Today’s subject matter is the inimitable, unconquerable, entirely COMMONPLACE male need for SPACE. In other words how to give him space but not lose him.
Alternative headline: ‘Was the Husband from ‘Knocked Up’ Really Being An A**hole?’
I realize this is a bit of a non-sequitur, but bear with me. It gets better.
Fact: I’ve had an epiphany. It was an exciting moment … and all the more enjoyable because it occurred with almost no mental effort at all.
Let me explain. I was watching a movie called ‘Knocked Up’ recently, starring Katherine Heigl and Paul Rudd and a bunch of other funny people.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a cute movie about a ‘career girl’ (Heigl) who falls unexpectedly pregnant, and all the relationship-based trials and tribulations that she goes through as the birth date approaches.
It’s a super-fun movie. If you haven’t seen it, you DEFINITELY should (if only to enjoy Heigl’s rendition of an extremely-believable drunk girl.)
But as it turns out, there’s actually MORE to the movie than just the ‘unwanted pregnancy’ theme … …
there are actually a COUPLE of ‘story line threads’ going on.
The SECONDARY ‘thread’ – the one that, for the purposes of this article, I’m interested in - was the one that’s happening ‘in the background’, and it details the troubled marriage between Heigl’s older sister and her husband.
About halfway through the movie, the older sister comes to Heigl and tells her that she’s suspicious about her own husband, and – in fact – she thinks he’s cheating on her.
She then goes on to outline the reasons why she thinks he’s going behind her back:
- He’s always leaving to go out at weird hours, usually late at night
- He never tells her exactly where he’s going, just says it’s a ‘work thing’
- He’s always going somewhere that has ‘bad cellphone reception’ so she ‘probably shouldn’t bother calling him’
- Their marriage is pretty troubled anyway, so it would make a certain kind of sense for him to be cheating (she thinks)
… and, ladies, I’ve gotta say: in a real-life scenario, I would say that my educated guess would be that she is RIGHT.
These are all ‘dead-giveaways’ that a man is up to no good.
So it all sounds fairly logical so far.
Then, the next time he ‘heads out for a work thing’ – taking care to warn her about the ‘bad cellphone reception’ before he goes - the two girls pile into the car and follow him to his destination … … which, as it turns out, is a house in the suburbs.
SPOILER ALERT! If you don’t want to know what happens next, avert your eyes …
After sneaking in through the front door, they eventually come across the hapless husband … … out the back of the house with a bunch of other middle-aged men, wearing nerdy baseball caps and playing Fantasy Baseball!
Nary a scantily-clad woman in sight. Here’s where it gets INTERESTING: the wife was actually MORE upset than if the guy had actually been cheating on her.
And here’s why. It’s because, during the flurry of explanations, it came out that he ‘needed to get away from it all’ sometimes.
In other words, he wanted space in his life.
Right from the horse’s mouth: he needed some time to ‘recharge his batteries’ and basically ‘escape from reality’ … … that reality being, of course, the reality of a wife, two small kids, a mortgage, house maintenance, a job, and so on.
And he didn’t want to TELL her what he was REALLY doing because he knew she’d get upset.
In fact, he actually saw it as a winning equation that she didn’t know: that way, she didn’t get upset, he got to have his chill-out time, nobody got stressed, and ‘everybody’s a winner’.
Now, I may not agree with DECEIVING your significant other in order to get something that you feel you desperately need … … but I can completely identify with his need to ‘get away from reality’ and do his own thing for a while, without having to put up with tears, remonstrations, or anxious carpings from his wife in order to do it.
So what do you need to understand when it comes to giving him space and make him come back again to you?
And YOU should identify with that, too.
Because this ‘needing some HASSLE-FREE time alone’ thing is a BIG ISSUE for a lot of guys in relationships.
As a man, I can tell you right now that guys NEED to be able to have time to go ‘into our caves’ and just spend some ‘man-time’ away from the relationship and everyday life … …
And we need to do it WITHOUT having to deal with tears or stress or feminine worryings about how we must not ‘love you any more’.
We need to be able to do it WITHOUT having to explain, at length, why we need to do it, and that no, it doesn’t mean we don’t love you any more.
And that no, we’re not doing it so we can sneak off and cheat on you, take drugs, or go to a strip joint.
Basically, we need to know that we’re still the ones in charge of how we spend our time … that we don’t have to ‘answer to anybody’ if we want to go do something alone or without you …
And above all, we need to know that YOU are COOL WITH THAT.
And in case my next point hasn’t ALREADY OCCURRED to you, here it is: YOU YOURSELF ARE ACTUALLY NO DIFFERENT.
You need time away from ‘the relationship’ too.
YOU ALSO need to know that you’re still the one accountable for yourself, that you don’t need to ‘ask permission’ to do what you NEED to do, and that your time is still YOUR OWN to spend as you choose.
If you’ve ever had to deal with a clingy guy who’s terrified to let you go out by yourself, have male friends, or talk to other men, then you’ll know what I’m talking about here.
Remember men need space as much as women do.
Furthermore, you probably already realize the importance of letting your partner do what he wants to do, WITHOUT the ‘pillow-over-the-face’ effect of making things difficult for him.
Of course, part of the joy of a great relationship is that both people tend to CHOOSE to spend the majority of their time with each other …
But of course, the pendulum swings both ways.
