What does a woman mean when she says “I need space”?

Dear John,

A good friend of mine suggested I contact you.

I am now at the end of a five-year relationship and I am feeling lost as to what happened. We have had no fights, no disagreements, no infidelity. Just all of a sudden, it is over. I came home yesterday to a “Dear John” letter, asking me to move out.

I am 41 years old, and this is/was the first time in my life that I could say I found my soul mate. I have been living in what seemed like a wonderland of bliss. Right before our five-year anniversary, my partner told me that she did not feel like moving forward—but that she also didn’t know why she felt that way. Said she is afraid of conflict, so she had put off telling and hurting me—but letting it build up until there is no way of fixing it is not much better.

She tells me it is not me at all, that I have been doing everything right. But she just doesn’t know why she is feeling this way.

I am an old school gentleman. I believe in manners, and treating people well. I open doors for her, I rub her feet when she has had a long day at work, I cook her dinner, I do my part around the house. I listen to her vent about her day and I interact with her conversations. Yet nothing I do seems to be the right thing.

I am so in love with this woman. And even though I know I can survive without her, I want to do whatever I can to stay with her.

I will be giving her space—as she wanted. But where do I go from here? I have spent the last 5 years thinking we were going to grow old together . . . I never planned for this ( I guess none of us do…but it still hit me fast and hard). I know five years does not sound like much to most people. I have been in longer relationships, but when you are this in love with a person five years felt like 20!

I just don’t know what to do…Every girlfriend I have had in the past ALWAYS ended up cheating on me, sometimes with a good friend, sometimes with an “enemy,” and even once with my older brother.

This time was different. She NEVER cheated on me. We had a completely different relationship than I had known…and I embraced it with open arms. I felt completely comfortable for once in my life. I never had any worries about infidelity.

Last night I got a chance to speak with her. She told me that she feels smothered and trapped…and that she needs space.

What exactly does it mean when a woman says she “needs space”?

I have asked a few different female friends: What does it mean when a woman says she needs space? And none of them had an answer for me. When I ask my guy friends, they all immediately say, “Oh, she is having an affair.”

I have asked her straight-out about affairs or even other people she might be interested in, and her response was a very believable NO! And I do believe her when she says it.

But not even she can explain to me what she means by “needing space,” other than me out of her life. I think that is just the easy way out….and not facing whatever is really bothering her.

She told me last night, “Let me go and hope that I come back.”

What kind of craziness is that?

It’s not crazy at all.

Dude, first of all, you need to make some new friends. “I dunno,” and “It means she’s having an affair” are two of the dipshittiest answers ever to the question, “What does a woman mean when she says she needs space?” (Actually, you need to get new guy friends, and to ask your female friends why they weren’t being honest with you. Because unless they’re tree-stump stupid, they know exactly what your girlfriend meant.)

What a woman means when she says she needs more space and wants you to go away is that she needs more space and wants you to go away. I don’t see how she could have made herself more clear.

And “Let me go and hope that I come back” is a superb thing for you to hear. It’s a whole key to a successful relationship, right there. You need to send her a card and thank her for sharing with you the ultimate wisdom of the universe when it comes to relationships.

But don’t call her. Don’t track her down and hang around her making the deluxe faces alá mopey. Don’t do anything. Leave her alone.

When I was a kid I used to be nuts over butterflies. One day I caught a monarch butterfly, took it home, and let it loose in my bedroom. I thought that butterfly fluttering about my bedroom was just about the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. So, of course, I tried to catch it again. But I couldn’t; every time I tried to cup it in my hands, it flew just outside my reach. So I gave up, and just stood still in the middle of my room, watching the butterfly.

And you know what happened? It landed on my nose. And to hold onto my nose it jammed its long legs right up my nostrils.

So remember: If you let your girlfriend go, and she comes back, refuse to let her stick her feet up your nose. It’s not as delightful as you’d think.

No, but listen, man: You’re too invasive. That’s where this relationship went wrong. I can tell just from your letter that you did that thing guys are really prone to doing in relationships: you tried to make her too much yours. In a way the full depth of which you would do extremely well to take the time to fully comprehend (which won’t be easy: this is core shit), you way too often tried to make you and her occupy the same mental and spiritual space. You pressed her to let you know her every thought, her every feeling, her every inclination, her every opinion, desire, mood, motivation. You just sort of naturally assumed that by persistently (not to say compulsively) doing that, you and she would be even closer. So close, in fact, that you’d actually be one.

And it makes utter sense that you would do that. Desiring to essentially occupy the same emotional and spiritual space as your beloved feels so much like love! It is love. But it’s love in the way that 400 lbs. of chocolate is dessert. It’s sweet at first. And then it’s just entirely too much.

One of the hardest things about loving someone—especially when you live with them, and so have access to them all the time—is … well, not trying to make them you. When you really love someone, you worry about them. You want to know they’re okay; you want to know if there’s anything you can do to make them more okay. You want to help them. You want to always be there for them.

You want, as you put it, to open doors for her, rub her feet when she’s had a long day at work, cook her dinner, do your part around the house, listen to her vent about her day, interact with her conversations. (Okay, so I have to say that I tripped a bit over that last part—where you wrote, “I interact with her conversations.” That’s something I would expect this guy to say:

You know what I mean? That’s a weird way to say that. And it makes me pretty sure, actually, now that I think about, that English is not your first language. Which … has nothing to do with anything. So never mind. But do let me say that you are rocking English. English is the only language I know, and I can’t figure out how to say half the stuff I want to. So, dude: way to have a humongous, Data-size brain.)

Anyway: You love someone; you want them to be okay; you make it your constant business to see to it that they’re okay—and the next thing you know they’re telling you that you’re sucking the life out of them. Because you are. Because loving someone is really close to loving them too much. Many, many people fall into that dark and terrible chasm between “I love you,” and “Tell me what you’re thinking about right now and why.”

One is the stuff of romance. The other is the stuff of getting arrested for stalking.

Bottom line: Any women (just like any man) wants to be loved. But people want to be loved by a person they can love. And you can’t love somebody who’s too often more about you than they are themselves. Because that tells you that they don’t have a life: that they want you to make their life for them. And that sucks. When you’re with someone like that, what you pretty soon realize is that you’re not really in a relationship at all. All that’s really happened is that you’ve managed to adapt a gargantuan needy child.

What you want from someone you love is for them to not just love but respect you. And in fact no one can really love you if they don’t respect you. And the only way anyone—any woman in whom you’re interested, I mean—will ever respect you is if they understand that in some real and enduring sense you don’t need them. That you want them, yes. That you choose them, yes. But that you need them? No. That they will flee from. For anyone who’s worth having, needy is the ultimate in anti-aphrodisiacs.

Ball up, my friend! Take your hit, suffer for a while, and learn something so this doesn’t happen to you again. Namely, learn the hard truth informing the adage that we’ve all heard so often it’s much too easy to dismiss: The only person in this world who can make you happy is you.

Bottom line: You don’t need her. And until you know that, you can’t have her.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Lori Olmstead Cipot via Facebook

    WOW ! Words of wisdom for EVERYONE!! We all need to hear this message and remember it and share it and embrace it. Thank you for speaking so clearly and reminding us that love starts with ourselves. Then we can go out and share it with the world!!

  • Mary June Rose via Facebook

    Yes, yes, and yes.

  • Worthington Long Enslow

    I find myself once again blown away by your insight, John. I will share this brilliant piece, as I have so many others of yours.

  • slp

    You got it just right, John. I experienced this myself with a boyfriend who told me he LOVED me after two weeks of dating. I was also young and afraid of conflict so I cheated on him as a way to break up with him. He was smothering me with affection, and I told him the same thing: I need space!

    Funny thing is that we became friends a while after that. I realized that he was a great guy and we eventually got back together and are now married!

    The letter writer should back off, find his own interests/life, and then she may miss him and come back to him.

  • http://breatheinred.com Heather Brist

    Hello John,

    First off, I love your insight into the mind of a woman and second, you are right on the mark. Women do not want to be corralled into a corner and forced into the mundane actions of a relationship, especially in 2012. The statistic for woman staying single or unmarried is constantly rising. Women are learning more about all aspects of themselves and their surroundings; they are striving for more opportunity instead of letting it pass by. Women want independence, I think that is apparent in why the girlfriend left. I want to point out a sentence in the first paragraph from the letter you received, “We have had no fights, no disagreements, no infidelity. Just all of a sudden, it is over.” My jaw dropped. Right there you know why the girlfriend left. ‘No infidelity’ that is a good thing but I want to focus more on the ‘no fights and no disagreements’. Honestly, a couple must fight, they must have disagreements. A relationship will never, ever be 100% agreement and if it is someone is being dishonest. I’m not saying a couple should fight every day. However, a couple needs to fight in order to make up, in order to come to a conclusion about the situation or the other person whether that be stay together or separate. As long as the two parties are honest with themselves and each other, disagreement and discussion feeds clarification. I hope this man takes your advice a little self-discipline from a loved one goes a long, long way.

