I've found that in the past, seeking relationship advice on the internet has never really done much good for me. Then again, it was better than seeking advice from reruns of Sex and The City, so at least I made some mild improvement.
That being said, the reason the internet never did the trick is because it was too impersonal. I appreciate the science behind the chemical insanity we call love, but I need at least a peppering of some anecdotal evidence. That's why we gravitate so hard toward films and television with the "based on a true story" disclaimer. We want to feel like what we're consuming has basis in reality.
So, as I'm sure you've assumed, I'm going to give you some background before I let the professionals speak. While I don't seem old to enough to have an 8-year-failed-relationship under my belt, that's exactly the baggage that I'm carrying. I mean, I've moved on and I'm happy, but it's something that you always keep with you, like herpes, but less pleasant (not a typo). During those 8-years I had asked for space on numerous occasions, only to be shut down. Consequently, he asked for space, again, only to be shut down. There's such a HUGE stigma that surrounds the notion that need space somehow means you no longer love someone. That's bullshit. I need space from my mother from time to time, you think that some dude gets exempt? Think again.
Ultimately, our inability to give each other space out of some misplaced sense of fear, anxiety, and insecurity lead to our end. Happy tales, huh? Well, to ensure that sort of thing doesn't happen to you, we can now bring in someone much smarter with actual credentials. Dr. Gina Senarighi, PhD Div, MFT, is a coach, couples counselor, sex educator, blogger, and workshop facilitator in Portland, OR. She writes for relationship and dating advice sites like YourTango and eHarmony.
Gina published an article on this very topic and offers 6 very solid pieces of advices for when you're partner drops those little words—"I need space."
Take Them At Face Value—"Your partner is telling you they need something, so it’s time to listen carefully. They aren’t making a personal attack — they’re asking for something they need. Remember it’s not about you but them. Do your best not to interpret this and take it personally. It will help you keep a level head through this time."
Get Clear—"Ask them what they mean when they say “space?” Do they need 30 minutes or 3 weeks? Do they want to break up? What does this mean for your monogamous or open relationship agreements? How will you alter your living arrangements (if at all)? Do they want to communicate via text, phone, email, or not at all? Discuss any upcoming plans you have already made — how does this change your plans? Is there anything they want from you during that time? Doing this will give you solace and answers that you need to feel more secure."
Be Clear—"It’’s also important to be clear on your end of the conversation. How are you feeling? What do you want? Tell your partner what is going on for you in an honest direct way. What do you want them to know before you begin your time apart? How do you want them to remember you while they take some space? Honesty is the best policy in this situation."
Stay Grounded—"Stay in touch with your core and be the best self you have. Stay true to your integrity through being honest, kind, strong, and respectful. Remember that even if this causes you worry or sadness you will get through this and the behavior you choose when times are difficult will heavily impact the future course of your relationship. If you begin to feel flooded, take a few deep breaths and stay focused. You can also return to the conversation later."
Respect Their Boundaries—"When they say they don’t want to text, don’t text. If they need two weeks, respect their request for two weeks. Don’t drive by their house late at night, or “accidentally” run into them at work. Set clear social media use parameters so you don’t punish yourself with Facebook. Make a plan on your own to connect with friends who support you in doing something else when you have a hard time not reaching out to your partner during their space-time. This may be hard but it will only help."
Take Care Of Yourself—"Take advantage of the free time and energy to invest in your other relationships, friendships, family, work, and play. In moments when you are lonely be especially kind to yourself, take a long run or a hot bath, call a friend, watch a movie, eat something good for you. This can also be a great time to work with a therapist or coach to get clear about what you want on your own. Treat yourself with great kindness."