Meaning, that if one person in the partnership should need or desire some time to ‘go do their own thing and want some space’ every so often, without inviting their partner along for the ride, they MUST be able to fulfill that desire … … and fulfill it EASILY.
No emotional blackmail or upsets allowed.
The reason that I write at length about this topic on why guys need space is the fact that lots of women don’t seem to ‘get’ this fact.
They worry that, if their guy wants some ‘Fantasy Baseball’ time away from them, it means he’s ‘pulling away’ or that he ‘wants out of the relationship’ or that they’ve ‘done something wrong’ or that he’s ‘pissed off about something’.
So of course, because they’re so freaked out about what it ‘means’ when he wants go do his own thing, they become upset, anxious, weepy …
And the whole thing blows up into a giant NUCLEAR MUSHROOM CLOUD of unnecessary upset, the woman feels needy and out-of-control, and the guy feels smothered and defensive.
It’s NOT a good feeling for either of you. You must learn how to give him space to make him keep coming back.
And the moment that EITHER PERSON in the relationship starts feeling ‘trapped’ or ‘smothered’, things tend to take a downward spiral …
And the CRACKS start to show.
So here are a couple handy tips for you to learn how to give him space, and PREVENT this difficult state of affairs from ever polluting the fertile ground of YOUR relationships.
#1. How to give him space step 1.
If he’s heading out the door and hasn’t invited you – whether it’s a trip to Vegas or an afternoon drinking in the beer garden – assume he doesn’t want you to come.
No angling for an invite or dropping hints about how you’d ‘love to come’.
Isn’t it better to have him love you even more for making his life easy …
And have him actually look forward to coming home to you … and actually wish you were there too … than it is to ‘force yourself’ onto his little expedition and then feel anxious and insecure because he might not have really wanted you to come?
#2. How to give him space step 2.
When he returns back from wherever it is he’s been, don’t kick up a big stink.
There’s no need to grill him with questions about where he’s been, who he saw, and whether he got hit on or not.
Enthusiasm and curiosity is definitely a GOOD THING, so by all means ask him if he had a good time …
But resist the urge to barrage him with pointed questions about who he was with and how much he drank and which girls he talked to.
Two words: not cool.
You’ll make him feel cornered and defensive … and more than likely, he’ll make up a lie to conceal the (harmless) truth from you, simply because he felt like you were ‘digging’ a little too hard and resented it.
I recommend that you make a habit of giving him the space to come to you instead of ‘forcing it’ to happen.
#3. How to give him space step 3
If your dude is heading out the door on a holiday sans you – whether he’s visiting relatives or going on a gambling weekend with his drinking buddies – resist the temptation to lay down ground rules.
Don’t set out a ‘call me at 8 o’clock each night’ schedule … don’t tell him how much to drink or how much money to spend
… don’t remind him that he should be ‘saving for our wedding, not spending all your money on alcohol and gambling’ …
don’t even ask him to ‘call me when you get in’.
Do you want to be the fun girlfriend/wife, or the authoritarian kill-joy mother-figure?
#4. How to give him space step 4
When he’s away, DO NOT slip into a ‘routine’ of waiting around for his phone call at a certain time each day.
When you become predictable, things get a bit boring … and something that should be FUN (speaking on the phone to the fabulous you) becomes, instead, a ‘chore’ that has to be performed without spontaneity.
When contact with each other starts falling into a ‘schedule’, it stops being fun.
Here’s a suggestion: try not being home sometimes.
Try getting out of the house and DOING STUFF instead of waiting for him to call.
He wants to know that he is NOT your whole life and that you are capable of doing fun stuff without him.
That way, when he DOES get you on the phone, it’ll be that much sweeter … and you’ll have that much more stuff to talk about.
(NOTE: Of course, I’m not trying to dictate the boundaries of your life here.
If you LOVE talking to your man and his phone-calls are the high point of your day and he never seems bored or distant or as though he’s ‘just doing his duty’ when he calls, then obviously this suggestion doesn’t apply to you.
This suggestion applies to the women who always receive a ‘dutiful’ phone-call - usually at around the same time each day, like when he’s stuck in gridlock after his meetings.
Or just before he heads out for dinner with the guys - and when he frequently seems to be preoccupied or distant on the phone.
If this sounds like you, then STOP BEING SO AVAILABLE.
He will INSTANTLY start caring more about talking to you – and you’ll seem like a massive prize when he eventually DOES corner you for a conversation.)
The bottom line is this: if you want to NEVER find yourself in the unhappy position of having your loved one ‘sneak out’ to get away from you.
And if you want to AVOID making him feel smothered or ‘mothered’, and if you want him to WANT to spend time with you … …
...then you need to make it abundantly clear that you’re perfectly OK with him having his own life and you're ready to give him space without having any fear or doubt in your relationship.
And in fact, you actually LIKE THAT ABOUT HIM.
The best way to do this – of course – is to lead by example.
A lady who has her own life is a massive draw for most guys.
And when you’ve got a busy schedule and your life is packed full of the things that you love to do – be it pottery classes, yoga, tennis lessons, dinner with friends every Thursday night.
Or just curling up on the bed with a good book – not only do you exude that ‘happiness glow’ that comes from a life well lived, but you also become someone that he LOOKS FORWARD to spending time with instead of someone whom he plans ‘getaways’ from to ‘break up the monotony’.
Time with you becomes something PLAN FOR instead of something to escape from – which is, of course, the way things should be.