Your Partner's Asked You For Time to Think, What Should You Do?

When your partner tells you they need time, you might begin to imagine the worst scenario: the breakdown of your relationship. However, how realistic are your fears?
Your Partner's Asked You For Time to Think, What Should You Do?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 08 November, 2022

“My partner’s asked me for time to think… Is it the end? What can I do?” Few phrases are more feared than the classic I need time or I need space. In fact, the moment you hear these words you tend to think it’s the end. There’s no doubt that it’s an extremely delicate moment. It can make you panic and set all the alarm bells ringing in your head. However, do these kinds of turning points always signal the end of a relationship?

The first thing to remember is that every couple and every person is unique. We all live with certain circumstances that, at any given moment, can lead us to act in a certain way. Therefore, when someone expresses a need or makes a certain decision, we should always respect it. However, it’s also important to understand what’s behind their decision or actions, which often isn’t expressed in words. Therefore, communication and interpreting the signals correctly are important.

When someone needs time to rethink their relationship, it often implies they’re longing for a space of their own to think about it. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. As a matter of fact, sometimes valuable decisions can be made to improve the relationship.

“Love is space and time measured by the heart.”

-Marcel Proust-

Sad woman because my partner has asked me for time to think

Your partner’s asked you for time to think, what could be the cause?

When your partner’s asked you for time to think, you usually – after picking your heart up off the floor – ask them what it’s all about. Have you stopped loving me? Do you want to finish the relationship? Are you stressed? These are the questions that most often surface in the midst of these distressing situations.

There are those who think that asking for time is little more than an excuse. They see it as the partner’s clumsy way of ending the relationship without having to come out and say it. Nevertheless, there may be other motivators to consider here. Furthermore, if it really is the end of the relationship, you’ll probably have noticed other clues. 

Princeton University conducted research that indicated before these requests for space occur, the person will always give clues for up to three months before, indicating that the relationship isn’t going well for them. This would mean that their actions don’t come as too much of a surprise after all. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons that may be behind their request for time to think.

Time out, when everything becomes overwhelming

You’ve undoubtedly experienced difficult times when a certain area of your life becomes overwhelming. It could be your job, your financial situation, your partner… In reality, what you need at these times is to clarify your own situation in the world. To ask yourself where you are. Are you happy with what you have? What can you do to feel better? Perhaps this is how your partner’s feeling right now.

When a relationship has gone too fast

If your partner’s asked you for time to think, it may be because the relationship’s progressed a little too fast for them. Perhaps some hasty decisions have been made and your partner feels they need to take a step back. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to end the relationship, but to perhaps just slow things down a bit.

Fear of compromise

Insecurity when it comes to maintaining a serious and responsible commitment to someone is another variable to consider. Indeed, not everyone is ready or even wants a stable relationship. Perhaps your partner’s reached that point where they’re forced to make a firm decision. Do they commit 100 percent to the relationship, or do they go back to their comfort zone and regain their independence?

Heartbreak and fear of telling the truth

Although we lack studies to know what percentage of cases end in a breakup when one person asks the other for time to think, sometimes it’s inevitable. However, in these cases, it’s clear that the partner has lost their love, hopes, and desire to continue fighting for that relationship.

boy thinking about when my partner has asked me for time to think

What should you do?

What should you do if your partner’s asked you for time to think? How should you act when they need to get away for a certain time? It’s evident that, in these cases, the most important thing is to know how the other feels and what led them to make their decision. Good communication is the best tool in these cases.

The University of Georgia conducted research that reminds us that knowing how to communicate and understand each other increases satisfaction in couple relationships. For this reason, it’s probably a good idea to find the right moment and speak empathically yet assertively.

Also, you should consider the following.

Respect your partner’s decision

Avoid becoming either the persecutor or the persecuted if your partner asks for time and space. Maintain your dignity. Accepting their decision is always the best way to go.

Clarify how long the separation will be

If your partner’s asked you for time to think, it’s a good idea to draw up a plan and a time frame. By doing so you’ll begin to better manage the situation. That’s because you’ll know that the time will come when you’ll know your partner’s decision.

You can’t wait forever. If weeks or months go by and they still haven’t returned, you’re perfectly within your rights to try and get a final resolution.

Take the opportunity to think about your relationship

There’s one final thing to mention. If your partner asks you for time and space to think, you can do the same. Reflect on your relationship, work out how you see yourself in the relationship, and whether you actually want to return to the same scenario or would like things to change.

Moments of crisis are always good opportunities to reflect on things that perhaps you hadn’t previously taken into account. You might even emerge stronger as a couple. Alternatively, perhaps it’s time to consider your options.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Sarah SerajKate G. BlackburnJames W. Pennebake (2021) Language left behind on social media exposes the emotional and cognitive costs of a romantic breakup.
  • Lavner, J. A., Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (2016). Does Couples’ Communication Predict Marital Satisfaction, or Does Marital Satisfaction Predict Communication?. Journal of marriage and the family78(3), 680–694.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.