When your girlfriend says she needs space, it can be difficult not to immediately think about the worst-case scenario. But understanding what she means by "needing space" can make the difference between a rough patch in your relationship and a permanent breakup. Before worrying that the relationship is over, consider strategies that help you respect her wishes while keeping the lines of communication open.

She's Feeling Stressed

She may not want to talk because she’s feeling stressed about things like school, friends or family life. Or she may feel like your relationship is moving too quickly and she's backing off. If she’s distanced herself, she may want the space to deal with what’s bothering her on her own instead of talking about it with you. If this is the case, you will need to find a balance between crowding her and leaving her alone completely, says psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker, writing for PsychCentral. You can show her that you understand her need to be alone for a bit by assuring her that you care and leaving the door open for her to talk when she’s ready.

She's Feeling Bored

Maybe you’ve fallen into a comfortable couple habit, like ordering pizza and watching a movie every Friday, and she may feel like things have become too boring. Needing some space could mean she’s missing the newness of your relationship and wants a change. Dr. Randi Gunther, a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor, discusses this in an article for Psychology Today. Gunther notes that too much predictability in a relationship can lead to apathy. If she’s seeking space because she’s become bored, listen for hints that she wants to try something new or suggest a few new things of your own. Showing her you want to keep things new, such as finding a variety of fun activities for your Friday nights, can help you break out of your rut and alleviate her boredom.

She Needs Space to Calm Down

If you had an argument or you’re going through a rough patch in your relationship, she could need the space to calm down or figure out a solution to the problem. She might also feel that not talking to each other for awhile will give you space to think as well. According to the Psychology Today article “Mastering the Art of Giving and Taking Space,” you shouldn't continue the argument when she takes her space. The author notes that although expressing your anger provides temporary satisfaction, it could cause permanent problems between the two of you. If she needs space because things aren’t currently great in your relationship, give her time to process her emotions and cool down for a bit.

She Wants to Break Up

When she says she needs space and stops talking to you, she might be looking for a nice way to break up with you. Asking for space might be her way of taking a break without having a huge argument and messy breakup. If you’re worried she wants space because she no longer wants to be in a relationship with you, express this to her and open the door for an honest conversation. If she still refuses to talk to you, don’t push the issue. Instead, you can focus on other things in your life and continue to respect her space until she's ready to talk.