Time apart is difficult whether you plan to leave forever or just need a little extra space to consider your relationship. Taking a break can be a time for introspection and allows individuals to assess their feelings. Setting up a time to talk, being honest, understanding his feelings and setting boundaries will make it easier to tell your boyfriend that you need some space.
Make an Appointment to Talk
Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of another argument to yell, “That’s it! It’s over!” In these situations, the break might be perceived as, “Oh, she’s just angry. She’ll get over it and won't need that space.” Set up a time to meet and let him know how you feel. If you fear you might forget something, make a list of points you’d like to make, or write a letter that he can read while you sit with him. Having a calm discussion outside of conflict makes a discussion about having space go more smoothly.
If something he did pushed you to desire space, feel free to tell him. However, it is also important to take responsibility for the decision you are making. Be open. If you are feeling smothered and want more time to spend with friends, let him know. If you are confused about the direction the relationship is heading, tell him. If you believe it will be a temporary issue, give him a timeline if possible, or tell him that you will touch base in a week for an update. This honesty may also open up constructive dialogue and allow him to make changes that benefit both of you if his actions are leading you to desire space.
Understand His Feelings
Breakups increase psychological distress such as depression and decrease life satisfaction, suggests research published in The Journal of Family Psychology in 2011. Even if the break isn't permanent, he may respond with similar emotions. When telling your boyfriend that you need space, understand that he will likely be upset. Choose your words with kindness. Saying, “I think this isn’t working for me and I need space to consider our next steps together,” goes over better than, “You’re a jerk and I don’t want anything to do with you.” But beware of letting him down so easily that the intent isn’t clear. Anticipate and recognize his emotions, but stay strong in the decisions you have made for yourself to take a break.
Set clear boundaries during this conversation to make sure your need for space is respected. This may include setting boundaries on social media sites, laying down texting rules or screening cellphone calls since technology is now a critical part of dating relationships. Let the type of space you need dictate what type of boundaries you set up. If you simply need more time alone, identify how often it is acceptable for him to contact you. If you are making a clean break, make sure he knows that it is not okay to contact you in any way.
- Journal of Family Psychology: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: The Impact of Unmarried Relationship Dissolution on Mental Health and Life Satisfaction
- Journal of Sex Research: Love and Hooking Up in the New Millennium: Communication Technology and Relationships Among Urban African American and Puerto Rican Young Adults
- Psychology Today: Does Your Relationship Need a Break?
Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.