definition of I need more space

an original definition by J. E. Brown

I need more space
  1. A breakup message. A coded message issued at the end of a relationship. {Source: "Definition of I need more space" by J. E. Brown.}

Related Concepts: {Read this comp1ete article at .}

Excerpts from my book (in progress)


If someone tells you: Your correct response is:
“I need more space.”

“Honey — NASA doesn’t have enough space for you.”

— J. E. Brown


Statement Meaning
“I need more space.”
  • “I’ve decided to break up with you, but I’m too weak to say so. So instead, I’m going to try to trick you into believing it’s possible for a relationship to exist without closeness. Of course, if you confront me and ask if that’s what I really mean by ‘more space’, I’ll deny it.”
  • “I’m tired of considering your feelings. I want this relationship to be about my needs.”
  • “I’ve unilaterally decided we’re going to have less of a relationship from now on. If you get upset or disagree, I’ll then be conveniently able to blame you for the breakup. I’ll tell our mutual friends that you overreacted.”
  • “I’ve stopped loving you, and that’s why I need the amount of space that goes with a non-love relationship.” {You’re reading "Definition of I need more space" by J. E. Brown.}
  • “You said something which I found offensive, or I learned something about you which I found offensive or which changed my once-high opinion of you, and I need time away until I figure out how to explain it to you in a way which you will accept calmly.” However, most people underreact to an offense, and go into denial about how serious the offense was. This understandably implies that “I need more space” usually means “It’s over; I just haven’t figured that out yet.”
  • The person who says “I need more space” may even believe it is true, but may lack the experience necessary to know that needing more space is usually permanent.
  • “I need more space” is a dealbreaker because of the emotions it dredges up. It will remind many people of their exes, who pulled the same stunt at breakup time.
“You’re Very Nice, but I Need More Space.”

Ah, the tactic of making sure to remind you that you’re very nice. They lead you on — just long enough to deliver the message.

Reality shows have taught me that “You’re very nice, but…” is what people routinely say when they think someone isn’t very nice. “You’re very nice” is what the supermodel tells the average guy after he places second in the dating show.

Nowadays I say it whenever I kill mosquitoes or cockroaches. I walk up to the insect and I say “You know, you’re Very Nice™, and It’s Nothing Personal™; but I really Need More Space™.” Whack. “I’m Sure You’ll Find Somebody Who Cares About You™.” Stomp. “It’s Not You, It’s Me™.” Splat. Squish. {You’re reading "Definition of I need more space" by J. E. Brown.}

No one ever broke up with anyone who was “very nice”. It’s like saying “Ooh! I found a pearl in the ocean! But it’s very nice. So I’m going to throw it back.”

“I’ll be out of contact for exactly n days.”

This is the 21st Century way of saying “I need more space.” The telltale signs that you are being dumped are:

  1. the cutoff of contact,
  2. a busy person (who has a busy way of life, long-term) pretends that he’ll be busy for a limited span of time, the length of which is already known to him, and
  3. the pretense that he will be on some deserted island with no cell coverage or even e-mail. Not only do people feel the need to be away from you, but they feel the need to deny the very existence of the technology which enables 24/7 contact. {Read this comp1ete article at .}

In my experience, this message has only one meaning: “I’m leaving and I’m never coming back.”

— J. E. Brown

From the chapter “How to be Flaky and Unreliable”:

Make an appointment with someone. Then break your word without notice. When you get called on it, shift the blame by saying “You move too fast! We’re Just Friends!” In other words, make outlandish accusations that the other person was romantically interested in you — Why else would anyone value his time so seriously? (This has become such a standard counter-accusation for breaking an appointment that I almost wonder if there’s a children’s book that teaches it. ;^) I even got this response from someone I was interviewing for this book — and the interview was his idea! I mean he insisted we talk by telephone at a time of his choosing because “typing an e-mail is like hard”! Then he blew off the appointment. When I told him I was dropping him from the book, the only reason he could conceive was that I must have been in love with him. ;^) Like he couldn’t imagine any other reason why I would value my time and resent having it wasted by inconsiderate jerks. When I write the Definition of Huge Ego, remind me to use his picture.){You’re reading "Definition of I need more space" by J. E. Brown.}

