Most of the time when an ex asks for time/space, they are not necessarily asking you not to contact them. They want you to back off from trying to get them back or “make it all okay again”. But people high in attachment anxiety or highly sensitive to rejection hear “go away” and react.
Their high sensitivity to rejection makes them see rejection even where it does not exist. Their ex says, “I need time/space” and they hear “I don’t want contact” or “don’t contact me” or even “I don’t want/love you.”
Their controlling nature makes them afraid of what they can’t control. They suggest “no contact” in an effort to try to control the situation.
Back off means take some steps back (stop pushing, stop trying too hard to make this work, stop putting pressure on me, stop being needy). It doesn’t mean go away.
That’s why it’s important to ask how much time an ex needs. Don’t assume, especially if the reason you broke up is because your ex felt he/she didn’t have much say in the relationship.
I’ve seen situations where instead of asking an ex how much time he/she needs, someone decides (on their own), this is how much time my ex. They tell their ex, I’ll contact you after such and such a time. Their ex does not say if that’s enough time or not because 1) not everyone feels comfortable communicating his/her boundaries (see: How Much Time Does My Ex Need?) and 2) this is how the relationship has always been. One persona makes all the decisions, the other person goes along with it.
When they contact their ex after a week, a month or months, their ex is distant and cold. That’s because made the decision on how much time their ex needs and unintentionally made their ex feel they still have no say in the relationship.
There are also exes that say they need “time” or ask for no contact and the very next day (or couple of days later), they initiate contact.
If you don’t respond, they get upset and act as if you did something wrong.
If you say …but you asked for “no contact”, they come back with “okay, don’t contact me then.”
If you ignore what they said earlier and continue contact, a few days later, they come back with “I need time/space”
If you were confused when they contacted you a day after saying they need “time” or asked for no contact, now you are really confused.
Why would he/she say “don’t contact me” and then turn around and contact you?
Your ex was probably acting on emotion and didn’t realize just how much he/she would miss you. Your ex probably read it somewhere or was told by someone that this is what they needed to do, and struggling with going through with no contact. Your ex was probably using “don’t contact” me to see if you’d panic and beg him/her for contact, which would tell him/her how much you love him/her. Your ex is probably just playing a game. It could also be your ex is struggling with bi-polar. It could be anything.
Asking your ex how much time he/she needs prevents some of that yo-yo behaviour.
It helps both of you be clear on the terms of the “no contact” initiated by your ex. Remember, there is a difference between your ex asking you not to contact him/her, and you “giving him/her space” he/she didn’t ask for but you think he/she needs. Two different motivation, two different outcomes.
The other advantage of knowing how much “no contact” time your ex needs is that you can actually begin to work on a plan with a time frame in mind. If you need to make changes, you know exactly how much time you have to make those changes (or at least do enough to change) so that when you re-establish contact, your ex can see you changed for the better.
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