    Thank you for your blog.

    • Martha J

      This is so true. I was in a never-fight 21 year marriage to a truly good guy and father to our kids, BUT nice nice nice (both of us) and no passion. I’ll say for me I wanted to please and didn’t know myself. I surprised the hell out of the poor guy by up and saying I was leaving. I made up reasons cause at the time I didn’t know why. I went right into a relationship with a more passionate person. but took my caretaker role with me. Nine years later that was over. It’s been ten years alone now. It’s taken me that long to know and love me. I am so happy with me! I’d like someone to share some life with, but I’ll enjoy my life and the wonderful people in it, even if that person doesn’t arrive. Hope Anonymous learns how lovable he is and enjoys that guy tremendously.

      • Luke

        Martha J, you just said I/me/my/myself/I’d 18 times in that paragraph. So to put it a little differently, you abandoned your marriage for your own selfish ends. You put your family through that for what, so you could “find yourself”? You threw your husband away like a dress that has gone out of style, so that you could indulge your own narcissism. There are words for that and none of them are nice. You weren’t even honest with him. You never even gave him a chance to take that journey with you. Didn’t you know that journey is what marriage is all about? Do you have a son? What lesson did you teach him? Why should anyone take the chance on sharing their life with you, loving you, being vulnerable to you, just so you can maybe throw them away too? You cannot expect loyalty when you are disloyal. Maybe you need to be a little less happy with yourself, because the only way that you could “share some life” with someone honestly would be to come to a point where you confess and repent; tell your new partner that you treated your exes miserably and you will do your best not to do it again. Otherwise, do all the guys a favor and stay alone.

        Sorry to be so harsh, and please, please don’t take it personally: I’m just being blunt in order to make a point. Men should not exploit women and women shouldn’t exploit men. It isn’t easy to be a stand-up guy in this day and age.

        • Jill H

          This is me being blunt Luke when I ask: is this judgmental, over-dramatized tirade meant to be taken seriously?

          I didn’t bother counting how many accusatory “you” comments made here. One too many.

          • Luke

            Well, yes, it was. Did I say something that wasn’t true? It was meant to counter the under-dramatized dismissal of a 21-year marriage. I’m trying to give a bit of an opposing viewpoint here. I understand where John is coming from, but nobody is talking about commitment or loyalty, and there seems rather a lot of self-indulgence. Maybe these relationships are failing because someone is giving them permission to fail, because someone is just giving up. And that is sad.

            What Martha did, as she described, was wrong. What the guy’s girlfriend did was wrong, unless maybe he just missed all her attempts to work with him. You’d think it wrong if someone did it to you. It fails even the simplest ethical test.

            As far as being judgmental, I’ll try to clarify: though I doubt either you or Martha will believe it I am not judging Martha, only what she wrote. I do not know her and I am sure that she is a more complex woman than she presents in that paragraph. Too, I am sure you could come up with a better way of pointing out the lack of expressed empathy in some other fashion, but that was the best I could do.

          • Luke

            You know, reading it again, you are right, Jill. I was too personal with it.

            I really am sorry Martha, I didn’t mean to be that hurtful.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

    John is so right. It sounds like the letter writer got lost in the relationship, trying to make it right, beautiful, perfect, lasting, yet forgot that relationships involve two people with different personalities, likes, dislikes, etc. When we lose ourselves in the relationship, we stop to think about who we are, or who they are.

    All relationships need space, time apart to allow each of us to be just who we are. All relationships also should expect and respect our individuality with allowances for each party to pursue individual interests.

    Then there is this, as a woman, I love being fawned over, back rubs, having dinner cooked for me, help around the house etc. But all the time? No. We women appreciate that our men are willing to help, and cater to our needs. However we also have no problems fixing dinner, taking a hot bath alone, surrounded by candles, listening to our choice of music, away from all people at the end of a tough work day. We like lunch with our friends, reading a book while our guys yell at the refs at the ballgame on tv. We have no qualms with letting you mow the yard, while we mop floors, or vice versa, if we are the outsidesee type of gal.

    We do not like people hovering over us . Ok, at times we do, basking in the attention. But all the time? Everyday? Hell no! We can perceive the continued, constant attention as being considered fragile and helpless by the other. Which we are not. It can bother us greatly, especially if we are an independent spirits to begin with, or are introverts who need those essential “no people” breaks from time to time. AND the constant attention can send a message that our partner is weak and needy, like a child who is trying just a bit too hard to please.

    Women like and want companionship, respect for our unique personas, someone we can trust, someone we know, will try to help us out and care for us as we need, just as we try to do for our partners.

    My spouse would spoil me rotten if I let him. I wouldn’t have to lift a finger if I chose. BUT what an unhealthy union that would be.

    • David S

      Sylvie – I think what you are saying is right, and I think it is true for both sexes.

      I think that relationships usually work best when we bring our whole messy selves to them. I’ve heard it expressed this way: Our goal should not be a 50/50 relationship, it should be 100/100. The whole, evasive trick is reaching some sort of homeostasis. Knowing when to share and when to listen. Knowing how to express anger and how to accept responsibility. Knowing when to be intimate and when to back off. It truly is a dance.

      Not everybody needs space – I have two couples in my life that live and work together; they are pretty much inseparable. That would never work for my husband and me… I adore him, but the result of that much together time would probably involve police tape and possibly chalk.

      • Diana A.

        “Murder, oh yes, but divorce, never!”?

        • Jill H

          It’s all about priorities. ;)

        • David S

          In the word (singular) of an extraordinarily wise writer/author/ blogger guy…HAR.

  • anonymous

    Thanks for the responses…can learn a lot

    • jesse

      This is one of the best things i have ever read:

      “Because loving someone is really close to loving them too much.”

      If i knew the letter writer (*cough cough*) and thought that they might be reading this (*cough cough*), i would say that that little sentence right there sums up everything i needed to say on the phone but couldn’t wrap my brain around.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        You’re her!

        • jesse

          Nope! i am the dude who directed the letter writer to contact you and your awesome fanbase. i’m also one of his only guy friends who didn’t automatically assume the girl in question was having an affair (mainly because i know her).

          P.S. English is actually his first and only language (well, unless you count Texan). And yes, he has a big ole brainpain.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            REALLY? So … he actually MEANT to say, “I listen to her vent about her day and I interact with her conversations? That is just off-the-charts interesting. Who says that? Seriously: how Data is that?

            Man. You know, for a while I thought I was going to focus my whole response on just that phrase: you could unpack that thing for days.

            Anyway, thanks for sending your friend my/our way.

          • jesse

            He can be pretty shy but i’d love for him to explain a bit more how his brainpan works. i’ll see if i can coax him into interacting with this conversation. ;)

          • jesse

            And yeah, totally Data-esque. Then again, Brent Spiner is from Houston, too, so maybe there’s some sort of cosmic connection going on.

          • Chris

            I’d like to hear his response (and hers for that matter) on John’s response.

            I’ve been in this situation before, and it wasn’t fun, and thankfully my wife and I have never had this separation, I think because we started out long distance. But we learn and we evolve, and both of them are going to be better people from the experience.

          • vj

            I’m guessing he was trying to convey that when she talks to him about stuff, he actually tries to listen and engage and have a 2-way conversation, instead of just pretending to listen? You know, in an [inter]active rather than passive way… Sometimes when one is trying to convey meaning in a concise but elegant way, phrases just come out like that ;-)

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Man, don’t I know it.

  • textjunkie

    yeah, 5 years with no fights or disagreements is not healthy. Someone was bottling up something…

  • Jeremy

    I hate this. I don’t disagree with what John said. It just seems like a high price to pay for a guy who was guilty of nothing more than working his ass off trying to make the woman he loves happy.

    As a guy it’s very confusing. You always hear about how women want to be appreciated, how much they love it when guys open doors for them, help around the house, ask them about their day, etc. And then suddenly it’s too much and you’ve lost them. It feels a bit like you’re damned if you, damned if you don’t.