— J. E. Brown

Having been on both ends of the weapon (sending and receiving), I think INMS (“I need more space”) means “You said or revealed something about yourself that was so offensive that I instantly fell out of love with you. I need a few days off to re-evaluate our relationship. When I reach the end of this process, one of three things will be true or will have happened:

  1. “After some thought, I will remember all the happy times we’ve spent together, and I will find that those times call me back to you, and that I still have feelings for you. After some days of not communicating with you, I will contact you. Unfortunately, I will expect you to feel exactly the same as I do about continuing the relationship, at exactly the same time, which is naïve, because you will be stressed out and at your wits’ end due to my recent total lack of communication. This may lead to a reversal of the roles, in which you become angry at me and you need more space; we might never get re-synchronized, and that too could end the relationship. Or: {You’re reading "Definition of I need more space" by J. E. Brown.}
  2. “I will hatch a plan to save our relationship, but it will involve some kind of demand (ultimatum) that you stop doing or being whatever I found so annoying. Of course, ultimatums are all about power, which means the relationship is pretty much over, since “relationships” are supposed to be about equality and love, not about one party giving orders with threats attached. Or:
  3. “I will be finished with our relationship; I will be finished moving on. I will have spent these days reconstructing my understanding of reality (rewriting history) to be consistent with my new wishful thinking that we never had a relationship (notwithstanding the fact that we’ve been doing everything that couples do and feeling everything that couples feel).” {Read this comp1ete article at .}

Young and inexperienced people who say “I need more space” often naïvely assume that the other party will accept the news graciously. This may come from inexperience: someone who has never said “I need more space” before may not be aware of how these situations play out and that the statement itself makes a breakup even more likely. This may also come from what psychologists call “egocentrism”: an immature or defective understanding of the emotions of others, in which the other party is assumed to feel the way the self feels. A fairly common reaction to “I need more space” is “You’re trying to break up with me!” which will usually lead to a much more heated disagreement, causing a breakup. … Conversely, persons who have a track record of saying “I need more space” may be using it as a crutch, as a euphemism, carefully and deliberately chosen for its delayed-reaction properties, giving the breaker-upper time to escape the area before the bomb goes off, so to speak. Because “I need more space” does not literally mean “I’m breaking up with you,” the recipient will often lose days or weeks figuring out that a breakup has in fact occurred. In short, some people use INMS because they don’t know what it means; others use INMS because they do. That’s my conjecture. And until someone does a scientific study on it, a conjecture is all we’re going to have.

Some people who say “I need more space” think that statement literally means what it says, and that no breakup is even in the cards.

Remember, when someone asks you for “more space,” this can be a learning opportunity for you. For example, you may learn that your partner has a double standard, according to which, your needs and feelings will always be in second place. If you see this attitude, recognize it and adjust for it.


  • Never say “I need more space.” Most people assume this is a code word for breaking up. Instead, arrange to be busy and out of contact for the next few days, perhaps out of town, perhaps with family. The excuse you offer must be bulletproof.
  • “Needing more space” is a shocking, jolting thing to say. It’s an offense. You don’t get an unlimited number of them. No one is that forgiving. {You’re reading "Definition of I need more space" by J. E. Brown.}
  • Whatever you choose, do not mistakenly assume that distance does not have consequences. If you sense that you will ultimately decide to keep the relationship, be quick about it: 2 days, 3 days tops.
  • If you are lucky enough to be in an online relationship, with frequent gaps of several days between letters or instant message sessions, “space” is much easier to obtain, and you can even hide your vacation under the camouflage of a normal gap between letters.
  • At the time when it is said, “I need more space” may not actually have a fixed meaning; the outcome may not have been decided yet. However, the situation can be driven to a rapid and unhappy conclusion by the inexperience of one or both parties. Remember to gain your relationship skills and knowledge from reading and education; ethical persons do not try to gain knowledge by running experiments on live human subjects. Nowadays there exist many books (and a few websites) that can help you with your relationship education. This is the age of information, and that means anyone who is ignorant is willfully ignorant.

— J. E. Brown

1st edition 13 Sep 2015

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