wikiHow to Deal With an Ex Boyfriend Who Wants More Space

Five Parts:Setting BoundariesDetermining RealityGrieving the LossEnriching Your PresentCreating Your Future

It’s not you. It’s him. When someone tells you he wants more space, an emotional upheaval may begin. You may not know what to do, or say, how to act or where to turn. Perhaps the communication wasn’t as clear as you had hoped. You want to allow your ex-boyfriend his space, but you also want to continue to live your life. Making sense of another person’s behaviors is never easy; but if you can build strategies to manage your own thoughts, feelings and actions you will be equipped to deal with anything life hands you.

Part 1
Setting Boundaries

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    Respect his wishes. First and foremost, you need to respect the wishes of your ex-boyfriend. For whatever reason, he has asked you to give him space and you need to comply. It won’t be easy, but you need to allow him to distance himself from your relationship. You must find the inner strength to distance yourself from it too.
    • Keep in mind that you are not alone. This situation happens to many people.
    • When he tells you he needs space and you are upset you can say, “I’m really upset about this, but if you need space then I will find a way to be okay with that. It would help me if you could explain why, but maybe you’re not sure.”
    • This could lead him to either explain or tell you, “I don’t really know.” He may not know, and you may never know. You can’t force him to explain.
    • The situation and timing may not allow you to discuss all the things you want to discuss. Ask him, “This is a lot to think about and it seems kind of rushed. Is it okay if we talk about this later? I know I’m going to have questions, and maybe you need to think about things.” He will either agree or disagree. You have the right to ask for what you want, and he is entitled to do the same.
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    Define rules about phone and other e-contact. Your phone has likely been a large part of your communication and you need to control the frequency and duration of your contact. You might cut off all communication if that is what he wants to do. Periodic texting might be permitted. If he hasn't communicated his wishes then contact him to clarify.
    • He may say he doesn't want to text, and then does so late at night or after he has been drinking alcohol. You can choose to ignore the text messages, or tell him that you feel confused and led on by this behavior and that it feels hurtful. Ask him to explain his behaviors and take responsibility.
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    Develop approaches for social interactions. Seeing someone in a social situation when you don't expect it can be upsetting. You can ask him, "How do you want to handle social situations when we see each other? Do you want any contact? Would you prefer we kept our distance?" Your wishes are important to communicate as well. You don't have to run and hide, unless you want to.
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    Reach an agreement. You must respect each other’s wishes by coming to a mutual agreement about how to act around each other at school, in work situations and at other events. If you have defined the rules about phone and e-contact, and developed approaches for social interaction, you both need to agree to these behavioral objectives.
    • You can say, “Okay, just so we’re clear and in agreement, we will not be talking, texting, e-mailing or messaging through other social media channels. And we can say, “Hello” to each other and be civil, but that’s it for communication. I’m in agreement with all of this, are you?”
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    Prevent outbursts. Avoid situations that are going to play out in a negative way. Frustration can get the best of you, so don't set yourself up for a confrontation. Although you can’t always predict how you are going to feel in every situation, be realistic about things that he might do that would trigger your negative reaction.
    • For example, if you are at a party and you see him talking to a person of possible interest don't approach and say things to embarrass him, yourself or the person with whom he is talking.

