My Girlfriend Says She Feels Smothered and Wants A Break

Question: My girlfriend says she feels smothered and wants a break. What does she mean and how do I fix what makes her feel smothered?

I am a direct, open and honest person but struggle with the advice on being open and honest with the women I date. I am never sure of their motivations and sometimes I’m not sure about my feelings for them; so I hold back. Unfortunately, I have had a few relationships end because I waited too long to express my feelings; and when I did it was too late. With my last ex, I made an effort to express myself more and she asked for a break because according to her she felt suffocated and smothered.

I didn’t contact her for 6 weeks to give her some space. A couple of days ago, I sent her a text and it took her until the next day to respond. I tried to talk to her but her responses are standoffish. Now I read on your site that not contacting an ex sends the wrong message. There is no winning, is there?

Yangki’s Answer: First of all, I think people who are open, honest, and direct with their thoughts, feelings, and desires without being too blunt, rude, crude, confrontational, pushy or annoying are a very rare breed; in a good way.

Secondly, there is a healthy balance where you can directly, openly and honestly express your thoughts, feelings, and desires without making the other person feel suffocated and smothered. That’s the balance this site is about.

Thirdly, if I read you correct, she asked for a “break” from being in a relationship; she didn’t ask you to stop contacting her for 6 weeks! That’s probably why she’s standoffish.

That out of the way. Most of us in the beginning of a relationship are never sure of the motivations of the other person; unless they make their motives or intentions quite obvious from the start. So it’s normal in the early stages of a relationship to be cautious.

As we get to know someone better, we open up incrementally. It’s only by being open and honest with our own feelings that we can tell if there is something there to develop; or if you’re wasting your time.

Telling someone this is where I am at (without making it feel like you expect anything from them in return) frees the two of you to move on with the relationship without being suspicious of the other’s motivations/intentions.

It’s a quick way to start building trust. In many relationships, it’s that lack of trust (unsure of the other’s motivations or distrustful of the other’s intentions) that makes people play mind games, lie and generally mess it all up.

If you are not sure about how you feel, “I’m not sure how I feel” is all the honesty you need. If they other person can’t handle the truth, that’s their problem. Better to find out who they are early in the relationship than get deeply involved and find you are with someone who does not appreciate someone who is direct, open and honest.

In other words, being open and honest with our own feelings is not the problem. The problem is in how we let our intentions be “known”. .

If you unload on the other person too much or too soon, they’ll feel overwhelmed. Human being can take in only so much “feelings and emotions” at any given moment.

If you give them the impression that you want more than they can give, are willing to give or are capable of giving; they feel pressured. They’ll see you as needy and the relationship as suffocating; and start to pull away or ask for space.

So when your girlfriends says she feels smothered and wants a break; it means that she regularly feels overwhelmed and suffocated. Something you are doing that is needy is making them feel like she can’t “breath”. Maybe you need constant attention, reassurance and validation; or maybe you are too much in her space and constantly violate her personal boundaries. These are the things that make someone want space or a break.

There is no winning if you can’t balance both being close and giving each other enough space to breath.

As mentioned above, not contacting her for 6 weeks may have not helped. She may have been expecting you to prove to her that you can be in a relationship with her; without her feeling smothered. Most people want to know that you are capable of balancing both being close and giving each other enough space to breath. Pulling away for 6 weeks may have just proved to her that the only way you know how to be in a relationship is to smother someone.

The positive thing is that she’s at least responding although standoffish. She could have easily ignored you after 6 weeks of no contact. Maybe there is something there to build on if you can prove to her that you can be in a relationship with her; without her feeling smothered.


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