What does it mean when your ex asks you for space?
How do you handle that kind of situation if you want to get back together?
I’ll tell you exactly what to do in this situation.
There are a few different scenarios we need to cover here so make sure you know the state of your relationship before you take any of this advice.
If You’re Still Officially “Together”
Let’s start with situations where your boyfriend or girlfriend has asked for space, but you’re still officially ‘together’… in other words, they haven’t committed to a full-on breakup, but they ARE asking for a “break” or some “time to themselves to think things over”.
Most people tend to handle this kind of situation very poorly, unfortunately, and end up doing the opposite of what they SHOULD do. Because the natural instinct when your partner asks for space or a “break” is to get scared and try to stop the “break” from happening. You can’t do this.
If your partner wants a break or some time apart, you have to give them that space.
The more you try to reel them back in and ignore their request for space… that could mean things like contacting them even when they’re clearly said they don’t want to hear from you for a while, for example… the less likely it is that you’ll be to get them back.
In this kind of situation, you have plenty of reasons to be optimistic for your potential future together… IF you actually give them the time and space they’re asking for.
In a lot of cases, this really is just your ex trying to decide if the relationship still has a future. Trying to convince them that you do still belong together with words in this kind of situation will make matters worse and probably further confirm their fears that things are coming to a natural end.
Now, there are also situations where your boyfriend or girlfriend asking for “space” or a “break” is actually their way of trying to break up with you without actually having to go through the pain of a “real” breakup. This is, unfortunately, also quite common… but the solution is the same, at least in the short term: you need to respect their wishes, back off, and go No Contact for a while.
If You’ve Already Broken Up And Your Ex Wants Space
Now, I’m sure many of you are in a position where you’ve already broken up, maintained some form of contact with your ex since the breakup, and now they’re saying they need some space and time apart.
Guess what? The story here is the same. You need to give them that space, effective immediately, with no exceptions. The more you try to tighten your grip on the situation and stop your ex from slipping away, the more they’ll feel like you’re disrespecting their wishes and the more you look desperate and clingy.
In my best-selling Ex Factor program, I talk a lot about “attractive” and “unattractive” traits… and how you exhibiting those traits can make you more or less appealing as a romantic partner in the eyes of your ex. And guess what? Being desperate, clingy, and needy–traits that you’re clearly exhibiting when you fail to respect your ex’s request for space–are some of the most unattractive traits out there.
If you chase your ex, ignore their wishes to be left alone, try to pester them or smother them with affection… it’s only going to kick the can down the road and further hurt your chances.
That means — as we already discussed earlier — you HAVE to go along with their request for some time apart. You CAN’T try to reach out, especially in the first few weeks after they make it clear that they don’t want to hear from you.
DO NOT try to talk your way back into their good books or change their mind about taking some time apart. DO immediately engage in a period of indefinite No Contact. In a second I’ll talk about how long you need to employ No Contact for in this kind of situation, but for now please just understand that this is essential if you want to preserve your chances of getting them back in the long run.
WHY Does Your Ex Want Space?
There’s two main reasons why your ex will ask for time apart after a breakup…
#1 – You’ve already bugged and pestered them to the point where they can’t handle any more.
This is obviously not the boat you want to fall into, because it means you’ve already exhibited a lot of those unattractive traits I mentioned earlier… clinginess, desperation, and just overall needy behaviour. It means you’ve gone too far down the road of trying to chase after your ex, and they just don’t want to deal with it any more.
In this case — I’m sure some of you will probably see that this is likely what’s going on with your ex right now — it’s even MORE important to double-down on a period of No Contact and start respecting their wishes.
I know it’s really difficult to do, especially when you feel like they’re slowly slipping away, but anything you try to do at this point — other than actually shutting down all communication with them for a period of time — is just going to dig a deeper hole and put you in a worse and worse position.
#2 – They’re trying to get over you and your breakup and contact causes them to become emotional or have doubts.
In this kind of scenario, your ex is actually asking for space in order to help them get over you. As I’m sure you’re aware, being constantly reminded of your ex after a breakup can be painful… it can bring up emotions, heartache, and so on. So, asking for space is their way of trying to avoid being reminded and re-hashing those emotions… and it’s likely they also fear that the pain and heartache they feel will tempt them to change their mind and agree to take you back, even though they know logically that breaking up was the “right” decision.
Now, this may all sound like good news… and make you assume that you SHOULD remind them of you by ignoring their request for space. This is NOT the case, and in fact it’s STILL important in this kind of situation to employ a period of No Contact and respect your ex’s wishes.
I know it’s going to be hard, but there’s one thing that will make your ex want you back even MORE than if you continually remind them you’re still around… and that is for them to miss you like crazy.
And the most effective way to make someone miss you is to disappear from their life completely. So, again, you still need to respect their request for space and time apart, even if you feel like they’re only saying so because they don’t want to give in to their heartache and take you back.
Trust me, it’s going to be a lot more likely that they’ll make that decision on their own when you employ No Contact and actually give them space than if you disrespect their request and continue trying to talk to them. In fact, if you do take that route, you’ll often end up finding yourself in situation #1 that I described above, where your ex will end up wanting even MORE space because they feel like you’re pestering and annoying them by being needy and clingy.
How Long Do You Need To Give Your Ex “Space” For?
Hopefully by now I’ve convinced you that, regardless of the specific details of your situation, you need to do what your ex is asking and avoid talking to them for a period of time. But, you may now be wondering how LONG you need to actually ignore them for… how will you know when it’s OK to reach out again?
First of all, for most of you–and I say this based off of over 13 years experience as a breakup coaching, working with tens of thousands of people in your situation–your ex will be the one to break the silence. You won’t need to do it yourself, they’ll eventually cave and reach out on their own… especially if you didn’t make a lot of mistakes, such as begging and pleading, before you began a period of No Contact.
This is the case in at least 80 or 85% of breakups. You won’t need to reach out, your ex will do it themselves, and at that point you have a green light to slowly start re-establishing contact and regular communication again. When your ex starts talking to you again on their own accord, that’s when you can safely assume they’ve had enough “time and space”.
If you fall into the 15 or 20% of people who WON’T hear from their ex… where they don’t reach out to you on their own… unfortunately, this is not a good sign for your chances of getting them back in the long run. That doesn’t mean it’s definitely over for good–you can take my free quiz to confirm how desperate your situation really is–but it is, unfortunately, not usually a good situation.
So, my advice for this kind of situation will depend on the exact specifics of your breakup, but as a general rule you should employ a full month of No Contact before you try to reach out.
30 days is usually long enough that your ex won’t feel that you’re disrespecting their wishes for space by that point, and waiting longer than that can be dangerous. So I recommend — again, this is just a general guideline for MOST situations — you can try to contact your ex after a month or so.
Now, if you’ve made a ton of mistakes already before you employed No Contact.. If your ex really seemed angry or frustrated at you and your attempts to continually talk to them after breaking up, in spite of their obvious desire for space… you may not get a positive response after 30 days of No Contact. In that case, you need to go back into another period of silence for at least a couple more weeks before you try again. Be patient, and make sure you don’t exhibit the same needy and unattractive traits that led you to this situation in the first place.