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How do I support/contact boyfriend who has asked for space?

Community Member
I have been seeing my boyfriend for the last 6 months. We don’t live together but have keys to each other’s apartments and have a holiday to Bali booked in 6 weeks. He works 6 nights a week and only gets Saturday night off so our weekends have been full on. The routine has become texting in the morning when he finishes work and phone calls at night when he’s on the way to work. When we first got together, he”warned” me that he had come out of a bad breakup 3 years ago with his ex of 12 years and that combined with the death of his mum caused him to seek some counselling. He has purposely “hidden” away by working nights and doesn’t want to get hurt again. He told me about his low self worth and we shared our fears and concerns with each other. Despite this, he has let me in and we’ve developed really strong feelings for each other. I know he loves me and I love him. A few weeks ago he met my mum and not long after that he started to break routine and go silent. We ended up talking and he told me he’s in a dark place again and not sure about being in a relationship even though he loves being with me. He said things like “you’re born alone and we die alone so what’s the point of relationships when we just end up getting hurt?” Last week he told me he needs to be alone right now to get his thoughts in order. I have not been in contact for over a week now and I’m struggling with what to do. I am trying to give him space but I’m scared that too much time without contact will make him feel like I don’t care and that he’ll just keep lines of communication shut because of fear and embarrassment. I’m also really stressed because we have this non refundable holiday booked in 6 weeks. I don’t want to pressure him with questions about this but I don’t know what to do. Would it be ok to send him a text just to check up and let him know I miss him? Or would that be too much for him right now? How much time do I wait? What should I say? I think he’s protected himself by hiding away the last few years and then I’ve come into his life. We’ve made plans together and had amazingly happy times together and I’ve changed his routine. Has this scared him back into that place of anxiety and depression that he was in before? It all feels so sudden to me. We’ve gone from having plans, happiness, love and loads of affection to completely shutting me out. Any help would be so appreciated. I can’t stop thinking about him and worrying about where he’s at.
4 Replies 4

Community Member

I don't know if this helps at all. My husband as also in a very dark place when I met him. His first reflex when he isn't doing well is also to retreat. So I know where you are coming from.

Perhaps you can turn your reflex around... from what I understand, your instinct here is to ask - ask if he's okay, ask if plans are still on, ask (in essence) if you are still loved... when he may have nothing to give right now. So maybe instead of making it an ask for confirmation, turn it into a give confirmation 🙂 message him just to tell him you are thinking of him, that when he is ready to let you in you'll be right here - no matter how dark the place he is in. That you respect that he needs space, but you want to make sure he knows that that space is for him and not for you, and you are looking forward to having him close again. Something like that?

I notice when my husband tries to retreat he usually does it thinking he is protecting me, and then when I pile my own need for validation on top of that it overloads him... but when I turn it into "your dark doesn't scare me, and I can't wait until you come back to me no matter what state you are in" and do not make him feel like he needs to carry my wellbeing, too, it relaxes him emotionally and he comes back to me much sooner.

Every individual is different and depression is not the same beast for everyone... but this is just how I handle it with my loved one!

Thank you so much DaylightAmy. That is so kind of you to take the time to respond - and with such wise words too.

Yes - I suppose my instinct is to ask. I feel like I'm in a limbo. He asked to be alone to get his thoughts in order. I'm confused about whether that means forever or just for now? Or just for a few weeks? So I suppose I'm looking for validation that we are not over. Plus - I'm worried about the darkness that he's in. I want to be able to hold him, comfort him and it's so hard being shut out. I suppose I'm trying to understand the "why" of pushing me away.

What you said about your husband retreating to protect you resonates with me. He told me that he's no good for me and that he'll only hurt me. I definitely don't want to overload him, so I think that approach of just letting him know I am here, that I miss him and that I'm thinking of him is a good one. I was thinking of waiting until this weekend, when he is on his day off to send a short text that says those things.

Does your husband indicate that he appreciates you reaching out like that when he is pulling away? I'm so scared of making him retreat further, but I feel like he won't make the first contact and the longer I give him space, the harder it will be for us to reconnect.

Thank you SO much. You have no idea how good it felt to logon here this morning and see your message!

Everyones is different I guess but if I had a bad break some years ago and was in a dark place and then met a person who I really cared for and loved, and that was reciprocated, I'd jump at that and would not want to lose it.

I'd text every now and then to touch base to show interest in his well being but I do agree that you both need to decide on the holiday plans. If he won't even discuss that with you then I think that’s a bit on the nose, if not immature and would then question whether it's worth your time and energy pursuing something with this guy.

Thanks so much for your reply Shockwave. I do appreciate your advice.

Yes - I think that's how I've seen things - that after a bad breakup, meeting someone new and having things go well would be something I'd jump at. And I think he has done - but he's gotten to a point where things are starting to get serious and it's spooked him into worrying about whether things will go wrong again. And when the anxiety/depression voice is talking that's all he hears. (That's just what I think is happening...) As someone who doesn't have that anxiety voice in my head, it's hard for me to understand why he would do that, and I suppose that's what I'm trying to get insight on.

When it comes to the holiday - I agree - he does need to talk to me about it so we can work out what to do. I know it sounds like he's being selfish and it really is something that's stressing me (I've taken leave from work and everything is booked etc) - but I'm just hoping he needs a bit more time to come out of this bout of depression. (fingers crossed)

Thanks again