Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

"My boyfriend asked me for space, and I haven’t heard from him in 2-ish weeks. He’s been having a really hard time mentally recently and told me multiple times that it has nothing to do with me. Why am I still feeling nervous about this?"

Signed, Anxiously Waiting

Dear Anxiously Waiting,

I’m sorry that you’re going through this. You must be experiencing a mixture of emotions—feeling bad that your boyfriend is struggling while also wanting to talk to him about what’s going on. It’s normal to feel nervous in this kind of situation.

You have very little information to go off. You want to understand what’s going on inside your boyfriend’s head, but the silence does nothing to help that. While he says that it’s nothing personal against you, it's hard not to take his radio silence personally. What’s a relationship without communication?

Now, that’s not to say that I think your boyfriend is wrong for wanting space to manage his mental health. It's healthy that he drew a boundary instead of cutting things off with you. Yes, two weeks is a long time. But mental health issues affect everyone differently. You can’t rush his healing.

So let’s circle back to feeling nervous. I’m sure you’re consumed with thoughts of your boyfriend; what he’s currently doing and what going through his mind. You won’t find any answers by dwelling in these thoughts. Instead of investing energy into thinking about your boyfriend, invest it in yourself.

Use this time apart from him to take care of your needs. See your friends more. Return to hobbies you love. Read your favorite books. Watch your favorite movies. Listen to your favorite songs. Do whatever you loved doing but didn’t have time for because you were spending time with your boyfriend.

You don’t know how long your boyfriend will need space. But you can choose how to spend this time. When it’s all said and done, you won’t regret investing your energy into yourself. Everyone could use some “me-time” regardless of their relationship status.

I wish I could say how long your boyfriend will need time for himself or if this time apart will become permanent. Unfortunately, you can’t control either of those outcomes. The best thing you can do is give him the space to heal and in the meantime take care of your own needs. That way you feel more confident to handle whatever comes your way.

If, at any point, the silence becomes too overwhelming, know that you can create a boundary too. That may result in ending your relationship but, sometimes, people who struggle with their mental health need a long time to themselves. You have the choice not to wait things out. Your mental health matters, too.

You are handling this in a very mature and caring way. Whatever choices you make, know there isn’t a wrong choice. The types of situations are too complex for “right and wrong.”

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