No, I am not an astronaut, and I have never been to actual space! I do own some land on the moon apparently, if that counts, and sometimes it has felt like I have been sent there to live. Other times I only wish I had been! The term “space” when it comes to relationships can be create as much mystery and feelings of fear, darkness, coldness, loneliness and helplessness as actual outer space. So what does space mean, and how can we give it to people when they request it?
How often should you message? What should you say? Can you call? Should you let them know you are thinking of them? Is that pressuring them? …..
This post will be probably be popular and unpopular all at once, because I’m not going to sugar coat this for you. Space means “go away.” Sorry. It means “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” (Even if they do call, you’ll probably be left feeling cold and confused and wishing they didn’t bother.)
It doesn’t matter if this request blindsides you or if you saw it coming, either way it is highly likely to trigger your fears and anxieties. You will wonder what caused this request and how to fix it. You will not want to accept the possibility that it is too late to fix anything. It will feel like the end. So is it?
The answer to that, could largely depend on your ideas on how to give space, and how you interpret it. If you are the kind of person who calculates how many hours it has been since the person in question read your message and didn’t reply, space is probably not going to be an easy thing for you to give. If you are the kind of person who interprets space as the silent treatment then space is not something you will recover from easily. And finally, if you are the kind of person who needs a lot of space, you may struggle to maintain friendships in the first place.
All this is because space seems counterintuitive to connection. How we connect is through communication, body language, touch, expression and sharing. So how are we supposed to connect with someone and stay connected to them without any of these factors to support that connection? Honestly, the answer to that is, you’re not. If someone is asking for space they are asking you to disconnect from them. The more you fight this, the worse it will get. For you. If they asked for space you have it on pretty good authority that they have already disconnected.
You will probably want to check in with the person, asking them how they are, and if there is anything you can do for them. You want to let them know that you are still thinking of them and caring for them, even though the request for space is painful and difficult for you. The problem with that strategy is that you are in effect showing them “I am still connected to you.” As I just mentioned – this is the exact opposite of what the person has asked you for. If you are seeking validation, you’ll be disappointed. Look elsewhere.
It is going to feel natural to ask the person who wants space from you approximately how much space they will need from you. An hour? A day? A month? A year? 2 years? Don’t ask. Please don’t ask. The fact that you want to know, only proves their point – the fact that you are asking for more than they can give. The reason you want to know is because you are seeking reassurance that this is not the end; That they will be coming back to you after having some space.
If they can’t give you that, does that mean this IS the end? I wont lie to you, it might be. Maybe they think asking for space is the kindest way to end things and not assign blame. Maybe they think hiding behind the vague pretense that space implies they will return is kinder than ending it. Maybe they really don’t know themselves. Most likely they want to avoid hurting your feelings and an ugly confrontation. If you prefer to have one and just end it, then go ahead and call them on it.
I don’t recommend it though. At least wait until you aren’t as angry and hurt and otherwise emotional. In my experiences nothing good has ever come out of pushing someone who is already on the verge of walking away. Their cup is empty, they cannot pour you anything from it.
You’ll probably be thinking things like “I am not a phone call, you can’t just put me on hold!” Which is 100% true! So don’t put yourself on hold. Keep on doing your thing, living your life and focusing on your goals, because, well, what else can you do, really? Even if they end it officially speaking, you’d find yourself in that same predicament anyway? What’s the difference? Yes, you’d get to express your feelings, but if the person in question is asking for space, be real, they don’t care too much about how you feel anyway at this point. (Maybe they don’t, maybe they can’t. Either way….)
It is not their job to deal with your feelings. That is your job. Let them deal with their own feelings, and don’t waste time guessing what those feelings are. Maybe you did something or said something that changed how they saw you or felt about you. Maybe they don’t like you anymore. Maybe they had feelings that you didn’t know or understand and being friends with you is too painful. There could be lots of reasons. If you have reason to believe your friend is at risk to herself or others, seek professional guidance from your local Mental Health Emergency Response Line (1300 555 788 here in Perth Western Australia) or checkout the Beyond Blue Website here for other ideas or support.
What you need to hear, and understand is that you are going to be ok. This is not as urgent as it feels. You’re going to survive even if your friendship doesn’t. Your happiness does not depend on the outcome of this situation. Just because it hurts doesn’t mean you’re not going to be ok. You will be.
Space = no contact. “Don’t call me, don’t write, don’t show up in the middle of the night….” Kim Sozzi – Letting Go.
Give your friend a chance to process and deal with their feelings and their own life. If they are angry, hurt, upset or confused, drained or depressed, give them unlimited amounts of time to feel those things until they dissipate. Give them time to miss you. If they want to be in your life, they will come back. If they don’t, then you had no control over that anyway.
If It hurts it’s probably because you don’t want to say goodbye. (Even if they do?!) So don’t say it? Or maybe it hurts because you want to say an official goodbye while they don’t? You may regret that later. Let go and breathe. On the bright side, friendships are non-monogamous, so you are free to move on as soon as you like. (And so are they… infact, they probably already have, so you better get a move on and catch up! Literally, with some other friends!!!)
Your Best Friend ForNever