    What makes it even more a kick in the teeth is when you see really nice women stay forever with abusive guys while the good guys get squashed like a grape for trying too hard.

    I’m not the one who wrote the letter, but I can understand where he’s confused and frustrated. If only we all had John’s great wisdom. :)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I actually really like the kind of exasperated honesty with which you here express yourself.

      But … really? So, one thought: read, over and over again, your statement “Women want you to help them around the house.” Stay with it until you hear something inside of you pop.

      • Jeremy

        Yeah, that was a bad choice of words. It’s a shared responsiblity. In the home I grew up in my mom did most of the work and always asked for more “help around the house”. Bad attempt at paraphrasing what the letter writer said he did to try to make the relationship a good one.

        Look, you’ve got a lot of really brilliant commenters on this site. I’m not one of them. I’ll just step out now and let the smart people talk.

        • Kaitlyn Murray

          In defense of myself (I won’t even presume to speak for all women) I can somewhat understand the female side of this issue. I’ve been in relationships before where it almost seemed as if my partner at the time was trying TOO hard, and it does leave you with a somewhat smothered feeling. I know it sounds unfair, and for that I’m truly sorry, but unfortunately it is true. My husband, however, seems to have found a balance. And that balance I’m sure is different for everyone, but I’ll give an example. My husband does hold doors for me (he actually gets exasperated if I don’t let him, ha ha), and pulls out chairs in restaurants. He takes care of me, but he doesn’t dote on me profusely. I take care of the house (not because I’m one of those unfortunate women who think they have to be submissive, but because I enjoy taking care of my family) and he works. Truth be told, he doesn’t help me around the house. And sometimes it’s frustrating, but it also makes me appreciate what he DOES do for me that much more.

          I know this all sounds like some really messed up logic. There are times I would love to wring my husband’s neck because I feel like he doesn’t do enough for me, and there are times where I couldn’t be more grateful for what he does do for me. And it kind of balances itself out. Now, I’m not saying treat a girl like crap half the time and like a queen the other half. I’m just saying that I can see where the woman is coming from, because I HAVE been smothered by TOO much doting.

          That being said, yes, I do also see where you, and he, are coming from. Looking at it from an outward angle does make it look like it’s pretty unfair to men. “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” I get it. And I’m sorry if this little ramble (which turned out much longer than I initially intended) leaves you even more confused about women. So really the best advice I have to offer is communicate. It’s more important than most people realize. If you can truly communicate with the woman you love, and the communicates honestly back, then you can gain a better understanding of her unique needs and wants, and adjust your behavior accordingly.

          Now I’m going to end this little ramble, because I think I’ve actually just made things more confusing. It made so much more sense in my head, before I typed it… :)

    • anonymous

      Thanks Jeremy…you can see how I am feeling. All my life my mom would tell me how I am supposed to treat a woman. The mushy love stories girls always seem to like show you that “perfect gentleman”…I guess I just took it to the extreme.

      I don’t understand why women say they want a “good man” but push them away for the “bad boys”

    • Elsa

      I am a “nice” person, always treat a boyfriend or partner well etc., and one of the biggest shocks I’ve ever had was the day I understood that being nice was not what made me attractive to a guy, nor what would keep them with me.

      For awhile if freaked me out, and I wondered what hope there was for me, and how I could ever “keep” a guy in my life, if it wasn’t by treating him well. Or at least how I could ever keep a guy that I wanted, in my life.

      Then I talked to an old friend, who said, “Are you kidding? I did not fall in love with you all those years ago because you were NICE! I did not keep coming back day after day because you were NICE, I didn’t love you all of those years because you were NICE. Lots of people are NICE.” The idea being that it is who you ARE that attracts people. Of course, treating them well is expected, it should be a given, absolutely, but that is not what is attractive, or it is not the whole thing. What is the whole thing, is a mystery, not something you can bottle or prescribe.

      If you want to know why women stay so long with abusive men, it’s because they weave a sticky web. John wrote an ebook about it – you can find it on this page somewhere.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gwendolyn.drake.3 Gwendolyn Drake via Facebook

    Absolutely true!!!!!

  • Charles Austin Miller via Facebook

    It means she wants to go shopping.

  • Pat Hux via Facebook

    If you love something, let it go.

  • Jill H

    It’s official. If I ever grow up, I want to be as wise as John.

  • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

    When I first read this, I wanted to ask if the guy has an available twin. :P My husband does not respect me, thanks to his being raised by an NPD father and a mother who just takes it. (Yes, I married my mother, basically. It sucks, but at least I understand it now.) We are together for convenience right now and are helping each other through. Staying is all I can do at the moment due to my own emotional issues and my career goals.

    Then I thought some more about this letter and the journey that I’ve taken over the past year or so. I’ve decided that I am an artist, and that I’ve always been one. That I have been indoctrinated to think so poorly of myself that I am unworthy of any wishes or wants at all, whether they be deep or fleeting. This is what I am working on, actually learning to honor myself. My husband does want the best for both of us, but his default is asshole. He is really trying, though, I have to give him credit. He listens when I explain and he tries to work it out in his head why asshole is wrong and what he should have said/done.

    Anyway, I, like most artists, have discovered that I am highly sensitive to *everything*. Well, I always knew that, but now I am going with it instead of telling myself that I am delusional and wrong. I can smell dog poop down the street. I can hear him snoring on the other side of the house. This brings me to my point. I need space. LOTS of it. I need a bedroom to myself, and cannot sleep with another person. Ideally I’d want my own wing of the house. This is all stuff I have discovered in the past year since I started learning to honor myself, thank you, God and Jesus Christ.

    So maybe your girlfriend is on a similar journey. If this is the case, she will be a butterfly when she emerges from her cocoon. Let her become that butterfly, it is what God intended her to be. And at that point, if she wants to try again, you will need to know whether you, yourself, want to be with a butterfly, or whether you’d rather be with a moth, grasshopper, or fly.

  • M

    John’s advice is great.

    I want to add that it isn’t amazingly good of a person in a relationship to use good manners and do their share of housework. That’s the minimum standard for healthy people who live together, regardless of the relationship.

    It sort of seemed that this guy was trying to fill a role, instead of being himself. People who do that also seem to try to wedge other people into roles, which can feel smothering.

    • anonymous

      maybe I was trying to fill a role….didn’t feel like it. Many times I did feel guilty.

      My job offered me the chance to sit at a computer for at least half of my day. Her job required her to be on her feet and deal with mean customers everyday. I liked rubbing her feet everynight. I liked doing more around the house and helping her out however I could, because I would see people take advantage of her..and her being too shy and not wanting conflict..she would let it happen. I felt like she deserved more and better…so I tried to give it to her.

      • Chris

        Maybe the situation is more complex than both you and John think. People are very complex and have a lot of varying reasons for their behavior. Of course, we won’t know what’s going through her mind until she’s ready to say.

  • anonymous

    Thanks for all of the responses. Just to clarify…English is my first (and only) language….I apologize for my lack of proper wording. I am an artist and my brain works differently when it comes to words.

    I will listen to your wisdom and try to work on it. I did push myself, and my life on her…until it pushed her away. I did not know how to handle these kind of feelings…so strong that it shook me inside. I guess part of me always thought she felt the same way.

    I do know communication was one of the main problems…but I did not know she was not communicating until it was too late. Or maybe I just didn’t understand her form of communication?

    We talked all the time. About how we felt, about our other relationships and what happened in them. About our likes and dislikes. I always thought it was strange that we never fought (not physical)….but any time either one of us disagreed…we sat and talked it out until we came to a conclusion (so I thought) (I am a little stubborn, but never have a problem openly admitting I am wrong or trying my best to see the other persons side)

    Interacting with her conversations: I have seen so many guys sit there “listening” to their partner, I am guilty of it as well with past partners…but 5 minutes later, ask them what was being talked about and they look dumbfounded. I actually enjoyed listening to her talk…I was truely interested in what she had to say (which was new and weird to me). You ask me today what we talked about 2 weeks ago…and I could tell you.

    So many people sit and listen and nod their head like a “bobble” toy. I would ask questions about the topic, I would give opinions….I interacted! Not forced….but actually enjoyed. It was like talking to a great friend. And she did the same with me.

    Little did I know, there was and still is supposedly, a lot she is not telling me.

    Being ourselves: Maybe we had too much in common. I never lost myself or my interest. I am an artist, I paint, sketch, write music, carve leather and create things. She is an artist, she paints, sketches, sings and creates things.