Part 2
Determining Reality

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    Examine why. If you are still communicating with him, you have the right to discuss why he is acting the way that he is. Your ex-boyfriend may be unable to explain his rationale for his decisions. He might be sparing you additional hurt by not giving you all the information. Part of you wants to know the truth, but sometimes that isn’t the best thing for you.
    • If you are able to meet with him, ask him, “I don’t want this to be weird and awkward, but is there any way that you can explain your reasons for needing space?" This will start the conversation. Be prepared to hear the good and the bad. Tell yourself you can handle it.
    • If he refuses to meet with you, don't push it. He is your ex-boyfriend, so you probably know him pretty well and have a hunch. Trust your gut.
    • You might never know why. Focus on your own wants and needs and getting yourself on a more positive path.
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    Clarify finality. You need to know if he intends to return to you. Be purposeful in your communication and conduct and ask him, “I know you don’t want to leave me hanging because that would be a cruel thing to do, so is this final? Are you never coming back? I need to know for my own health. I would appreciate a truthful answer even if it’s going to sting.”
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    Consider your compatibility.[1] This may be an occasion when you are simply not compatible. Take inventory of the qualities that attract you to another person. It’s not only physical qualities. The list includes but is not limited to: values, ethics, having children, managing money, drug and alcohol use, ambition, kindness, and how he treats his mother.
    • Once the immediate shock of the situation has lessened, make a list of qualities you look for in a person with whom you would have a relationship.
    • Read the list to a close friend or family member that you trust to assess if you are being realistic. A dose of reality might be just what you need.
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    Let off some steam. A lot of pressure builds up and you need to release some of the burden to manage your emotions. Suggestions such as physical exercise, dancing, writing, swimming and kite flying will help reduce the stress you are feeling.[2]
    • If you choose an unhealthy way to blow off steam, forgive yourself and move on.
    • Focus on keeping yourself safe and be kind to yourself. You’re going through a lot so don't make things more difficult.

Part 3
Grieving the Loss

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    Work the process. Most people are taught how to acquire things, but very few people are taught how to lose something. Grief is a complex emotion that manifests in different ways. There's no one "right" or "wrong" way to mourn a significant loss, such as the loss of a relationship.[3]
    • Grief is an individual journey. Everyone experiences it differently.[4]
    • Don’t rush yourself and don’t allow others to rush you through your grief.
    • You may find it helpful to give yourself a "time limit" to grieve. This should not be intended to make you feel guilty about your emotions, but to help you recognize that there is life beyond this loss, and that you'll be okay.
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    Determine the emotional need he fulfilled. There are basic needs that most people have, including the need to love; the need to be loved; and the need to belong.[5] Your ex-boyfriend fulfilled some of your needs, but he is not and will not be the only one with whom you find fulfillment.
    • Did he make you feel pretty? Did he help you feel not so alone in the world? Did he make you laugh? Find an alternative way to meet your needs.
    • Introspection is the process of directly attempting to access your own internal processes.[6] Figure out how and why you react to the people and things around you, and you will be able to help yourself solve many personal struggles. Only you can do the work to answers to these questions.
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    Appreciate the positive qualities and learning experiences. There are some who believe that people come into your life to teach you something. Each experience prepares us to be smarter and more in tune with what we want out of life.
    • Sit down and make a list of the things you learned from your ex-boyfriend.
    • Write about the positive things that happened too. It is easy to only see the negative when you are in the midst of all the pain; but no relationship is all bad.
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    Say goodbye. There is a purpose to the ceremonies we follow when something ends. Graduations, funerals, closing ceremonies – they all provide an end point. They allow us to get closure, emotional resolve, for something we’ve been through. Creating a good-bye ceremony will help complete your relationship with the pain.
    • Write a letter to the person, but do not send it. Include all the significant emotional experiences you shared. Thank him for the good times, and the bad. Express the anger. Tell him, "I no longer need the pain that I am feeling so I am giving it back to you. Good-bye."[7]
    • Read the letter out loud to yourself or to a trusted friend or family member, then burn the letter in a safe place. Fire is a form of cleansing and can allow the energy of your turmoil to change.[8]
    • If you decide to allow him back into your life, the emotional work you do will always be worth it. You can use these skills for the rest of your life.
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    Gain perspective. It’s important to keep things in perspective. No one likes to feel small or diminished or ignored by an ex-boyfriend, or by anyone for that matter. Once you see there is life after a break-up or separation, you will be able to release your feelings of upset and shepherd in feelings of relief. You can let it go and re-frame your priorities.
    • If you try to let something go and it continues to eat at you, then you likely need to process more feelings. This may include talking with a trusted friend or family member, writing, or going for a hike to physically work out your emotions.
    • It can be upsetting if someone tells you to “just let it go” if you haven’t reached a level of resolve about the matter. Take a deep breath and say, “I’m working on letting it go, but I’m not there yet.”
    • Once you settle into a feeling of balanced perspective, you will see that some things are worth getting upset about, and some are not.

