What “I Need Space” Or “I Need A Break” Really Means

When someone says they “need space” or “need a break” , it doesn’t always mean they want to break-up, or stopped loving you. Someone can still love you with all their heart but need  space or a break from the relationship.

Someone saying they “need space” is about YOU 

Needing space usually means that they feel that you’re suffocating them; and they need to get away from you for a while. Maybe you are:

  • Needy; asking/demanding more time and attention than they are willing or able to give you.
  • Clingy; depending on them for your happiness and/or demanding them to make you happy.
  • Controlling; not allowing them to be themselves and do things their way.

If you are broken up, needing space may mean you want to talk about things they don’t want to talk about (e.g. the issues in the old relationship, the break-up). You are pushing to get back together when they are not ready; and maybe you have contacted them way too much.

Someone saying they “need a break” is about the RELATIONSHIP

Needing a break usually means that they feel that the relationship is not working for them; and they need to get away for a while to reflect and figure out if they want to stay or break-up.

The relationship may:

  • not meeting their needs
  • making them unhappy
  • isn’t allowing them to be who they are
  • hindering them from pursuing their own goals and/interests etc.

Someone “needing space” or “needing a break” every now and then may be an AVOIDANT

Avoidant attachment styles (fearful avoidant and dismissive avoidant) need space from you and from the relationship from time to time.

What do you do when someone says they “need space” or “need a break” ?

1.See if you need to change some behaviours

When someone says, “I need a break” or “I need space”, look at what you’re doing that makes them feel that they need space or a break’ and stop:

  • Asking/demanding more time and attention than they are willing or able to give you
  • Depending on them for your happiness and/or demanding they make you happy
  • Telling them what to say, what to do, how to act, how to love you or care about you.

If you are broken up, stop talking about the old relationship and/or break-up, and stop asking to get back together when they have already told you “no”. And if they’ve asked you not to contact them, respect their wishes/boundaries.

Unless they have specifically asked you to not contact them or stay out of their lives, they are not saying they want you gone. Find ways to show them that they can have the space they need.

2. Communicate your needs assertively but respectfully

Just because someone might say” I need a break” or “I need space”, doesn’t mean that you should not express you needs. A relationship is between two people’ If only one person can their express their needs, it’s not a relationship. Communicating your needs is taking care of the relationship.

The key to communicating your needs is framing it in a positive way. Start with affirming what is good/working in the relationship, the value the other person brings into the relationship, and then say what you would want to see more of.

  • Keep calm
  • Use “I” words
  • Make a specific request

A good conversation about needs should leave both of you feeling good that you had the conversation.

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  1. says: Spacewoman

    My ex texts me 1-2 times a week and says he still cares a lot about me but we both need time away from each other to work on our issues. He says it’s just a break and not a breakup. After only a week of no contact he sent me a text saying that we don’t have to be strangers. I’m only respecting his request for space but wrecking my mind here because I don’t know what he wants.

    1. The the reasons you feel confused is because “time apart” means different things for both of you. For you, time apart means “no contact” and for him, “time apart” means a break from being a couple/trying to make the relationship work.

      Him suggesting taking time away from each other to work on your respective issues means that the relationship has issues that you can’t work on while still together as a couple. It also means that he still thinks the relationship can work, if you work on your issues.

      In my opinion, his is a more mature approach because he is not just thinking of himself, he is also thinking about what’s good for the relationship.

  2. says: Damilare

    I wish I had come across an expose as this before things got out of hand. I was clingy/needy, my partner asked for space but to feed my ego I called it quits, now am trying to get back but she claims she has no feelings for me anymore,although we still communicate in a friendly manner.I really miss and want her back!