    We both enjoy the outdoors and photography. We love most of the same movies. We like the same foods.

    But we do have our differences as well. I like military movies and documentaries, she likes love stories and disney. I listen to odd music and sometimes Rap…she likes folk music and disney songs (anything she can sign along to). Recently I got into guns and shooting at the range…I love it, but it was not something she liked at all. When she told me how much it bother her…I stopped.

    A couple of weeks ago, I did learn about a BIG difference with us. During one of our sessions, it came out about being alone. One of my biggest fears in life is to be alone, to live alone, to die alone. I crave companionship. I look forward to coming home everyday and having someone there to talk to or just know they are there. The times of my life when I lived alone, were my darkest times. No motivation, deep depression, no want to go talk and hangout with people. I had not painted in over 7 years, when we got together, she was my Muse. I have painted over 30 paintings and started sketching again all the time.

    And it is not so much having to be right there with the person every minute of everyday…it is just knowing they are in your life. That is a very comforting feeling for me. She could be upstairs with the door closed or out with the girls for the night…but I knew she was “there”.

    She on the other hand stated that she is perfectly happy being alone. Has no fear of living alone, dieing alone. She can come home to an “empty” house and be calm and comfortable. I never knew that about her.

    After several failed relationships, some longer than this one, to be so happy was unbelievable. And I can see now that I smothered her and crowded her. I was so happy that I just kept pushing. Looking back through past relationships, my need for companionship causes me to make choices that are not good for me…but they fill that “void”. This was not the first time we were together…kinda. We meet over 13 years ago and we had a spark for each other right then. I feel in love. As cheesy as it might sound, I knew…right when I met her, I knew she was my soulmate. Even my friends can tell you, they saw how immediatly smitten I was. But things did not let us get together completely at that time…she got scared and pushed me away… I ended up in a relationship with someone else who loved me and charished me for over 7 years…but for me it was just filling the void of loneliness. I had every chance to do all the things I wanted out of a relationship…get married, start a family..etc. but I knew she was not the one. That ended badly and once again I feel into depression..until my Lady X stalked me….literally stalked me! I started getting messages on an art forum from an unknown that had a great interest in me…finally she revealed herself after getting banded from the sight for “stalking” and it was like a million sparkles of light hitting me at once….lighting my life like never before.

    I guess the hardest part of this for me right now is knowing that…that kind of love is a once in a lifetime love…and I squeezed so hard to keep it, that I lost it forever. I have no plans of trying to find that again (I don’t think it exsist but once for everyone)…I will fall into my usual pattern and find someone to fill that void. Being marginally happy…or at least ok with things is better than living alone and thinking about what you lost.

    Thank you for all of the responses…. I see my faults. Loving too much is TOO MUCH!

    But a question: When you love someone with every fiber of your heart and soul, how do you learn to love them LESS as to not lose them?

    • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

      I salute you for being able to be the artist you are. It seems to me, though, that you do not believe in yourself. You believe in her, that her powers are what makes you able to be successful and loved and whole.

      I think this is the problem. You say that you will be marginally happy living alone. That’s not right at all!!!

      Codependency is when people live for each other instead of themselves. Don’t do that. It feels right, but such behavior will hurt yourself and others very deeply in the end. I recommend the book “Codependent No More”. It helped me a lot. http://www.amazon.com/Codependent-No-More-Controlling-Yourself/dp/0894864025

      • anonymous

        I do understand codependency. And I do realize I am codependent. I am not happy living alone….I fill the void of loneliness by getting into relationships that I know will never go far…but at least I have someone in my life. It is not fair to them and it is not fair to myself. But fear can be very powerful.

        • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

          Just take one step at a time, brother. One step out of old habits at a time. Ask God to guide you and grab your hand when you fall. You’ll be amazed at how your world will change.

          Your girlfriend has given you the most loving, greatest gift by separating from you at this point. Eventually you will come to understand that. :)

          If someone were to tell me about my life and mindset now even three years ago, I would have told them they were writing science fiction.

          • anonymous

            I have always had a believe in God. I make my silent prayers almost everyday. Last night was extremely difficult and I sat up in the middle of the night and started praying…I asked God for direction for the first time in 2 decades and for once in my life it felt like I got an answer. I was told to go to her and wrap her in my arms. Now I feel even more confused…since all she wants is for me to leave her alone.

            Was it really God telling me or was it just my inner self wanting to be with her?

          • Chris

            There’s a time to every purpose under heaven. Maybe it was time to let go, but likewise there will be a time to embrace again. I hope you two can work out this situation in time; if not, then you’ll both have learned something from it all.

          • jesse

            “Was it really God telling me or was it just my inner self wanting to be with her?”

            i feel it is a little of both. You can “wrap her in your arms” without doing so in a physical manner. You can wrap her in the arms of prayer, of love, of a genuine desire for her to be truly happy in her life, even if it’s not with you.

            As she said, let her go and hope she comes back. Build your own life, surround yourself with your friends and family, go to the range to let off steam, continue creating your amazing artwork, and know that you ARE a good person. You have already taken a big step forward by recognising that it was too much. The best thing you can do is not make the same mistake again.

            Oh, and never “settle” when it comes to matters of the heart. You’ll only do yourself and your partner a grave disservice. You both deserve so much better than that.

            *hugs*

          • Chris

            What Jesse said…

          • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

            Jesse is right on. Send her love and light in your thoughts, and focus on yourself right now.

          • anonymous

            When she told me to let her go and hope she comes back…it was in part to a reference of that last time she pushed me away…she said “see, I found you again”… but now after living together in a much more intimate way..and knowing that she has a tendency to stray after a few years…do I really want to put myself through that again….to possibly be left again? Part of me is screaming…just wait for her and she will come back to you…The other part of me is saying yeah..but for how long before she hurts you again.

            In my 20s and 30s being single sucked….now in my 40s..being single is scary …..

          • http://breatheinred.com Heather Brist

            You seem like a lost soul or more of a searching soul. Depending on her and using her as your muse only forced you to live in a place where you would not be able to survive without her. By her stepping back for a little bit gives you the opportunity to find you. Women are happy when their man wants them and doesn’t need them. So, allow her to see that you want her but don’t need her. Allow her to see you alone and still able to find happiness. Don’t rush off to another relationship to fill the void, as you said. Allow her to see that you both can live independently and also (if the time comes) live happily together. Discover a new muse not in a woman but in yourself.

          • Anonymous2

            Anonymous… I feel for you. I am in a very similar situation but alas, I am on the other side of the situation. I am the “muse” to my man, my love, my artist. But his feelings of loving me are too much. Too intense. I feel that we are connected but it has turned into an unhealthy connection. If I am not “on” and giving him full attention, he sinks into depression.

            I am digging the fact that you are reaching out to God for guidance. I’m building a better relationship with God myself these days.

            Now… what I really want to convey is the notion of a 12-step based program called Celebrate Recovery. It is designed for us Christians that can use a bit of help breaking our old hurts & habits. It is not strictly about alcohol or drug abuse… but about recognizing the aspects of ourselves that are making our lives difficult and unmanageable.

            Being a part of CR helps me see how what I do affects those around me.

            It will help you answer your own question”When you love someone with every fiber of your heart and soul, how do you learn to love them LESS as to not lose them?”

            Just my take… your reaching out & discussing this will do wonders for your future healing.

            God bless.

          • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

            Yes, what Jesse said! Definitely start going to the range again and find some fun activities. Join up with a theater group if you have the slightest interest. They need talented artists for set design and construction–I bet you’d have fun and meet some cool people. Your house doesn’t need to be a lonely trap–let it be where you eat and sleep and take off on adventures from. Get out there, young man. :)

          • anonymous

            Thanks Nicole… “your house doesn’t need to be a lonely trap”… I was the one that had to move out. I have no home as of yet. This is also a huge financial hit to me. We decided years ago that we would live off of what I make and she would put hers into savings for us to have as a nest egg / start a small business with… Now I am left with nothing but my clothes and a few other articles, and having to bounce around from friends house to friends house until I can get back on my feet. I have joined up with a few local art groups. But it is hard since art was one of the main things we had in common.

    • Allie

      I think it’s important to remember that she never said if you loved her less you wouldn’t lose her. That’s people here saying that, that’s not her words. You may love her less, more, or just enough, and still lose her, because there are no guarantees she wants to be with you.

