Why Does My Newly-Divorced Boyfriend Suddenly Want Space?

Posted on October 20, 2016 by delaine Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

newly separated man, date, divorced guy. weird, withdrawing, complicated. ask therapist and coach Calgary relationships

Hi Delaine,

For the past eight months, I’ve been seriously dating a separated man while he wrapped up his divorce. His divorce became final maybe six weeks ago.  They were married for 15 years and he said it was bad marriage. 

Ever since his divorce was finalized, I’ve felt like he’s been acting differently, a weird energy/vibe. I tried to talk to him about it to make sure he’s okay, and he said he was good, relieved, in fact.  But he also said he felt scattered and in 50 different places at the same time. 

Just a few days ago, he suddenly said he needs time and space and doesn’t know when he’ll come back to me.  I honestly thought that our relationship was great. We didn’t have any problems with one another.

I don’t understand what’s happening with him. Any ideas?


Dear Jill,

I know your situation is confusing and troubling to you.  Unfortunately, it’s very common to those dating newly-divorced and separated men.

First off, please understand that men are different from women in that when they are experiencing any kind of emotional turmoil they tend to need “space.”  Us women, on the other hand, tend to need to “talk about it.”

When a man is recently divorced and asking for space, it’s a strong sign he has unresolved grief to work through.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have feelings for you, but all the feelings that he has suppressed while he threw himself into your relationship, are now coming front and center stage.

I know this situation has left you kind of stunned – after all, in your eyes, now is finally your chance to really enjoy each other, so why the heck would he retreat?  But his response is classic rebound response — and very common with divorced men who get involved with someone else too quickly. He’s not ready.

I’d recommend you give him the space he asks for, be clear that you understand he has stuff to work through, but be careful not to offer too much of a listening ear to him, as you are not his therapist; HE needs to fix himself and his inner work is not yours to take on and own.  I know this can be very difficult for many women as we’re often eager to help in any way we can. I’ll remind you again, however, that this is his garbage to sort through, and in making it a focus in your relationship with him, it can taint it, as well as become your huge burden, possibly for a much longer period of time than you’d imagine.

I’d also lovingly, but clearly tell him that you are going to focus on your own life and doing your own thing for the next while, and recommend you do just that.  Respect yourself, don’t put your life on hold for him, and proceed carefully with him.  You’re about to find out just how messed up he really is — any couple can get along wonderfully when the going is easy, not tough.  Your communication skills (his and yours) are to be put to the test.

Please have your eyes wide open as this relationship progresses.  Be honest with yourself as it evolves as to whether it’s truly giving you what you want/need or turning into more stress and heartache than it’s worth.  Most women don’t know the scope of what they’re walking into when they get involved with a separated/newly-divorced man – and for that,  I recommend the book, Dating the Separated Man: Sort Through the Baggage to Decide if He’s Right for You. 



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