Ask Erin: How Much Space Is Enough For My Boyfriend?

(Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez)

She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.


Q.

My boyfriend won’t text me back.

My boyfriend and I have been together for two years. He’s 31, and I’m 29. He recently just graduated from boot camp in the navy; he is now at his A school for training for another 19 weeks. 

Last week, we talked Saturday to Tuesday, but he kept getting annoyed that I would always bring up relationship talk. 

He told me he couldn’t handle this “drama” — asking him the same question over and over again — and that he’s trying to focus on his new navy career. He then said: “It’s getting repetitive. I am beginning to feel smothered by it all.”

After that, I had tried texting him 11 times — a few times on Wednesday and at least once a day until Saturday. After that, I decided to give him some space since he’s going through his military A school. 

It is now the following Wednesday, and I haven’t heard from him yet. I have noticed that he’s posted a couple of things on social media. 

I’m wondering how much space is enough to give my boyfriend until I text him back?


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A.

Your question is a question that I get A LOT — some variation of one partner essentially ghosting the other one within the relationship. 

The real problem here is that neither of you is being clear about what you want and need, nor are you listening. 

What I gather from your email is that you are at an impasse. You want to know where your relationship is going and he wants to focus on his career/avoid that question. I am not clear on what the specific question it is you keep asking him, but that’s my best guess. 

It’s completely reasonable that at 29, after being together for two years, you want to know where you’re headed. Likewise, he is at a point in his life where he wants to put his energy into his career. Neither of you is in the wrong. But also, neither of you is handling it well. 

His avoidance tactic of ignoring you and your texts is juvenile. At the same time, he has repeatedly told you that he is feeling smothered (AKA he needs space), and you respond by repeatedly texting him. 

Here’s a novel idea — take some space for YOU, to figure out what YOU want and what YOU need. 

Forget about what he wants and needs. That’s for him to figure out. 

A good place for you to start is here: Do you want a partner who ghosts you, who thinks it’s acceptable not to take 10 seconds to text you back, even if it’s just to say, “I don’t want to/can’t talk now. Let’s talk on Saturday.”?

I don’t want that for you, and I don’t even know you. 

So, don’t text him right now. Take the time you need to figure out what you want and need from this relationship. Once you have some clarity there, set up a time to talk to him. If your wants and needs do not match up, you are far better off walking away and allowing yourself the opportunity to find someone who WANTS to text you back, who WANTS to put some focus on your relationship. 

And, please, don’t hear what you want to hear when he tells you what he is feeling/thinking. Listen to him. If he is saying he doesn’t have room in his life to give this relationship any space, take him at his word. Don’t wait around for that to change. It will only make both of you miserable and prolong the inevitable. 

So… Get clear on what you want. Communicate that. Listen. And take action accordingly. Good luck and keep me posted! 


The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, recovery, friendship, sex, consent, what I’m watching, Amber, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at askerin@ravishly.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. xoxo
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