    • Luke

      Lots of good advice. Let me add this: your story is a good example of why “Soul-mate” is a horribly destructive concept, even or especially the Christian person-God-meant-just-for-me version. Whoever told you that there is only one person out there for you and love is once-in-a-lifetime chance was totally full of crap. I know you are an artist, but you shouldn’t be a character in some cheap melodrama.

      I know people in arranged marriages who are happy with the arrangement. There is something to be said for it. It might be better to start with a friend and build love from that, and not the sappy Hollywood / romance-novel type, but the deep abiding love for the other person as they are. That an act of will and a labor of a lifetime. You absolutely should avoid the million-sparkles-of-light thing. That is infatuation, it isn’t healthy, and it never lasts.

      (As an aside, I was totally smitten with my first love in high-school, melodrama at all. She was a good friend and confidant, but she wasn’t really interested enough to keep it going long distance. We exchanged a couple letters as friends, but not in the last 20 years. Looking back, it was for the best. We were far too immature.

      I actually did experience love at first sight once, sort of. I met this woman at a casual social event and well, wow! That’s the only time I ever saw her. I remember her face, but not her name. For all I know she was a lesbian — I’ve never been able to spot one.

      My wife and I have different recollections of when we met, a couple months apart.)

      As far as your flown butterfly, it is probably best to let her go forever and move on. Let yourself be a little angry, it will be good for you, but forgive her too. I don’t think you should get back with her unless you are both willing to commit to communicating, working out your issues together, sticking together no matter what, and allowing each person to be fully themselves.

    • Ann

      “But a question: When you love someone with every fiber of your heart and soul, how do you learn to love them LESS as to not lose them?”

      You…stop worrying about losing them? And stop thinking about losing them?

      I mean, for me, I love my boyfriend very much, but I am not dependent on him for anything. I have my own life and my own hobbies apart from him. I have my own friends and family, so I have love, support, and companionship apart from him. I have my own income, so I can support myself. I’ve lived by myself before and handled my own affairs, so I would not worry about finding shelter or running my life if he were to leave. So, if my boyfriend left, I would still miss him terribly and mourn the death of the relationship, but that would be the extent of the impact on me.

      In other words, I’m self-sufficient. Really. My boyfriend is also self-sufficient like that.

      I would not have it any other way. I know that since my boyfriend is not dependent on me for anything, the only reason he stays is that he loves me and enjoys my company. See? I never have to wonder whether he loves me back.

      This brings us to the whole goal of the exercise– for you and the other person to live the happiest life possible.

      Now, you, on the other hand. I feel like for you, the goal is to find someone, love them intensely, and then cling to this person for ever and ever. First, it was “How can I make sure that I’m doing everything possible for this person to love me (subtext: because if I do, they won’t leave me?)” Now it’s “How can I love someone less (subtext: because if I love them too much, they’ll leave me) but not love them too much less (subtext: because if I don’t love them enough, they’ll leave me?)”

      Just stop making whether the person will leave you or not the main focus of your efforts. That crosses the line from “love and affection” into “creepy and controlling.” It sounds like you have no concept of the idea of someone’s love stemming from the fact that they’re an independent person and love you back on your own merits, or, if you do, that you can’t stand the fact that it’s almost entirely out of your control. Instead, you’re all about trying to find a way to make their love dependent on your actions, by trying to suss out a set of behaviors that will make them love you so much they won’t leave you.

      Just stop it. Just get comfortable with the idea of letting them be who they want to be.

  • Chris

    Why am I so awful curious to hear her side of the story? There are always two sides to every story; hearing her perspective would shed quite a bit of light on the whole mess.

    • anonymous

      I agree…and I would love to hear her side. Even if it meant more hurt for me…I want her to let it out and talk. She has said that these feelings keep coming back with every relationship she has every had…after 3-5 years…she feels trapped and smothered and just runs. She runs away from it until it just “goes away” (her words). I know and she knows, that she needs help to figure this out. But she is not motivated to get help by herself and refuses help from anyone else.

      • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

        She doesn’t need help. She doesn’t need to “figure this out.” She’s not broken and she doesn’t need to be fixed. She’s an introvert who wants to be alone. Leave her alone.

        She needs to build her own life. She shouldn’t attempt to build a relationship with anyone else until she can be happy, sufficient and satisfied on her own–to know, believe, and accept that she owns her life and no one else has a claim to it.

        She’s probably thinking she’s supposed to be this paragon of loving, supportive wife and therefore has completely pushed her own wants and dreams away. You can’t do that forever without becoming a broken person or just exploding with the need to be free from the responsibility of making sure the other person’s needs are met.

        Stop pushing her to explain herself. Are you still doing that? Stop it! That only makes it worse…your NEED to have an explanation is a terrible burden to her. She can’t put it into words, she only knows how she feels. Get over it.

        LET HER GO. Don’t call her. Don’t need her. Get on with your own life.

        • Chris

          No need to be angry, Nicole; I think he gets it now. I was personally just curious what the other side would have to say, as it’s hard to judge the whole story without hearing from both parties. Doesn’t necessarily mean she should, especially if she has no desire to.

          I’m pretty sure she’ll at least give him some closure on her own time; no one logically just walks out after five years, not unless the relationship was a nightmare.

          • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

            My apologies. I ran in here with only time to read a few comments and hadn’t read down further.

            My post was a gut reaction because I have been in that position. The LW asked what she meant and then in his post seemed to be pressing her for an explanation that would make sense to him. From my own experience, I can honestly say that an introvert who avoids conflict will eventually simply have to get away. It is an avoidance of telling the other person the truth (which will probably cause pain and we’re not allowed to cause pain unless we’re a bad person) and a need to just be still, quiet, unresponsible and free from it all. It’s actually kind of a break down. Instead of fight, it’s flight.

            Again, sorry for my tone…I just totally identify with the LW’s wife. I know he loves her and is simply at a loss.

          • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

            I know exactly where you’re coming from, Nicole.

            One of the things I am working on is that it’s okay to “hurt” people when you are standing up for your own rights. If you do not, you are basically living the fact that it’s okay for you to be hurt, but not okay for anyone else to be hurt. You are sacrificing your own needs for everyone else’s.

            Face it, some people will be hurt no matter what we do in life. We must not let that stop us from treating ourselves well.

          • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

            Tis very true. Thank you. :)

          • SugarMags

            Nicole, I think you’re mixing up two issues here, but I do understand what you’re saying. An introvert needs alone time to survive and to be happy. I know — I am one. Being around people for too much time, no matter how much I love them, sucks the life out of me. I have to recharge alone. But that’s not the same as wanting to avoid conflict. Conflict avoidance and the “I can’t cause pain because that would make me a bad person” are something I am also personally familiar with. But those are negative relationship patterns that anyone, introvert or extravert, can fall into because of a variety of past experiences and “family of origin” issues. To equate the two and say that “we” introverts are afraid of causing anyone pain is like trying to connect brown hair and the ability to dance.

            I agree that this woman needs to figure herself out, and has kept too much bottled up. But to assume she is therefore an introvert is a pretty big leap. Maybe she is, maybe not….it really doesn’t matter.

            If this was *just* introversion speaking, her “I need space” would make perfect sense. But she would do it in the context of maintaining the relationship. Something like, “I need to go shopping alone once a week and not worry what time I get back. Please don’t worry, I just need some time alone to recharge.” or “I love you, but I have to have some time to myself every day or I will implode.”

            This woman wrote a Dear John letter to the man she’s been with for five years, and told him to move out. That’s not introversion, that’s something very wrong.

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  • mike moore

    I think you’ve nailed it.

  • Mary June Rose via Facebook

    IMO, clearly she’s an introvert (I am one, too). Alone is a nice word to us. I think he should google the “distancer/pursuer relationship” and read about it. He can see that what happened isn’t all that unusual, and it is somewhat logical when you can remove yourself from it and look at it from the outside in.

  • Graham Ward via Facebook

    And surely it’s not just a girl thing? When I say “I need space” I mean “I need space”. I don’t mean “I don’t love you” or “I’m seeing someone else”, I just mean that I need to have time to be myself, in my own company. I agree with Mary June. It screams introvert to me too (it takes one to know one…).
    There may also be issues from past relationships. I sometimes find it very hard to accept that I am worthy of another’s love – when previous relationships have left me finding it hard enough to love myself.
    A confessed fear of conflict also rings true – no fights? no disagreements? In five years? Is that true love, or simply evidence that one or both parties is willing to do anything to avoid an argument?

