through stuff, and he may just do something similar in a different way.
Also: Don’t post on your social media to retaliate or get a reaction out of him. This is just immature and petty, and it won’t make you feel better.
MORE: Why is He Hot and Cold?
4. Don’t badger him
What’s going on with you? Why are you being like this? What did I do wrong? What happened? Why won’t you talk to me?!
How does that interrogation make you feel, just reading it? Don’t badger him with questions and don’t beg for answers. He might not even know what’s going on in his own mind, and that’s why he needs this space to figure it out. If you need to, have the one conversation about it, let him know you’re going to give him space, then do it. No twenty questions.
5. Don’t chase after him
It may feel natural to chase—you want him back, so you move toward him.
But please don’t, this will just push him farther away and make you look desperate. You’ll make him feel suffocated, and you won’t like yourself very much.
Along the lines of not chasing after him, don’t try to win him over with romantic gestures, and don’t do things to get a rise out of him or to get his attention. Men don’t like drama, and when they want space the romantic gestures will fall flat.
Above all, don’t beg, plead, or threaten.
Just leave it alone for now and focus on you. If he’s going to come back, he’s going to do it on his own, not because you dragged him.
MORE: Signs He’s Pulling Away
6. Stop worrying about losing him
Yes, I know that’s the fear, I know that’s what makes you feel sick and dizzy and nauseated. A life without him in it seems unlivable.
Maybe this is the end, maybe not. Worrying about it won’t fix anything. Learn to be OK with whatever the outcome is. Just imagine that he does leave, it’s over. Imagine the worst and know that you can move on.
If he leaves, he was never truly yours and it was never going to work out. Accept that it’s for the best and not the end of the world.
Whatever you do, don’t take your panicked mind as a sign he’s the one and he’s the love of your life, because that isn’t what love feels like. Love feels good. It feels safe and secure and wonderful. If you’re panicking, it’s more a sign of your fears and insecurities coming out, and this is probably a good opportunity to work on that.
7. Stop focusing on him, focus on you
Stop spending all your time and energy worrying and wondering about what he’s doing and what he’s thinking and what’s happening … focus on yourself. Focus on why you feel the way you feel.
If you’re panicking over him taking space, ask yourself why. What is your greater fear here? What are you really worried about?
Ultimately this is a good thing, an opportunity to better yourself and get to a good place mentally and emotionally. You need to stop seeing the loss of a special person in your life—no matter how special—as the end of the world. Your world should be bigger than that.
8. Remember you will be OK
The best way to be both emotionally healthy and happy and to get him back is ironically the same: to not need him to come back in order to be a functioning human being.
If this is the end then yes, it will hurt a lot. But it won’t be the end of the world.
Remind yourself as many times as needed that you will be OK. Thinking it in your head might not be enough; try writing it down. There is a lot of power in writing things down, even if it’s not something you normally do. Get all your thoughts on paper. Maybe even brainstorm about what you would do if he weren’t in your life.
9. Trust that things do work out for the best
You may not see it right now, but if a guy decides you’re not the one and he doesn’t want to continue the relationship, trust that all it means is he isn’t the guy for you.
Just because it feels perfect to you doesn’t mean it feels perfect for him. Because of how you feel about him you won’t understand why this is for the best, not until way down the line when you’ve moved on to someone new, someone who cares about you just as much as you do for him. Then you’ll understand how it’s supposed to feel and you’ll see why that other guy was wrong for you.
You won’t see it yet, but trust that someday in the future it will all make sense.
10. You can’t control how someone else feels, so don’t try!
It’s frustrating, but sadly, love spells do not exist. You can’t control how he feels.
Chances are, him taking space has nothing to do with you. But sometimes it is because of you and because the relationship just isn’t right. Either way, the answer is the same—give him space. Let him be.
You can’t change his mind if this is the case, at least not right now. You never know what the future will hold. So much of relationships is about timing. If it’s off, it doesn’t matter how right things feel, you won’t be able to sync up. If this is what’s happening, then who knows? Maybe later down the line, it will work out.
But never if you try to force it. You have to be willing to walk away and still have a whole life before that can ever be a possibility.
11. What kind of relationship do you want?
If a guy is taking space because he’s unsure about you and unsure if he wants to continue dating you, then ask yourself … is this the kind of relationship you want to be in? Do you want to be with someone who is on the fence?
