Nothing’s wrong — I just need some space.
Those are some of the most alarming and confusing words you can hear in your marriage. Today I want to help you decode them.
What Is He Really Saying?
If your husband says that he needs space, or if you notice that he’s been distancing himself lately, a lot of thoughts might race through your mind:
- He doesn’t love me anymore.
- He’s keeping a dark secret.
- He’s having an affair.
So what does “I need space” really mean?
I’ll let you in on a secret: It means he needs space. Yep, guys are pretty literal most of the time. And this need for space is not necessarily a signal that something is wrong in your marriage.
Why Does He Need Space?
Speaking very generally, “space” is a more confusing word for women than it is for men. As a result, when your husband doesn’t want to collaborate, you might quickly assume the worst.
However, men in the U.S. are usually socialized very differently than we are. They’re taught to be stoic and deal with problems and issues on their own. So when he says he needs space, here a few things that might be going on with him:
- He’s working through a challenge or a problem, like a tough time at work.
- He’s exhausted. Men will more readily take some time to themselves to recharge. This is one area where we should follow their example!
- He’s experiencing a difficult emotion, such as grief, that he needs time to process.
I’m not saying that taking some space is the best way to handle any of these situations. But it’s his way, and it probably doesn’t reflect on his feelings for you.
When the Need for Space Is a Red Flag
Sometimes, however, “I need some space” really does translate to “There’s a problem in our marriage.” This is especially true if you typically have a very close and collaborative relationship and he suddenly wants more space. Don’t rush to conclusions, but do realize it’s time to open a discussion about what’s happening with him.
This is just one example of how navigating the differences between your husband’s emotional needs and communication style and your own can be tricky. For more proven strategies that can help, pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love.
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