What Not To Do When Your Ex Wants Space

what-not-to-do-when-your-ex-wants-spaceWhen you are dealing with someone who is self-destructing, it’s hard not to be sucked into the toxic interaction that is typical of this attraction.

And what do I mean by typical of this attraction?

The self-destructing person is attracted to you because you have that “strength” that the self-destructing person feels he or she does not have. Sub-consciously the self-destructing person feels that he or she needs you in his or her life to “stay alive” or make “sense” of their own pain.

You on the other hand, are attracted to something about the self-destructing person that you feel you lack in yourself. It may be his or her aloof and emotionally detached persona or his or her living on the edge attitude or something that you find so compelling about him or her. It does not mean you are “blind” to his or her other faults, it’s just that you see this wonderful person self-destructing and in some way you feel responsible for “saving” him or her and may even think that’s the reason you were brought into his or her life. But the more you try to be the “saviour” or help him or her “see sense” the more your own “issues” show up.

And here is the real irony. When the person starts to get better, the dynamics of the attraction begins to change because you are no longer the “saviour” figure or the “sense” in their lives. Some recovering self-destructing people transfer that “saviour” figure or the “sense” in their lives to their therapist, counselor or coach (especially if the therapist, counselor or coach doesn’t recognize what’s happening and stops it). Others who are doing a better job at recovery start to redefine who they are and what they want. This is the point at which they begin to question their attraction to you, and if you are what they really want.

For some people they realize they really are not that attracted to you any more. Others feel the relationship does not excite or fulfill them any more and others just think they can do better. So what do they do? Dump you.

Others see things about you they still find very attractive (and may even feel some sort of gratitude debt) but they struggle with redefining how the recovering, recovered or “new” them now relates to you. Most people go back and forth between being strongly pulled towards you and pulling away because they are trying to figure what those feelings mean, how strong they are, if they want to act on them, and if they do, how they will go about it.

Some pull away with “no contact”, others keep the contact but act aloof and detached, and some others date other people, others just do what they want and don’t seem to care that your feelings are being hurt by their actions.

This is where it gets even more toxic. Their pulling away and not seeming to care about you or how their actions affect you can get you all worked up emotionally and start acting in a self-destructing manner yourself.

The better he or she gets, the more insecure you feel (and with good reason as I shall explain in the next paragraphs). His or her getting better was all you wanted in the first place, but now that same thing you wanted is your greatest fear. So instead of feeling pleased now that he or she is finally “coming to his/her senses”, you feel threatened and start to sabotage his or her efforts at getting better and being capable of a healthy relationship. Talk about irony.

You find yourself really pissed of because you now feel rejected (and worthless to them). You should have dumped his/her ass when he/she was doing all those self-destructing things but no, you stuck by them and this is how you are rewarded!

One moment you feel strongly attracted to him/her and the next you feel like you can’t take it anymore. Some people even toy with the idea of revenge because they are just so pissed off.

But what more can you do if you still have feelings for him or her?

Keep contact but stop trying to actively get him or her back.

That may not be the answer you hoped to hear from me especially for many of us brought up to think that you must always “do something” to get something. Trying to actively get your ex back interferes with his/her recovery. Any attempts to inject yourself into your ex’s life at this point will be seen by him/her as you trying to draw him/her back into a toxic relationship. He/she will most likely move even further away from you.

When you find yourself in this place, there is not much you can do except trust that if the attraction between the two of you was strong enough, he or she’ll find his or her way back to you.

Problem is, if you have not dealt with your own “issues” and the anger that may be accumulating (because “this is all so unfair”) you will start to seriously self-destruct all on your own. For example, you sabotage his or her efforts to initiate and re-establish contact by not responding to his or her emails or texts because you want to play hard to get or are following some silly “no contact” rule. Or you lose some weight, get really toned up, get all dressed up, go out with him or her on a date just to act aloof and detached because you think it’ll make you more attractive. Or some really stupid “cut off your nose to spite your face” behaviour.

Now who is self-destructing and toxic?

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21 Comments

  • He broke it off because of his emotional difficulties. I wasn’t happy that he was pushing me away instead of us getting closer but I told him I understand and accept the breakup, but best not to contact each other. Didn’t hear from him for 4 months so I sent a text and got a response back saying he was happy to hear from me because he I made him believe I didn’t want anything to do with him. Why would he say that when he was the one who broke it off?

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    • He broke it off but you are the one who said “best not to contact each other”. May be all he needed was some space to work on his “emotional difficulties” without cutting off all contact but you took it hard and cut him off. Yes, it’d have been nice for him to want you close for support, but that’s not how he wanted it. May be his therapist told him that’s what he had to do, I don’t know. Bottom line, you can’t begrudge someone for doing what he had to do to deal with his “emotional difficulties”.

      In any case, does it really matter now? If you want him back, why not be happy that you have re-established contact and try to work on getting back together instead of getting worked up about something that’s only going to create more tension, stress and resistance.

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  • My ex and I have been spending more time together. But since a couple of days I noticed she has been distant. I asked her about it and she says she feels like she’s being rushed. What the right thing to do now, give her space?

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  • My ex of 1.5 years left me a week after we returned from a vacation of a life time. I was completely blind sided when he told me he was breaking up with me and moving out of the apartment we rented together. There was no fighting or him pulling away from me, in fact, 2 days before he broke up with me, he told me he loved me. He cried a lot during the breakup but said it was something he needed to do for himself. He also didn’t know if I was the one. I have agonized over this for weeks but I have also told him I need space right now. I can’t move on with my life if we continue contacting each other. Am I making things worse?

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    • I’m not sure what “things” you think you may be making worse. Do you mean making things worse for getting him back or making things worse for moving on?

      Whether you intend to get him back or move on, I don’t think that trying to find the explanation for what happened and how it happened is doing you any good. Some things happen for a reason, some things happen for reasons we have not thought of or can explain, and sometimes things happen for no reason at all.

      Based on what you wrote, I don’t think he himself knows why. All he knows is that he needs to do it for himself. Sounds selfish, but it’s his reason, and one most of us would respect. But even if he does knows why, I don’t think he can explain it to your satisfaction. My advice is for you to stop agonizing over the “why” and work on accepting what happened. Not agree with it or like it, but accept it.

      As for needing your space, if you feel this will help you heal faster, then that’s what you have to do, for YOU. I’ve said it here many times, some of us can heal very well and fast even with contact with an ex, and some of us can’t. It’s a choice we each have to make for ourselves.

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