Giving a Woman Space

Dear Deb,

I am in a now 3-month relationship with a 48 yr old woman. I’m 42 and used to spending my time with older women. This gal has her life together, but has the normal issues we all have and possibly other issues not yet shared.

We hit it off great, took our time to bed and became close with a fair amount of affection until she started feeling “smothered”. (She) later explained her feelings of wanting to take it slow which I concur with. However, there’s a lack of affection and has been for a couple of weeks.

I think this gal is worth waiting for. However, what is the best thing I can do besides be patient and provide space?



Dear Ty,

If she’s been in a long relationship, she might need some time to decompress and see whether she wants a guy full-time in her life again so soon. If she’s not been in a long relationship for a while, she’s probably used to independence and “space” and isn’t exactly comfortable with a guy in her life 24/7. Or she might be giving you the brush off, because she doesn’t want the relationship to be romantic and is feeling smothered by your affection.

When she says the word “smothered”, that tells me you are probably a constant presence in her life or you are want a physical relationship a little more ardently that she’s comfortable with. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that behavior in certain instances, but you have to know your woman. Many women don’t want a boyfriend so needy that they’re constantly having to check in or deal with that guy’s presence. Other women want to “be sure” they have feelings for a guy before they dive into a serious relationship.

So the problem becomes, when she says “I want to take it slowly”, what does that mean?

The Meaning of “Taking It Slow”


As mentioned above, it could mean something entirely innocent and straightforward, or it could mean she just isn’t interested anymore. You’re going to have to figure that out on your own, using your perception of her words, actions and body language. It’s a coin toss.

The women out there will tell you that you should take her at her word and assume she only wants to take it slow and get to know you better before moving to the next level. The men out there will tell you this is a brush off and you should start looking for other women, because she likely wants to be “just friends”. Guys and girls perceive these instances differently, as a general rule. It kind of depends on whether your lady friend is the straightforward type who’s going to tell you exactly what’s on her mind, or the type who wants to let you down easy (by saying one thing and meaning another, thus making your life miserable).

Testing Your Feelings

A third option is that she is testing you to see how much patience you have and how much you want it. If she’s been burned in the past by guys, she may want to see whether you want a purely physical relationship or whether you would stay around and “care about her” if there wasn’t the physical stuff. If that’s the case, then that stinks. Maybe I’m just being a guy, but I don’t think love and romance should be about personal tests and mind games. That being said, some guys would view that as a challenge or call to arms to “prove how much you care”, but (rebel that I am) I don’t necessarily want a woman who wants to control me in that way.

Long story short, you have no idea what she wants.

Luckily, what a man should do in this situation is pretty much the same in all three cases.

Provide Space – Don’t Be a Lap Dog

You are doing the exact right thing by “being patient and providing space”. If she says she wants space, then you have no choice than to give her space. On the other hand, once you have all this extra time and space on your hands, there are a number of options at your disposal. I would suggest you explore those options.

Don’t become her personal go-to guy. That is, care for her if that’s how you feel, but don’t become a lap dog for her. When you have feelings for her, but you give a woman who’s teetering one way or the other the choice to make you a “good friend”, she’s just as likely to take the easy way out. Many guys will stay in that space in-between a romance and a friendship, hoping that having the foot in the door is going to pay off. A whole lot of the time, you end up being the guys she just likes as a friend and a convenience.

Stay Friendly – Explore Your Options

So explore other options. Give her the space you want. Stay friendly and cordial. Don’t get mad and show off your emotions. Simply give her what she wants, but maintain your independence and masculinity. There’s simply nothing wrong with that.

Keep up a social life. Get to know other women. If there’s someone else you have considered dating or who is interested in you (and you are attracted to), go out with her. This 48-year old woman has every right to want her space, but (on the other hand) you have every right to own your space, too.

Don’t think this is going to estrange her from you. If she’s interested, she’ll let you know about it. If she’s not interested, you’re making a graceful exit. She’s the only one who knows what she wants, so let her work through her issues and figure out where she’s headed. As I said, keep it friendly and play it cool. Stay in her life as much as she indicates she wants you in that life, but don’t shut down your life and let her keep you on a rope. Don’t let her string you along, because a lot of people (not just women) will do that, if they can.

Control Your Own Life

If she wants control, give her control of her life. But don’t give her control over your life, too. People – men and women – want to eat their cake and have it, too. A lot of times, people will get away with what you let them get away with. So don’t be a sap.

Keep a Line of Communication Open

Keep a line of communication open between the two of you. In fact, maintaining a certain level of affection is not a bad policy. Don’t spend a lot of time around her, but make that time matter. Listen to her problems. Be friendly and affectionate, but only if she gives you signals that she wants to show affection. If so, give her a touch on the arm or shoulder every now and again. Hold hands if she wants to. Run your hand through her hair, even. But don’t initiate intimate or sexual contact in any way. Let her make the first move. Show her you have affection, but don’t act like you have nothing but sexual feelings for her.

And if she seems open to a discussion, talk about this idea of “her space”. Don’t get angry, frustrated, sad, quiet or brooding when you discuss these things. Be a man and face the truth in a straightforward way. Let her know that you want to be her man and, if you have it in you, that you want to be her friend. But don’t be an unconditional man who will stay in the limbo between friendship and romance forever, because it’s unrealistic and selfish of her to expect that of you. Some guys play it that way, but women aren’t likely to respect a guy who is simply no challenge at all.

So if you think she’s worth waiting for, then wait for her. Just don’t sit at home at night while you’re waiting.

Best regards.

John Clifton