Question: Lately my ex is in a bad mood when I text him. I admit I acted needy in the past including post breakup and I think that if I give him space he will start to miss me and when i reach out he will not be as angry. After reading several of your articles, I’m confused. All experts advice giving your ex space but you seem to advice not doing it. Why is that? I’d love to hear your take on the matter.
Yangki’s Answer: I am happy to explain why my advice on giving your ex space is different from what many experts. One difference between my advice and most other people’s advice is that I’m more about approaching the issue of “giving space” from a place of love rather than fear or anger, connection rather than disconnection. I actually take the time to make the distinction between “giving space” because you or your ex needs it (keyword is “need”) and using distance to manipulate someone (e.g. make them miss you). Both approaches have a goal and achieve a purpose.
My approach is find the right balance between space and connection
You can “give someone space” by balancing being close and allowing them space, that is maintaining contact in a way they are comfortable with. If you know about attachment styles, being able to balance closeness and independence is a distinctive trait of secure attachment. Avoidants want too much independence and individuals with an anxious attachment want too much closeness. A healthy relationship needs both closeness and independence.
The goal of balancing being close and allowing the other person their autonomy is take some personal space but keep the relationship intact. This ‘giving space” is something you usually discuss with your partner or ex and make it clear you are not disconnecting from them and from the relationship, you are asking for room to reflect, work on or deal with personal issues that may or may not be related to the relationship.
I think you’ll agree with me that what almost all of us want is to be emotionally close with the one we love without suffocating them with neediness, or being too emotionally distant that they assume we don’t care.
When you take personal space but keep the relationship intact, you have a point of re-entry later on because the connection wasn’t affected by you taking some time and space to yourself. This is the same advice I give to avoidants when they want space: it’s okay for you to take space but don’t hurt the relationship in the process.
People who are able to balance closeness and space have better relationships. This is what secure attachment looks like. You know when to be close without suffocating someone and giving them enough space to be their own person without making them feel neglecting or unwanted.
The no contact approach to giving an ex space
You can also “give someone space” by leaving them alone, that is not contacting them at all. This is the kind of “giving space” that many experts you mention recommend.
The goal of the no contact approach to giving an ex space is to disconnect not only from your ex but also from the relationship either with the intention of reconnecting later, or not reconnecting at all, ever.
There are many inherent problems with disconnecting from a relationship when what you really want is connection. Most people are either unaware of the risks, are only thinking about their “emotional survival” or just following what the “experts” say. Many find out about the risks when they try to reconnect with their ex.
- They find that their ex has completely disconnected and does not want to reconnect again
- In the time they were away ‘giving their ex space”, someone else filled that space and their ex had developed feelings for the new man or woman
- The relationships has been irreparably damaged by the strain of disconnection and the relationship is never the same, and sometimes that “connection” is never fully recovered.
In defense of trained experts (and I mean trained professionals like Certified Therapists), when they advice you to disconnect from the relationship, they actually mean well. They are thinking of your emotional well-being and trying to help alleviate the emotional anguish and pain. They are not thinking about your relationship at that point. Some will even try to convince you that your relationship is unhealthy, your ex is the reason you are in such emotional pain, you are better off without your ex (and sometimes they are right) etc.
But even for “experts” who say “no contact” (or giving space) is the way to get your ex back, if you insist you want your ex back they become vague with their advice on how to get your ex back. Most of the time you get the same advice over and over, “Give them space”, “Do no contact” or “go back to NC”.
You end up “giving your ex space” trying to reconnect, failing to reconnect, and back to doing “giving your ex space” until you realize (usually on your own) that doing the same thing over and over with the same result is insanity.
Giving space as a solution to all relationship problems
Dismissive avoidants and fearful avoidants tend to naturally default to distance as a solution to relationship problems. This is why they’re called avoidants and why many have unfulfilling, unhealthy and even toxic relationships. Most of the time the problem is not that a partner doesn’t give an avoidant enough space, the problem is often that avoidants distance to avoid dealing with relationship problems.
When someone with an anxious attachment thinks of giving an ex space, it’s usually from a place of anxiety, neediness, exhaustion, helplessness or hopelessness. But instead of taking space for themselves and communicating why they need space like securely attached do, people with a preoccupied anxious attachment make giving space about the other person. You have an argument “give them space”. Something is not working in the relationship “give them space”. A relationship ends, “give them space”. An ex doesn’t respond, “give them space”. Exes with an anxious attachment even “give space” someone who has not asked for it or wants to stay in contact.
When you give someone “space” they didn’t ask for, or don’t need, they are not going to see it as “you giving them space”, they are going to see you as disconnecting or pulling away from them. And if you just stopped contacting them or responding without telling them why, they are going to see it as you ignoring them at best and showing you don’t care about them at worst.
When giving space becomes the solution to all relationship problems, you become emotionally stunted. You never learn to communicate in a safe and secure way, resolve conflicts, or create and be in a healthy relationship. Most people after being in no contact for a while find themselves struggling to reconnect. They don’t know what to say, when to reach, how often to reach out etc., because the distance hurt the relationship.
Don’t disconnect if what you want is connection
To answer your question again, my advice is not “don’t give space”, my advice is before you give someone space ask yourself: What’s my goal? What do I hope to achieve? What is the message I’m sending? How will my actions affect my relationship (or hopes for one) in the long term?
Don’t think just about how you feel right now because feelings change and you might feel differently later. Think about what is good for the relationship long term. And what is good long term is don’t disconnect if what you want is connection. Work on finding a balance that allows for connection and space at the same time
This is not easy to do when you may have insecure attachment. Most of the time you can’t tell when someone needs space from you or when they need more closeness. You find that you crowd their space when they need to be alone (needy) and give them space when they have not indicated that they need space (avoidance). But this is why I have this site.
I created this site to show how you can be close without suffocating someone and to give them enough space to be their own person without making them feel neglecting or unwanted, and without causing damage to your connection, emotional attachment or relationship.