  • http://www.facebook.com/elena.porcelli Elena Porcelli via Facebook

    I usually mean: I need another wardrobe for my clothes

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    My husband has what he likes to call a “higher than usual tolerance for being alone.” In other words, he needs his down time. So do I.

    For all the ‘friends’ who are trying to read something into her statement that she needs her space, tell them to STFU. Expect that your partner is being honest with you when she says this, and know that she means exactly what she says. Every person is different and many people are driven by needs they often don’t understand. You mention below that you don’t understand codependency but that you acknowledge that you are codependent.

    In short, codependency means that you feel responsible for the well being and happiness of another person to the exclusion of your own needs. Granted that a letter cannot convey the daily reality of a relationship, but it sounds to me as if you are heavily invested in making your partner happy. There’s nothing wrong with doing something nice for your partner, for being a listener and an active sharer of household duties. But what is your motivation for doing those things? If you ask many codependents how they feel about being left by their ex, they often respond “But I did so much for you!! I gave you everything! How dare you stop loving me!” If the motivation to give is the desire to create a sense of indebtedness in your partner, you are missing something vital.

    No relationship is guaranteed to last forever. You can do all the “right” things and still have someone fall out of love with you. People are ever-changing, ever growing. Life circumstances, beliefs, wants, needs — all of these things are a work in progress. Sometimes leaving a relationship doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a good relationship – but that the person needs something different.

    I love my husband. I’d grieve terribly if he decided to leave me. But if he left, that would be his decision to make and I would have to let him make it, and pick up the pieces and move on, however long or painful that process may be. If he left and then came back, I would have a choice as to whether I wanted to open myself up to being hurt again — as you have outlined in your responses to comments here. Know that *any* relationship carries with it the power to cause you pain. That is part of the beauty of having any relationship. It feels wonderful, but it is not guaranteed.

    I am sorry that you are hurting so much. There’s nothing wrong with hurting, with grieving, with wondering what might have gone differently. I would suggest that rather than concentrate on what she is thinking or needing, you follow John’s advice and start concentrating on you and what you think/feel/need. You are a whole person, you don’t need to have a partner or a wife in order to be validated in your existence.

    I highly recomment “How to be an Adult in Relationships” by David Richo. I read that book after my divorce, and it helped me understand a lot more about what constitutes a healthy adult relationship, and to understand the needs that often drive unhealthy behavior. He offers some practical exercises you can undertake to begin the process of thinking about yourself in a more healthy way.

    Best wishes to you, letter writer. You will make it through this, whether your partner comes back or not. Concentrate on yourself for now and let her journey be her own. If nothing else, you are giving her the respect she deserves as an adult to make her own decisions.

    • jesse

      Tiny clarification:

      “I do understand codependency. And I do realize I am codependent. ”

      He does understand it and knows that he is a codependent person.

  • jesse

    Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who took the time to read, weigh in, and interact with this conversation (*winks to John*). There is only so much that a friend can offer in the way of insight and advice. Sometimes it’s best to have some outside perspective from folks who do not have pre-existing knowledge of the situation and people involved and might therefore be a bit biased, however unintentionally.

    This is truly one of the best gatherings of people i know of and i have read some incredibly sound and witty advice here for a long, long time. i knew this would be the best place to refer the letter writer and you guys did not let me down.

    God bless you all!

    - jesse

    • Chris

      You, too, Jesse. I’m sure you’ll give the man a hand, a drink (soda if he doesn’t like alcohol), and plenty of games and/or terrible movies to riff.

      • boy jesse

        Thank you, Chris!

        Sadly, we no longer live in the same city but we have both recently re-connected and i plan to be far more ‘visible’ now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Jones/50402231 Chris Jones via Facebook

    It’s hard to judge since we only have a small glimpse of what the other party’s perspective is. But when she decides to answer, I’m sure she’ll give him either the explanation or closure he needs; one does not simply walk out of a five year relationship without a logical, rational purpose.

  • Don Rappe

    Truly John, you ARE Dear Abby of the 21′st. Probably some sort of copyright infringement. And dear Mr. Anonymous, you have clearly stated yourself that which you must do. Learn to be (live) alone. Until you can do this, you are not a good partner to anyone. Now, you have another wonderful opportunity to do this. Do not USE another person as your muse.

  • http://www.faithpermeatinglife.com Jessica @ Faith Permeating Life

    What this makes me think is: What I want in a partner is not the same as what I want in a well-trained dog.

    That is, I want someone who wants to please me… but is not desperate to please me.

  • roger flyer

    Never dreamed I would be quoting from Sting, but here goes.

    “Free, free set them free. Free, free, set them free.”

    (With apologies to all my songwriting heroes.)

  • Allie

    As a woman I think it’s a safe bet “I need space” means she’s having an affair. Her refusal to give any reasons for her conduct clinches it. Why would she tell you the truth?

    Maybe it means “I’m not having an affair but I want to.”

    Maybe it means “I’m not having an affair and there’s no one out there but you are so boring in the sack that I cry my eyes out thinking of when sex used to be good.”

    The one GUARANTEE is that when a woman says she isn’t telling you something in order to spare your feelings, you can trust that whatever it is would hurt your feelings. Why do that to yourself?

    I’m very sorry this happened to you, and it sucks that there were no warning signs. But not everything is something you can fix. It really, really hurts to know that even if you knew exactly what she wanted you could never be the one to give it to her, but I think you’re going to have to accept that.

  • otter

    Maybe she’s trying to figure out what to do with the feelings she has for women???

    Just sayin’ . Plenty of women have gone this route before..

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    “She told me that she feels smothered and trapped…and that she needs space.

    “What exactly does it mean when a woman says she ‘needs space’?”

    What does it mean when somebody says, “You’re standing on my foot — get off!”?

  • Laura

    Ok…five years in a relationship that you say has been wonderful. If it has been so wonderful, why haven’t you got married? As a woman who has been in one of these five year relationships before, I have to tell you that five years is too long to spend “deciding.” If you don’t know after a year then it might not be as good as you think. Passion, excitement, the newness of exploration all fade a bit in every relationship. My hubby and I got married after 6 months, ten years ago. Our relationship has normal ups and downs, and I love him and I would hate to live without him…but I would if I had to. The thing is, we both knew (about a month into dating), that we were the ones for each other. We wanted to commit to each other, to being a team…to having babies…and to growing old together. Ten years on, the honeymoon is over, but the love and commitment and sexual passion is still there. There is a sort of dance that we do, sometimes apart and sometimes together, toward a common future. Any space I need I get in my art studio, and him in his music studio….but always we sleep in the same bed in our house, with our children snoring in near by rooms….FIVE YEARS is too long to decide…

    • Ann

      I don’t agree that five years is necessarily too long. I’ve been a part of many relationships (friendships, mentorships, romantic relationships) which seemed great at the start, but did not last. But, if any of them were going to fail, they failed in the first three years or so. If I’m going to commit to spending the rest of my life with someone, I think it’s a reasonable idea to wait a couple more years so you don’t find later that you were making a huge mistake. I think this is doubly true for young people who are still maturing in some sense, where the person who is right for the person they are now now may not be the person who is right for the person they are in five years.

      • SugarMags

        I agree with Ann. Lots of marriages that started out great fail in three to five years. Laura is very blessed to have found someone to connect with and had it work out so wonderfully. But there are lots of life experiences to go through together that don’t happen in less than three years. You need to be around a person long enough to know that they are really, really, really right for you, and go through lots of various life situations together. You need to see how the other person responds to stress, to annoyances, to kids, to parents…I just don’t think you can learn enough about MOST people in less than three years to really fully know them. Now if you get someone who’s awesome, then yes…they will really still be the same person in 3-5 years as they were at 6 mos when you decided you were “right” for each other. But that’s not true of everyone. Lots of really jerky people can keep up a good front for 6 mos to a year. Speaking from experience here.

    • anonymous

      5 years to me is a long time as well. I knew right away when we meet..she was the one I wanted to spend my life with and grow old together. She always said she wanted to marry me, but wanted to wait. She never gave me the impression that she didn’t want to marry me…but that 4-5 years was what she felt comfortable with. She had been married once before and it ended badly.

      For me, the passion never ended or got stale…and I can only speak about what she would tell me…that it was exciting for her as well. We were always trying new things and learning more about each other.

      I never had a clue to her being unhappy or “smothered”…. She would always smile and wrap her arms around me. If at any time she would have said she needed space to “breath” I would have gladly given it to her….But everything she showed to me was that she loved being loved.

