Whether your boyfriend is aggressive or clingy, asking for space in a relationship is a sensitive topic. It can impact how your relationship may evolve. Asking for space can indicate that you are unhappy in the relationship, unsure of your boyfriend's intentions or don't think that your boyfriend meets your needs. Regardless of why you are asking for space in your relationship, stand firmly behind your request to send a clear and direct message to your boyfriend.
Identify why you need space in your relationship. Asking for space sends the message that something is wrong in the relationship and taking time away from it will fix the problem. Pinpointing why you need space, whether you feel suffocated or want to pursue a relationship with someone else, will help direct the answers to your boyfriend's questions about your decision.
Decide what you want out of the relationship. Do you want to continue dating your boyfriend after asking for space, or are you considering breaking up with him and using the space you've asked for as a jumping-off point? Your boyfriend will likely want to know where your relationship stands after you ask for space. If your goal is to ultimately break up with him, it may be a more productive and a better use of your time to break up with him now rather than first asking for space and then breaking up with him later.
Find the right place and time to discuss your need for space with your boyfriend. Choose a quiet place where you can both talk free from distraction about your choice. Choosing a quiet, yet public place such as a coffee shop or frozen yogurt bar may prevent your boyfriend from making a scene while you break the news to him.
Focus on what you want and need, not on what your boyfriend does or does not do in the relationship. Use "I" statements such as "I am unhappy" or "I need time to re-evaluate our relationship" to place responsibility on yourself for requesting space. This also prevents accusatory statements such as "You don't make me happy" and "You don't give enough to the relationship." Taking ownership of your feelings may make asking for space less awkward, while also leaving the door open in the event that you decide to rekindle the relationship at a later point.
Set clear and direct guidelines with your boyfriend, including how long you expect to keep space in your relationship and how you would like to handle the relationship during this period. This includes determining how frequently you and your boyfriend will talk, text or hang out after requesting space. You also may want to discuss whether you will be seeing other people during this time.
Give a clear indication of how long you expect your boyfriend to respect your space in the relationship. Whether you just need to take a break for a week or think that a more indefinite time period is needed, give your boyfriend a timeline of how long he should be expected to give you your space.
Respect your boyfriend's right to disagree with your choice. While you may want space in the relationship, he may not. If he believes that your request for space is a deal breaker and wants to cut the relationship off, allow him to do so without any further drama.
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Signs That Your Boyfriend Needs Space
- Psychology Today: Suffocating in a Relationship
- International Journal of Intercultural Relations: Locus of Control, Mood Disturbance, and Social Difficulty During Cross-Cultural Transitions
- North Dakota State University: Communication Styles
- Journal of Social and Personal Relationships: A Qualitative Analysis of On-Again/Off-Again Romantic Relationships: “It’s Up and Down, All Around”
Anthony Oster is a licensed professional counselor who earned his Master of Science in counseling psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has served as a writer and lead video editor for a small, South Louisiana-based video production company since 2007. Oster is the co-owner of a professional photography business and advises the owner on hardware and software acquisitions for the company.
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