My ex-girlfriend needs time and space, but she still loves me

My Ex-Girlfriend Needs SpaceFrom a reader:

Hi, my girlfriends been left the house now for 6 weeks saying she wants time and space so that is what I have given her. It’s been tough really tough. Anyway I found out the other week she needs to be on her own and be single, even though she still loves me. Obviously traumatised by this which was apparent to her, I have tryed (sic) to accept this. We haven’t had contact for 3 weeks then boom, she text me two nights ago saying she is coming back to the house on Friday to pick all her things up. ( she only left with a plastic bag full of clothes)which gave me hope, but not anymore! Deeply saddened and know now that this is going to happen! Please help if there’s any advice you could share. Many thanks

Women will tell you they still love you, but they’re not in love with you. What the hell does that mean?

In order to understand what is going on we need to better understand what we mean when we use the word “love”. Renowned anthropologist Helen Fisher asserts there three primordial brain networks that evolved to direct mating and reproduction:

  1. Lust, which is characterized by a craving for sexual gratification and emerged to to motivate our ancestors to seek sexual union with almost any partner.
  2. Attraction, is characterized by increased energy and focused attention on a preferred mating partner. Also referred to as romantic love or being in love evolved to focus our courtship attentions on a single individual at a time, thereby conserving precious mating time and energy.
  3. Attachment, also called compassionate love, is characterized by feelings of calm, security, social comfort and emotional union and evolved to motivate our ancestors to love this partner long enough to rear their young together.

Important to realize is that these three systems can operate independent of one another, as Helen Fisher notes:

Men and women can copulate with individuals with whom they are not “in love”; they can be “in love” with someone with whom they have had no sexual contact; and they can feel deeply attached to a mate for whom they feel no sexual desire or romantic passion.

In the beginning of a relationship there is a lot of romantic love. Feelings of lust quickly enter the mix as you get intimate with each other.

In the traditional Western course of events, you meet a man or woman. You talk and laugh and begin to “date.” Rapidly or gradually you fall in love. As the camaraderie escalates to bliss, your sex drive surges into higher action. Then after months or years of joyous times together, your raging romantic passion and raw sexual hunger begin to wane, replaced by what Theodor Reik called that warm “afterglow,” attachment. In this scenario, romantic love has triggered lust; then with time, these raw feelings of passion and desire have settled into a sinew of emotional union and commitment—attachment.

But over the course of a relationship, it’s not unusual that feelings of lust subside, and even the initial feelings of eophoria attributed to romantic love are known to wane. As you’ve gotten to know one another on a deeply emotional level, these initial feelings are partly replaced by feelings of affection for your partner. Non-romantic affection that is. Or as Helen Fisher puts it:

Romantic love did not evolve to help us maintain a stable, enduring partnership. It evolved for different purposes: to drive ancestral men and women to prefer, choose, and pursue specific mating partners, then start the mating process and remain sexually faithful to “him” or “her” long enough to conceive a child. After the child is born, however, parents need a new set of chemicals and brain networks to rear their infant as a team—the chemistry of attachment. As a result, feelings of attachment often dampen the ecstasy of romance, replacing it with a deep sense of union with a mate.

When a woman tells you she loves you, but she is no longer in love with you, she is saying that she feels affection towards you, but she is no longer feel romantic love for you, or for that matter lust.

It seems to be the destiny of humankind that we are neurologically able to love more than one person at a time. You can feel profound attachment for a long-term spouse, while you feel romantic passion for someone in the office or your social circle, while you feel the sex drive as you read a book, watch a movie, or do something else unrelated to either partner.

How did that happen? We can only begin to understand the complexity of love, but I believe what it comes to down to is that she lost attraction for you. Dating guru Eben Pagan coined the phrase: “attraction isn’t a choice”, elegantly summarizing the insight that love befalls us, we do not chose it. I believe it applies to falling out of love as well. Falling out of love is not a choice.

Falling out of love is not a choice

We can, however, hypothesize what might have contributed to this change of heart.

Often women are attracted to a single guy in part due to his independence, his energy and his outlook on life. It’s these characteristics that draw her into the relationship and induce feelings of romantic love and lust.

Women, however, will continue to test you throughout your relationship. It’s their innate mechanism to make sure you’re still the man they fell in love with. They will test to see if you’re the rock in their stormy waters, if you stay true to your values and if you uphold your identity throughout the relationship.

Guys, especially in a first relationship, tend to lose themselves in their relationships. They start appeasing their girlfriends and start putting her needs and her happiness above their own. We do this, ironically, to appease our girlfriends, to make her happy. Unfortunately, it has the opposite effect. We become whipped.

This complacent behavior communicates that we do not have a strong identity, that we don’t adhere to our values and that our needs can be superseded by those of others. This is what women test you for. And if you start failing these tests, she loses attraction to you.

Paradoxically, the more you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for her, the more you end up pushing her away.

Fast forward a couple of months and she finds herself in a relationship with someone she has come to know intimately well, but somehow it doesn’t feel right. The initial, overwhelming feelings of romantic love have all but disappeared. She cares about you, she feels she loves you, but she is not in love with you.