Does he ask for space a lot? Enough to make you unhappy on a regular basis? Or is it just this one time, but it’s dragging out and there’s no end in sight?
It’s possible you’re not compatible. Maybe there’s a woman out there who needs just as much space as he does. This isn’t a judgment on anyone’s character, how much space they need, or even how they handle issues. It’s all a matter of compatibility.
Turn it around and really give it some thought—is he really the best man for you?
Picture what it would be like to be with a man who is crazy about you, who never questions whether you’re the one for him, who would do anything to be with you. One who would never want to make you unhappy.
Now contrast this with your current situation. Maybe you can do better for yourself. That should be your first priority—never get so lost in a man that you stop taking care of yourself.
12. What makes you happy?
It’s so easy for our level of happiness to become intertwined with our relationship, but you had sources of happiness before him … what were they?
Go back to the things that made you happy before. If you’ve forgotten how to be happy without him, you need to relearn it. If you can’t be happy on your own, then you need to question whether that’s true happiness. It may be something more like the absence of anxiety, which isn’t the same thing at all.
13. Spend time with people you care about
Reach out to friends and family, that’s what they’re there for! Spend time with people who love you. Talk to them, cry to them, have fun with them. Realize there is so much more than him.
Losing someone, even if it is temporary, will leave a void within you, especially if he was a big part of your life. Fill this void with the people who make you happy. When fear and anxiety pop up, this will also remind you that you are lovable—these other people love you! If for any reason he doesn’t, that’s on him.
14. Stay busy
As they say … idle hands are the devil’s plaything.
The more free time you have, the more you’ll fill it with obsessive thoughts about him. Don’t put yourself through this! Stay busy. Go to the gym, try a new workout class, take an art class, do volunteer work, etc. Do the things that make you feel like you. Nourish yourself. It’s not always about a boy.
15. Give yourself a time limit
It’s unfair for you to wait around indefinitely. At some point, you need to know if you’re in a relationship or not.
If he’s not there and keeps delaying and holding you off, then it might be time to throw in the towel. Time is a precious thing to waste, and if he’s leaving you hanging he’s not respecting your time. Best case scenario he’s being kind of selfish, worst case scenario he’s hoping you’ll do the breaking up for him.
What you need to do is decide for yourself how long you can wait and feel OK and respected in the relationship, then wait that long and move on if he hasn’t returned emotionally and otherwise. You can just keep the time limit to yourself and when the time comes, let him know you’ve waited as long as you can and need to move on now.
Or you can let him know that you’ll be okay waiting xx amount of time, but after that you’ll start to resent him too much to continue in the same way. This isn’t an ultimatum if you really mean it—it’s just letting him know what you can handle and how long you’re willing to stay in limbo.
16. Try to reignite things
If it’s been a few weeks and you haven’t heard from him, or things are still unclear, send a fun and flirty text his way to show you’re still interested, and maybe you can reignite things. Something like “I was at the beach all weekend, it was a blast! Been thinking of you and would love to hang out if you’re free this week.”
See what comes back your way. If he’s totally dismissive and uninterested, then just move on, but if he’s receptive, great! Try to start fresh and don’t press him for what’s going on in his head. He might tell you why he took space, he might not. Just move forward and start anew. Hopefully, you’ll have followed all the tips in this article and you’ll be in an even better place mentally!
One last word on that: If he’s a repeat offender, you should probably be a lot less inclined to take him back like this, no questions asked. That’s for if it’s a one-off kind of thing. A guy who does this repeatedly is not ready for an intimate relationship, and you deserve something better, someone who’s fully there.
When we love someone, we want to give them what they need, even if that means something like giving them some space, and that’s okay. But as always, have love and respect for the relationship, but have more love and respect for yourself. You are what you bring to the relationship, and if you don’t prioritize yourself, why should he?
I hope this article gave you some good and insightful tips on how to give a guy space the right way so that he comes back and the relationship is even better than before. But there is more you need to know. A man can pull away for a variety of reasons, and the way you respond will determine if he ever comes back and if wants to continue pursuing the relationship. Do you know what causes these pull-backs and how to respond in each case? If not, read this next: If He’s Pulling Away, Do This...
Another important thing a lot of women don’t realize is there will come a point in the relationship where he will ask himself: Is this the woman I want to commit myself to? His answer will determine everything. Do you know what inspires a man to commit and see you as “the one”? If not, read this too: The #1 Things Men Desire in a Woman