Part 4
Enriching Your Present

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    Fight insecurities. Rejection is tough. It causes you to question yourself in detrimental ways. You might feel like there is something wrong with you, no one likes you and somehow you are defective. You can quickly render yourself unimportant and invisible. While these might be somewhat normal thoughts, you’ve got to find a way to stop them.
    • If you catch yourself thinking these things pause and say, “These thoughts are occurring because I've just been hurt. There is nothing wrong with me. I am a kind, good person whom others love.”[9][10]
    • Catalog a mental list of your good qualities. Remember your accomplishments and allow those thoughts to fill your mind and push out negative thoughts.
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    Build self-esteem through specific events. Be deliberate. Find out what makes you excel. If you are good at tennis, play it. If you are a great cook, grab a recipe. Whatever it is that you enjoy and find rewarding will help you build your belief in yourself.[11]
    • Stay away from activities that make you feel inferior. If playing with puzzles makes you feel less intelligent, don’t play with them. If you hate the way shopping for a bathing suit makes you feel, wait and buy it later.[12]
    • Stay focused and engaged in everything positive for the time being.
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    Explore your options. People are going to tell you there are more fish in the sea. It is perfectly okay if you don’t feel like fishing, but try participating in new activities. There might be yoga classes, horseback riding, or surfing classes that you have put off because you’ve been busy or preoccupied with your ongoing dilemma. Now is as good a time as any. Go for it.
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    Seek professional help. You may need help to identify the behaviors you would like to change if you are struggling with doing it yourself. Psychologists and Psychiatrists are available in your local area and can be located through the American Psychological Association[13] and the American Psychiatric Association.[14].

Part 5
Creating Your Future

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    Renew your belief in healthy relationships.[15] When you feel up to it, reaffirm that you believe in the possibility of having a healthy relationship. It may not be right away. Once you’ve been through a rejecting experience with a significant other and that initial pain is resolving, you can focus on what you really want out of your next relationship.
    • Look at it as paying honor to yourself and your desires. This will help you affirm that you matter.
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    Allow for sad moments. Feel them. Live them. Let them go. They might come out of nowhere when you’re walking down the aisle at the grocery store, or driving down the street or when a song plays that causes an emotional upheaval. These moments happen more frequently at the beginning, but will lessen over time. You went through a traumatic experience and those feelings need to be expressed.
    • Suppressing your feelings can create other health problems, so let them have their day in the sun.
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    Remind the world. You are here to live life and enjoy it. Standing up for yourself will remind you that you deserve to be happy, and the world will notice. When you reach a level of healing after a bad experience other people perceive a change.
    • People might say things like, “Did you do something different? You look great.” Your response can be, “Thank you. Yes, I decided to be happy and it is working for me.”
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    Welcome him back with conditions. If you decide to allow your ex-boyfriend back into your life, make your wishes clear. You’ve had a lot of time to reflect on your wishes, hopes and desires. These priorities need to be discussed. You should be able to reach an agreement with him if he is truly interested in having a committed relationship with you.
    • If he seems hesitant or deceptive in any way, take a step back and evaluate if you really want to risk heartache again with this person. You reserve the right to decline.
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    Be self-reliant.[16] Happiness is an inside job and you are responsible to create it. You know what makes you happy, so participate in activities that will build a reservoir of positive feelings. It is easier to face negative and difficult people if you are filled with good vibes. A happier you will always make any relationship better.


  • Try to stay positive and calm.
  • Seek out friends and family that you trust if you need to talk.
  • Practice positive self-talk and remind yourself that you are worthy
  • You have to tell yourself that it is his loss not yours.
  • When you speak to your ex-boyfriend be respectful and treat him as you would like to be treated. Be the bigger person.
  • You are going to feel bad for a while but developing and working those strategies will get you to a positive place. Stick to it.
  • Don’t overwhelm a guy who has asked for space. It will likely push him further away. However, it will tell you things about him that help you make decisions for your future.


  • Be sure to prepare yourself for a possible heartbreak.
  • By the time he says anything to you about wanting space, he may have already thought it through and is beyond reach. Unfortunately, he decided to leave you out of a conversation that was going to affect you in a negative way.

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Categories: Former Relationships