> What to Do--and What Not to Do--When He Wants to Break Up
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When He Wants to Break Up (or Has Said He Needs Space)


When I was a teacher, one of my co-workers stopped me in the hall and told me that her husband said he wanted to move out and that he didn’t love her anymore.

She was in despair and understandably really upset. She told me that she didn’t know what to do and she felt powerless. She was beside herself.

She wanted to beg him to stay.
After he left, she wanted to repeatedly drive by his new apartment.
She wanted to call him and leave messages on his phone telling him how much she loved him and that she didn’t know how to go on without him.  

When she told me about her situation, I shared what she could do. “Here’s what you can say,” I said. “Say, ‘I love you and I don’t want you to leave. But if you want to leave, I can’t stop you. It’s your choice. I just want you to know that when you leave, I am going on with my life.’”  

“Then,” I said. “Don’t beg him to stay. Don’t drive by his new apartment. Don’t call and leave messages on his phone. Don’t fall into an emotional puddle and cry in his presence. Even though it’s difficult, be calm. Honor his wishes and wait and see what happens. Give him space.”

A couple months later, she told me that he came back and said that he had made a mistake. That he missed her and he missed their little boy and he wanted to come home.  

Touchdown for love!

When a marriage is in crises, when a man is walking away, often the best thing a woman can do is give her man space.

The same is true in dating relationships.

I hear women tell me all the time that the man they have been dating has said, “It’s over.” Maybe he has decided he is interested in someone else, or that he just isn’t ready for a relationship.

Regardless of the reason, I know it hurts. (I’ve been there.) Your first response, especially if you fear abandonment, or believe you’re your value is dependent on a man’s acceptance, is to move toward him when he is moving away from you.

Don’t do it.

This can only make him move further away.

Don’t beg.

Don’t tell him you can’t live without him.

Don’t call and leave messages on his phone.

Don’t text. (This can be a big temptation since texting is so easy to do.)

Instead, go on with your life. Grieve. Connect with friends for fun and accountability for your “no contact rule” with your ex. Find a new hobby. Set some new goals. Be good to you.

When a man has moved away from you or broken up with you, three things happen when you give him space:

  • It gives you the opportunity to work on you, and if you are struggling with embracing your value apart from your relationship, it gives you space to do that. When you decide that you will give him space, rather than grasp for him, it shifts you from the position of being needy to the position of controlling what you can control—which is you.
  • It gives you the opportunity to take a more objective look at the relationship. Over time, things always become clearer. There were relationships I experienced when I was single that were confusing—and they hurt. But once out of them, over time I was able to develop a more objective look at what had really happened.
  • It gives him the opportunity to do the above two things as well without trying to sort through the struggles and confusion that arise every time you connect with one another.

Relationships don’t end “just because.” There’s always a reason. When you stay in contact, it doesn’t give him room to work out whatever conflicts he is experiencing inside himself. Giving him space will give him the perspective he needs.

When you state that you don’t want him to leave, but that you are going on with your life in a calm way, he will perceive you as confident, calm, and not pressing him, rather than perceiving you as desperate and pushing him. The natural inclination is always to move away when someone is moving toward you if you are moving away.

I know these are tough, tough words. I’ve lived this.

One caveat: Before giving him the space he needs, you always want to give him the opportunity to express any grievances he might have against you, or any problems he has with the relationship. Perhaps you have unknowingly hurt him, and you need to give him the room to share his thoughts so you can apologize and ask forgiveness, or maybe he isn’t happy for one reason or another.

But once you have done that, let him go if he still wants to go. Don’t beg. Don’t plead. Don't keep rehashing what happened in the relationship when he is not open.

You can only do your part in making peace if that is something that needs to happen. He has to do his part, too.

Another caveat: Just because you give him space and let him go, doesn’t guarantee he will come back. But it does guarantee that you will choose your own dignity over chasing someone who has said they don’t want to be in a relationship.

There are many factors involved in whether a man will commit such as: If he’s fearful of marriage; if he feels that he can support a wife, and a host of other things. You can’t manipulate a man into coming back to you. But you can give him the space so he can to think about it.

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