What Does It Mean When a Man Says to Back Off a Little Bit in a Relationship?

Give your man the space he needs to decide what he wants.
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Chances are, hearing the words, "Let's back off a little," from your man does not fill you with hope and delight. Nevertheless, once he's said it, the only thing you can do is look for the meaning behind it and accept that he needs some elbow room. While this may be difficult, you can use the situation as an opportunity for personal development.

1 Questioning His Commitment

Sometimes, a man will ask a woman to back off a bit if he's not yet certain that he wants to commit to the relationship. If you haven't been dating for very long and are met with this request, he may need some time to consider whether he wants to be your long-term beau. Meanwhile, he may need to do some inner work to address a possible fear of losing himself in the relationship, says psychologist Margaret Paul in the "Huffington Post" article "I Say I Want a Relationship, but Do I Really?" If he's afraid of losing his individuality to keep the relationship going, he may be pushing you for some extra space to ease that fear.

2 Creating Space

In his book, "The Prophet," the Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibron described a healthy relationship by writing, "...but let there be spaces in your togetherness." If your man has told you that he wants you to back off a little bit, the most likely explanation is that he needs to continue to feel like an autonomous person who isn't attached to you at the hip all the time. You can help him to feel more comfortable with your relationship by pursuing your own interests and allowing him to follow his own. For example, when he says he's going to spend the weekend camping with the boys, arrange a spa day with the girls and enjoy yourself, rather than tagging along. When you both are more secure in your individuality, you're more likely to be secure in your relationship with each other, as well.

3 Reacting Against Needy Behavior

Neediness can cause a guy to take a step back from a relationship faster than you can ask, "Do you really love me?" When you're giving your man some room, make an effort not to suck him back into an unbreathable atmosphere by asking for reassurance, incessantly texting him or otherwise causing him to feel that your needs are possibly more than he can handle. Realize that secure people don't always want to be "as close as possible," advises relationship coach Jack Ito on his personal website. If you suspect neediness has contributed to your man's need to back off, for the best outcome, you'll need to address your insecurity and work to become more secure in your own sense of self before you'll have much success in strengthening your relationship.

4 Focus on You

To keep from fretting about what's going on in your guy's head when he asks for space, develop your own interests and strive to lead a life that is complete whether he's in it or not. When you are spending your evenings creating art or hanging out with friends, you'll feel much better about your life than if you're pining away wondering if he'll want to get together this weekend. Releasing your attachment to the outcome of the relationship will not only provide him with the breathing room he has requested, but it will give you peace of mind as you become more comfortable with yourself and with how you approach your relationship.

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.