I need time and space translated to guy talk is: I feel affection towards you, but I am no longer romantically interested.

Even though she’s not being dishonest, it’s confusing as hell.

Other symptoms are a deteriorating or non-existent sex life, a lack of energy in the relationship and a lack of purpose in your own life. Am I close?

I hate to break it to you, but it sounds like it’s over. What’s more, your refusal to accept that very fact is what is fueling your pain. You need to turn off the stove that is heating up your emotions. Your recovery can only start when you accept that the relationship is over and that the girlfriend you once had no longer exists.

About Jesse

I’ve been helping guys recover from their breakups since 2012. Work with me to fast-track your recovery.


  1. Michael Mc carthy says:

    That’s a very good synopsis Jesse. The psychology seems spot on. It was exactly for these reasons that my younger girlfriend left me! I didn’t see all the warning signs and I was guilty of creating my own downfall by not being attentive and remaining attractive to her.

  2. hi,Im a newbie to Jesse, but hardly a newbie to the break up drama.Gone thru more “relationships ” , “arrangements”, and affairs then any human being should have to go thru in a lifetime, a 37 month marriage,and a 37 year marriage.Wish I had found this recovery thing years ago. Going thru a “living together for 11 months ” breakup ( just 3 days into it)now. Major sux. Feel like its harder than it was to give up smoking.Addictions sometimes disguise themselves as something we need /must have to secure happiness.Bullshit !
    I used to make myself the “innocent victim” -trying to gain back the love of a woman who dumped me . I’d try with countless txts and callls and emails ,allowing any tidbit of a kind reply to rekindle whatever (lust,love,security,)only to end up way worse off.The women I fell in love with were always hot,sexy and desired. A while back Hugh Heffner answered a reporter’s question when one of his playmates walked out on him.”Heff, you’re 80+.The woman who left you was 26, a face and body to kill for,hot as hell .How does a guy of your age go on,having lost a fantastically beautiful woman?
    Heff: “Get off your ass and go find another beautiful woman.”
    ps: he sure did
    so have I

    If she f’d u over, ya gotta get back on the horse even though your butt hurts like hell from the kick.

    thanks, Jesse and all u guys

  3. MONICA MORGAN says:

    After being in relationship with him for 3 years, he broke up with me, I did everything possible to bring him back but all was in vain, I wanted him back so much because of the love I have for him, I begged him with everything, I made promises but he refused. I explained my problem to someone online and she suggested that I should rather contact a spell caster that could help me cast a spell to bring him back but I am the type that never believed in spell, I had no choice than to try it, I mailed the spell caster, and he told me there was no problem that everything will be okay before three days, that my ex will return to me before three days, he cast the spell and surprisingly in the second day, it was around 4pm. My ex called me, I was so surprised, I answered the call and all he said was that he was so sorry for everything that happened, that he wanted me to return to him, that he loves me so much. I was so happy and went to him, that was how we started living together happily again. Since then, I have made promise that anybody I know that have a relationship problem, I would be of help to such person by referring him or her to the only real and powerful spell caster who helped me with my own problem and who is different from all the other ones out there. Anybody could need the help of the spell caster, lotto, his email is DRAISEDIONSPELLCASTER@OUTLOOK.COM you can email him if you need his assistance in your relationship or any other problem like wining lottery.

  4. Been called Milf in Manhattan says:

    So.. if my ex-boyfriend.. really does need time and space… because his divorce is not final… and I did the walking. But I miss him a great deal… then he turned up a new GF (also a Milf) 2 days later… while we were supposed to be letting him heal from his traumatic divorce. So he blew the heck out of time and space to heal and just dove in to a new relationship. Okay… how do I do this? I do not want him back now… I would like to re-visit the idea in a year when he is healed from the trauma. He wants to be buddies but it is way obvious I love him so that is not working out so well. I do not even feel like dating.. I am super busy launching a business and raising kids. Do I just ignore him and let him have his limerence period until Milf#2 loses a bit of her luster? Does a man who had a pretty serious relationship with me … have to get back in chase and pursuit mode… say a year from now? There is no way it will just pick up where we left off. For one.. if he has not done the work.. and gotten over the extreme of his neediness… I may not be interested. But he makes me laugh and I really adore the guy. I don’t want to cling to the idea but want to know how to proceed down the road.

  5. Paladinrja says:

    I got a good one for this. You say, “See the front door? out there is as much space as you want, leave the keys on the table and have at it. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, ok?”

    Unless she specifically states what she wants the time and space for and is willing to take up your support to initiate it. Then most likely she wants to make a selfish choice and is looking for somewhere to nut out how she is going to hit you with it. Valid reasons could include her anxiety about a future with you has peaked the yellow brick road and now that she has seen Oz she wants to go play with the munchkins… Fuck her off for good if this is the case unless you are positive of yourself, because if you are then you will most likely be packing her bags for her whilst she is getting space.

    Tell her its not a ‘get even’ or ‘get in there first’ thing. Its just ‘the right thing’ and she can use all that space to work out how and why. At the end of the day, women know the difference between right and wrong, unless you are secretly happy that any time you spend with someone is actually enough for you, then what she is doing is wrong and you should not put up with that.

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