How To Tell My Boyfriend I Need Space: Tips For When You Want A Break

There are probably few conversations on this earth that you want to have less than the “I need a break” talk. It’s not because it’s mean and horrible, but just because there’s a sad reality of two people with different needs. You aren’t cutting him off completely, but you’re acknowledging that you have to take action now to protect the relationship in the future. That’s tough but it doesn’t have to be all that awkward or painful. Here’s how to tackle that conversation openly and honestly with your boyfriend and tell him you need space.

  1. Give yourself time. That’s a really simple way of exercising self-care in these situations. It will give you the strength and perspective necessary to go on and advocate for yourself. You don’t need to burn yourself out keeping someone else warm. In any walk of life. This is why taking a minute to yourself, that you have scheduled and that won’t be interrupted is so important. It’s a commitment to deciding what you need and how to go about it. We all need a plan — your boyfriend does, and so do you.
  2. Be honest. This isn’t the time to faff around with your words. There are people’s emotions at stake here. You aren’t just compromising yourself, but others too. That’s why you owe it to yourself to say what you mean and don’t explain your feelings away. Keep it simple and come to your boyfriend with key points. You need space and that isn’t something that he needs to take personally. This is about you, not him. Don’t be too sharp with him, but let your feelings and voice be heard.
  3. Communicate and check in. This isn’t a one-time conversation. You have to commit to checking in with your partner during this process. You can’t expect to fix the problems with the relationship overnight because that’s impossible. That’s why you have to talk with your boyfriend after you’ve had a period of space. You can explain to each other how it made you feel or if anything changed. That helps him connect the action to outcomes, so it feels less like you just don’t want to be with him.
  4. Advocate for yourself. Stand up for yourself. Be firm. Don’t let him talk over you, or try to mansplain what you really mean. Only you know what goes on inside your head. That’s why it’s your responsibility to speak up for yourself. Even if he tries to fight it or insists there’s another way to solve the issue besides taking time away from each other, don’t let him talk you out of what you know is the right decision for yourself.
  5. Be kind. To yourself and to your boyfriend. He might have questions about why you need the break. It might be that he feels blindsided by the conversation. Whether or not that is actually the case, he might come out with some comments that he doesn’t really mean. Just remember that this is all new to him and to treat him with grace. If he does react poorly then I’m sure he’ll come back and apologize to have a productive conversation. That said, don’t tolerate BS if it’s coming from the wrong place. Deadweight is dead weight, right?
  6. Ask your friends for advice. They’ve likely been there before. Even if not, they’ll have useful insights and perspectives that you don’t have. This is a long-term strategy for you. Not just to improve one relationship, but your approach to all of them. Redefining personal boundaries is a really powerful way of advocating for yourself. They just want to help you, so accept that.
  7. Talk to a relationship therapist. If your conversation about space doesn’t go very well, but neither of you has the language to talk further, so why not get a third party involved? Find a therapist that you trust and that you feel can handle you splurting out all the stuff that’s in your head and heart. They’ll see resolutions and possibilities that neither of you did. That’s healthy and you won’t lose him completely.
  8. Define what you mean by “space.” This will help you as you embrace your space, as well as after. You might need to incorporate that period of space into your relationship going forward. Or, equally, you might have got it out of your system with a hard reset. Whichever option works best, redefine your relationship and your appreciation of space to be inclusive of each other.

When should you tell your boyfriend you need space?

It can be hard to know when you’re just feeling a little emotional and when the issues in your relationship are a little deeper and you legitimately need to take a step back from your boyfriend for at least a little while. If any of these things are happening, it’s probably the right time to call a time out.

  1. Things are moving way too fast. Maybe you’re happily still getting to know your boyfriend and enjoying the dating stage you’re in but he seems in an extreme rush to push things forward and hit relationship milestones that you still feel it’s way too early to be hitting. If he’s pressuring you to move in together or even get engaged and you’re freaking out a little inside, you might want to tell him you need a bit of space to get your head straight and decide if it’s actually moving too fast or if perhaps this isn’t the right relationship for you.
  2. You’re constantly fighting. Do you bicker all the time and for no reason? If it’s getting to the point that you disagree on everything from what to watch on TV to whether or not the milk is still fresh, it could be that you’re due for a bit of a break. This doesn’t have to be a permanent or even lengthy ordeal. Even a few days away from each other to do your own thing can work wonders for refreshing your relationship.
  3. Every little thing they do is annoying you. Along the same lines as constantly arguing, if you’re starting to find that all the little things you used to find cute and charming about them are suddenly obnoxious and really, really annoying, tell your boyfriend you need a break before the relationship ends for good. You either need to adjust your attitude and reshift your perspective or you need to figure out if perhaps you’ve fallen out of love with him.
  4. Being around them isn’t fun anymore. You used to enjoy your time together even if you weren’t doing much of anything at all. However, these days you spend your time with him feeling bored and wishing you were anywhere else. It’s not his job to entertain you constantly and you probably know that, but if something just feels kinda “blah,” taking a bit of space could do the trick to get you back in the right place.
  5. You’re starting to feel smothered. There’s something called “too much of a good thing” and that certainly applies to spending too much time together. Yes, you love him and want to be around him a lot, but any couple that spends 24/7 together is going to end up running into issues eventually. If you feel smothered, maybe it’s because you are. Take a break and come back to him after you’ve had some time to yourself.
Hannah has a Masters degree in Romantic and Victorian literature in Scotland and spends her spare time writing anything from essays to short fiction about the life and times of the frogs in her local pond! She loves musical theatre, football, anything with potatoes, and remains a firm believer that most of the problems in this world can be solved by dancing around the kitchen to ABBA. You can find her on Instagram at @_hannahvic.