I thought I had a great relationship with my live-in girlfriend of five years, whom I’ll call Amy. I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with her. But last night she told me that she wants me to move out. She said she feels smothered and trapped by me, and that she “needs some space.”
Maybe I’m just being dense here, but what exactly does it mean when a woman says, “I need space”? And what do I do now?
Not to put too fine a point on it, but you’re definitely being dense here. When a person says they need more space, what they mean is that they need more space.
What Amy wants is for you to go away. So what do you do next?
Dude: You go away.
I’m going to guess that you made the same mistake in your relationship with Amy that most guys in relationships are extremely prone to making: You sweat her too much. You tried to make too much of her business your business.
You pressed her to let you know her every thought, feeling, inclination, opinion, desire, mood, motivation. You tried, in essence, to merge your two lives—your two consciousnesses, really—into one.
And doing that is understandable; it makes utter sense that you would. You do, after all, love Amy—and so you want her to feel, at all times, happy and safe. So — and probably without even realizing you were doing it — you made making sure that she was happy and safe your constant, daily concern.
Until finally she told you that you were sucking all the space out of her life.
“I love you” is, alas, so precipitously close to, “Tell me everything you’re thinking, doing, and feeling, all the time.” But while the former is the stuff of romance, the latter is the stuff of getting arrested for being a stalker.
Bottom line: Amy, just like everyone else in the world, desires to be loved by someone she can love in return. And she’s not likely to romantically love any man who’s more about her than he is about himself. Being in a relationship with someone who, instead of having a life, wants to make you their life, is less like being in an exciting and rewarding relationship than it is like adapting an oversized child.
You want Amy to love and respect you. Because the truth is she can’t fully love you if she doesn’t respect you. And the only way that she, or any other woman, will ever respect you is if they understand that, in some true and enduring sense, you don’t need them. Want them? Yes. Choose them? Yes. But need them–as in, without them you are nothing? No. For anyone who’s worth having, needy is the ultimate in anti-aphrodisiacs.
Chin up, my friend! Take your hit, suffer for a while, and 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.