Enough "Space," or Too Much?
Q: I broke off my relationship with my girlfriend because I needed some space, as she was extremely needy and I felt suffocated for months. When I finally decided I needed to cut her off for a little while, I didn't ignore her, but I made contact less frequently. She eventually stopped chasing me, and I began to love, respect, and miss her like crazy.
But now she seems to be having the time of her life without me. She's always out partying and posting pictures on Facebook of how happy she is. I wish she would at least allow me into her life in some way. For the past few months I have been trying as hard for her as she did for me. I have been clingy and I pushed her away. A month ago she told me she needed space and felt as if I was "playing mind games with her." She told me that she just wants to have fun, but then other times she is flirty. That stirred up a lot of emotion, which caused me to lash out at her. She told me that when she is ready to talk to me again, she would contact me.
That was a month ago. I finally have my emotions together, and I am ready to face her without arguing or manipulating her. I don't want to disrespect her space by messaging her, but if I let her be for months at a time, she may never come back. The only way that she will see that I'm in control of myself is if we speak. I just wonder if a month is long enough for her to be willing to talk to me. -- Michael, 23
Dr. Susan: If you want to show your ex-girlfriend that you respect her and her need for space, then do what she says and wait to hear from her. I know you feel certain that you are now in better control of your emotions, but you don't actually have any evidence of that. One form of evidence would be to show you can be patient and let her call the next shot.
I realize you're afraid to lose her, but if she's having so much fun without you, you may have already lost her. That wouldn't necessarily be anyone's fault. You're both young and learning your way around relationships. IF you contacted her now, and IF she agreed to talk or meet with you, would you be able to deal with your jealousy of her fun with other guys? Unfortunately, your relationship has not gotten off to a very healthy start. The best you can do now is get on with your life, practice being a patient, respectful fellow, and let some more time go by. Believe me, if she wants to connect with you, she will. You can't force these things.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.