      I had my own things that I went and did…my own interest. But we both agreed that it was much more enjoyable together. We liked sharing all of life’s experiences. Once again I can only say on her part, what she would tell me herself.

      Not having fights or arguments did seem strange from an outside point of view…but I never found anything to be mad about. And when she would bring up something she didn’t like (put my cloths in the hamper not on the floor) I would change that. Not get mad.

      We had a very passionate love life. Never boring or routine. And I paid very close attention to what she would want. And I would tell her want I wanted.

      • Chris

        Glad to see you’re still posting on here. I hope this discussion is helping you. But yeah, keep us updated and let us know how all this turns out.

      • Ruthie

        It sounds to me like you are being a bit smothering, but it also sounds to me like she has trouble communicating that to you. I would take John’s advice and write her a letter or a card since that seems to be her preferred form of communication and explain that you were surprised and unsure what the problem was at first, that upon asking for advice you were told you were probably being too smothering and needy, and that you realize that now and want to respect her wishes and give her space. Keep it short; this is not the way to work out all of your problems and feelings, it’s just a way to let her know what your reactions are.

        I know if I asked a guy for space and he respected my wish, I would be much more inclined to work things out with him because he showed that he respected me enough to do what I asked.

        That’s just me, though, so it may not be the way she’d react, but it sounds like you’re a direct person communication-wise rather than an indirect-person, so you are inclined to take her words as exactly what they mean. If she is an indirect-communicator and you’re a direct communicator that’s a difficult problem to overcome because from your perspective she doesn’t tell you what she wants so you have to guess out of nowhere and from her perspective you are constantly rude and ignoring her and forcing her to be rude to you which makes her feel bad. It may be better, in that case, to find a partner whose communication style matches yours better.

        Good luck either way!

        • Chris

          I just hope they’re able to reconnect sooner than later, whether to get back together or say a proper goodbye.

        • Matt

          Although there are numerous comments that have been extremely helpful in my present situation, Ruthie’s response was spot on. Thank you Ruthie.

          This is what really opened my eyes: “explain that you were surprised and unsure what the problem was at first, that upon asking for advice you were told you were probably being too smothering and needy, and that you realize that now and want to respect her wishes and give her space. Keep it short; this is not the way to work out all of your problems and feelings, it’s just a way to let her know what your reactions are.

          I know if I asked a guy for space and he respected my wish, I would be much more inclined to work things out with him because he showed that he respected me enough to do what I asked.”

          I have started a relationship with someone I’ve been talking to and seeing for about 2 months. We’ve been in a relationship only 3 weeks now but before we committed to each other we decided to take a trip to Montreal for 6 days (I had already planned my trip prior to meeting her – simply asked her to come along.

          When we returned I was told there would be a party she would be going to that her ex would be at and since it was being thrown by her best friend and things were new between us and the breakup fresh with the ex, it would probably be best that I do not attend this party. I shut down when I was told this information and instead of communicating what was on my mind I became silent for most of the night with a sad and miserable look on my face. This was not my intention but unfortunately was how I reacted. Since then she has been telling me that was too intense. On the Friday before the party (Saturday) I was asked to meet her parents on Sunday, which although I was nervous, I was ready because this girl means a lot to me. Even though it was soon and maybe people consider it a big step, I didn’t think of it this way. I asked what wine I should pick up and Saturday she suggested white of any kind and not to worry as she was sure I would pick a good wine. Sunday afternoon while I was covering a shift for a coworker during a stressful day I was told that she wasn’t feeling well and thought that it was too soon. She said she knew it was her idea but was nervous and hesitant about the whole situation and said sorry. When I called her to discuss this it seemed like something else was bothering her. I first asked if we were still hanging out regardless of the cancelled ‘meeting the parents’. I was told that she wasn’t in the mood. I stupidly pushed further and asked if the meeting her parents was the only thing she was unsure of.

          Please note I was told during the party that her ex did not show up and that I could breathe. Although I had been worried I told her that I had been breathing the whole time. She responded with “not worried at all, huh?”. I found that a bit childish but realized she was drunkish so tried not to read into it that much.

          During that conversation she had expressed that she jumped into a relationship too quickly and wasn’t sure if she was ready. She then began to say that she thinks she needs time/space and that we just need to take a step back. She is extremely open with me so I asked her if this means she wants us to see other people (I was trying to give her an out in the case that that is what she really wanted). She responded that no, she is not interested in other people and that she went through dating multiple people at the same time, which was fun, yet not what she wanted right now. It seems she has taken a step back and thinks she doesn’t know who I really am because this is all so fresh. I unfortunately went with my gut and called her back a few hours later because I was worried just to be answered with an annoyed tone of voice on the other end. Now that I’ve read a lot on the topic, I realize that was wrong and space is just what she needs.

          I’ve asked advice from friends and family and have gotten so many different responses.

          1. She has gotten back with her ex/slept with him/thinking she still has feelings about him and doesn’t know how to tell me either because she’s unsure and wants to be sure about this before she tells me or simply does not want to hurt my feelings.

          2. Regardless of her ex, she just wants a way out and is preparing you to be dumped.

          3. She just needs some space to decide what she wants and whether or not she is willing to work things out with me.

          As I step back, I realize that I was being clingy and trying too hard. I hope I haven’t pushed her away. I am willing to give her space and try to work through things and attempt to be less needy, clingy and smothering. Since this conversation there have been a few texts back and forth. Nothing about the relationship.

          Points:

          - The dinner with her parents was Sunday. I was told on Friday that she misses me and messaged me during the party to ask how my night was going. Sunday at about 1pm I got the message that she was cancelling dinner.

          - She told me a week before that she thinks this is meant to be and that she is falling in love with me. She told me she felt vulnerable saying these things but that’s how she felt.

          - We have also expressed that we never got along with someone so well, that we’ve both never had such an incredible first date (she expressed this first), second, third, etc…

          - She also expressed that although she promised herself that she wouldn’t get into a relationship for a while because she spent a lot of her past in long term relationships, she wanted this because she couldn’t say no to someone that she got along with so well and felt it was meant to be.

          To make a point for myself – Yes. I write a lot. I apologize :P

          I have some questions…but I’m writing them out here more for myself than to get an answer if that makes sense.

          1. How much time should I give her?

          2. At what point should I respect myself enough to give up?

          3. If she says she wants to take a step back, still talk and go out and get to know more about each other and slowly, should I take this as a good sign that she wants to work things out?

          4. If I am to bring up our relationship, when would be a good time to do it? I may talk to her on the phone during the week or see her this weekend (still up in the air) but I was planning on just having fun and talking about normal stuff and not bringing up her need to take space/time. Is this a good plan or should I go right into communication about our relationship?

          5. Should I take everything she says as truth when discussing these things? I’m just worried she’s saying what she’s saying not to hurt me.

          Trust me, I know I come off as someone who thinks too much and to be honest, I do think too much and it usually ruins a lot of situations. I am trying not to be this way with her from hereon in, but must apologize to the readers of this hoping it will just end :p

          To those who read/respond, thank you. Although for some odd reason I wrote this out for myself (I don’t have a diary and don’t plan on getting one :p)

          • Elizabeth

            The ‘I need space’ statement. It never clarifies — hurry the fuck up, there are people who love you out here. It sounds like you’re doing just fine. My first boyfriend went Buddhist. He says, everyone will let you down and you will let everyone down. That forgiveness really helped me.

          • Allie

            Had no idea it was you we were talking about the whole time :)

            I don’t have any easy answers, just that I personally really hate games-playing and this whole bullshit scenario would be a deal-breaker for me. Your tolerance of wishy-washy “I don’t want to say where we stand right now” nonsense may be higher than mine. Just be aware that this type of behavior is almost certainly something this lady does and will continue to do her whole life, not just in romantic situations, but in many situations.

    • Ruthie

      Laura, I’m not trying to say that your way is wrong, but you saying five years is DEFINITELY too long is projecting your own standards onto everyone else and that’s not helpful. Five years might be too long for you but whether or not it’s too long for others depends ENTIRELY on the individual people in the relationship, and determining what the OTHER person thinks is too long or too short requires communication of those standards to each other so they can be taken into consideration and negotiated if necessary. I have been with my fiance for nine years and I am in no rush to actually get married and if he had never brought marriage up, I simply would not have cared. Thats just not a priority/value for me. There’s nothing wrong with it being yours, but there is no specific “timeline” for any kind of relationship; every single one needs to be worked out between the people in the relationship.

    • Kaitlyn Murray

      I also disagree with Laura. My husband and I just got married 9 months ago, and we had been together over 4 years prior to that. We also had a lot of fantastic ups and some very severe downs in those 4 years. The really big downs would always seem to put a halt in our path to the altar. But you know what, we still got there, and it didn’t take “too long.” Every person, every couple, every relationship is unique. We are all called INDIVIDUALS for a reason. No two of us are the same, so it stands to reason that no two relationships are the same. I know couples that waited 10 years to get married. I even know couples that have been together over 20 years who never married at all. To each his/her own. There is not time limit on when one should or shouldn’t get married. There isn’t even a time limit on when you should “know” that the person you are with is destined to be your life partner. Some people, like you, know this within a matter of months, sometimes even weeks. Others can take years together before they realize what they have in each other.

      As for the author of the letter this entire post is based on, lie everyone else says, take what she says at face value. If she says she needs space, then she needs space. If she asks you to let her go, then you need to let her go. John is right, she couldn’t be any more clear. We women can be cryptic at times, this is true. I’ll admit to being guilty of it myself. But more often than not we really are just telling you like it is, plain and simple, no bull. And sometimes there is no “why.” Sometimes there is no reason. It could be that you’ve done nothing wrong and there is no reason other than that she grew apart from you. Every person is unique, and every relationship starts uniquely, lasts uniquely, and sadly at times, end uniquely.

  • Ann

    It sounds to me like the girlfriend had some issues of her own. The fact that you and she never had a conflict in five years, then leaves suddenly by leaving a note (not a real-time confrontation) suggests to me that she doesn’t have a strong sense of herself, or how to stand up for herself. Maybe she got the feeling that the life she was living was at odds with who she felt she was or who she wanted to be. Whatever the case, and especially given how the LW describes his philosophy of love, which I would describe as “smothering and somewhat controlling,” leaving was absolutely the right thing to do. There was no way that she would ever develop in this way while in contact with the LW.

  • Jill J

    I don’t know, I lean with his guy friends, she’s wanting to try out greener pastures. She may not be in an affair, but I bet she’s certainly considering one. Women don’t just up and leave because they need more space. I think she’s probably gonna get out there, mess around and eventually come back to this guy if she can’t find something better. Sorry to be negative, just keepin it real.

    • Makste

      I’m with you on that

  • CZ Anonymous

    These responses are insane.

    I’m sorry this happened to you. Good luck – take care of yourself, and always try to be yourself. Don’t try to be like these people. You won’t succeed.

    And for the record, it’s natural to desire company or a companion. I believe most people would say they are happier when they are in a great relationship versus when they are not. That doesn’t mean you need it, and are some odd-ball, codependent, unhappy person. It means you are human. And it sounds like you are a good one, at that.

  • Silvia Wilson via Facebook

    Your butterfly experience is just right, John. Let go and accept ‘what is.’

  • Renae

    Even when I was married to my ex-husband, I always considered myself an independent woman. Right now, I am in my mid-forties, and I currently live with my boyfriend. He is a wonderful man. Anytime he sees me doing anything he can help with, he jumps right in. He makes my coffee in the morning and brings it to me, opens doors, always drives, etc. At first, I thought I had died and gone to Heaven, but lately it’s been very difficult for me because I feel as though I’ve lost my independence. I have been struggling with how to relay this to him because I don’t want to hurt his feelings, although I know that if I don’t, one day this will be unsalvageable. I try to be grateful, but it makes me feel as though he doesn’t think I can do things on my own. So when you think you are being sweet by doing what good boyfriends are “suppose” to do, you may be little by little stripping her of her independence. The song “Hold on Loosely” comes to mind.

  • Shaun

    Space means just that take space and reanalize your relationship and come back together and speak about the issues you were having a strong relationship will make it better and you will have a great chance of reconciling if your still arguing then its time to walk .i had great success don’t think about what your partners faults were and really look at yourself . I am back with the love of my life it was the worst and best 2 weeks of my life and for our future .if you have to do months of NC move on

  • sophia

    wow. that was some really honest and really good advice John. i think i needed to hear that. i will bring this full circle and back to the experience of growing up as a fundamentalist christian, where i learned it was better to give than receive, and that it was better to sacrifice yourself for others, and that self-care was selfish. i can see where those long held beliefs have influenced the person i am today. it’s hard for me to be in a relationship without wanting to do kind things for my boyfriend all the time. they never appreciate it. and i don’t do it so that someone will like me back – i do it because i love them and that’s what we do for people we love! but the funny thing is, that when i get exhausted and want to leave the relationship and tell him what a butthead he is, THEN he falls in love with me and can’t get enough. i don’t understand it all, but your comments about “creating a life and not asking the other person to do it for you” really hit home for me. thanks.

  • Andrew Bell

    On a side note, why isn’t she the one moving out?

    • https://elizabeth-fullerton.squarespace.com/resume Elizabeth

      Yup. I’ve asked that question. The gentlemanly thing to do is move out. Even if it’s your house. I… don’t understand either.

    • http://www.facebook.com/LostInSpaceMan Steve Armstrong

      Because she know’s he’ll move out and she can get away with it. That’s a warning sign right there!

      • https://elizabeth-fullerton.squarespace.com/resume Elizabeth

        Hi Steve. I’ve known some couples like this IRL. I don’t think it’s that simple. It really seems to be an obligation some men feel. And, if they’re using ‘gentlemen’ as their standard, the women they’re with probably feel it’s right. Not sexist. I’ve seen them reunite after a good healthy break, too. It took me about three months to process my decision and a week to implement. There was no question in my mind it was my responsibility to move out and the decision was final. We’re friends again but we weren’t for six months.

        • http://www.facebook.com/LostInSpaceMan Steve Armstrong

          I’m sorry, but Gentlemen don’t rollover and play dead.

  • Simeon Anderson

    Disregard women, acquire currency.

  • Guest

    Laura below mentions that if it was so great, why didn’t you get married? I’m not going to set

  • LostGrrl

    The immediate thought for me here is if he thought he met his soul mate, why didn’t they get married? He says he “did” all the right things…but it sounds like there was no communication here at all, on either side. I really didn’t see a lot of evidence of smothering at all in the
    letter. In fact, I felt it was quite the opposite. I got the feeling
    that he just felt if he “performed” in a certain way, everything would
    work out. Yet there was no evidence at all that he was willing to permanently commit his life to this woman. The whole letter felt a bit clinical.

    Women on the whole long to feel loved and we let’s face it, we want commitment…we want to know that he isn’t just going to walk out whenever he feels like it, especially as we get older and have children. This guy says he wanted to grow old with her but never once mentions wanting to marry her. I’m thinking that’s why she wants to move on. If he’s not willing to commit to her, maybe she wants to find someone who will. If he truly meant as much to her as he says, he should be willing to take that step. If not, I don’t blame her for moving on. However, I think she should have been honest and upfront with him about it, rather than just saying “she needs space.”

    Rubbing your feet is nice, but if you don’t feel he is willing to commit his life to you, then it doesn’t mean much.

  • Michelle Nelly Brown

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  • Michelle Nelly Brown

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  • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

    to reiterate what John already said … when someone asks for space, they probably want space. maybe, just maybe, it’s that simple.

    I’m going on 29 years with my husband, and I’m firmly convinced our longevity as a couple is, in part, due to the fact that for the middle 7 years, I worked in SF Mon-Thurs while my hub worked in LA … wow! did we learn not to take each other for granted, and boy! were our weekends great after a few days of missing each other.

  • Jermac

    This is messed up, but it’s true. I read the entire response to the question and it’s correct. I was dating this girl for about 3 years, well not really dating, well yes and no. Anyway, we got intimate and things were great for a while, and then a few minor things happened and we were done. Out of the blue, just like that. I went insane. I got depressed, spammed her phone with texts and called her a couple times. All I kept getting was “you don’t need to know who I talk to”, “relax” and “I’m tired/busy/doing my nails”. I got excuse and excuse after excuse, and after the 7th or so time of being brushed off I left her alone. Only texted her once or twice a day at best and sometimes wouldn’t text for days at a time. We only saw each other a few times a month. It was hell for me at first, but I learned to control my emotions, think about the situation from both perspectives, realized I couldn’t change how she felt and moved on. I became stronger for it, and it serves as a painful lesson for my future. But that’s all this really is. A painful lesson for men to learn when the women they’re with have had enough of them and the woman is too polite to say: “Get the F out: and quit abruptly. They still want you around as “friends” at best in the end. It’s a lame situation.


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