When a Man Needs Space: What to Say When You Need Time Alone

advice: relationship john gray

What to do when a man needs space?

I find this to be one of the biggest challenges in relationships!

If you’re in need of alone time and not sure how to communicate that to your partner, I have some good news — there are ways to tell her that you need space that will actually be supportive to the relationship.

In this post, I’ll share exactly what to say when a man needs space so his partner understands, appreciates him, and gives him the time alone that he needs.

Dear John,

I was wondering, what kind of support can men give their partners before heading to their caves?”

– Alex

Well, I can tell from the question that you are already familiar with the MarsVenus term “cave.”

For everyone else, “heading to your cave” simply means pulling away from the relationship to experience alone time.

The most important thing to understand — first and foremost — is that men going to their caves is a biological need.

Unfortunately, women don’t experience it this way and so they can easily misunderstand it.

So often, women will feel hurt or unloved when a man needs space, not understanding that it’s not personal, and it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to spend time with her.

So the question remains: how to let her know?

First, you must both have a mutual understanding of how men and women are different.


The Biological Reason That Men Need Cave Time


During the day, if a man is experiencing a lot of stress with little feelings of success, then he will use up his testosterone.

The thing is, men need healthy high levels of testosterone in order to be calm, cool, capable, loving, and generous; basically, he needs that hormone balance to be the very best partner he can be.

But after a stressful day, in order to return to this wellbeing, a man needs space (a.k.a. time alone or with other men) to rebuild his testosterone.

Why? Relationship time (or We-Time as my daughter calls it in her You-We-Me-Time™ system) is time where you are giving and receiving love with a partner.

We-Time is estrogen producing — which is excellent for a woman’s ideal hormone balance — and this estrogen will actually help her return to her well-being. But for a man, it doesn’t.

When estrogen levels rise too high, testosterone drops. Instead, a man needs space (a.k.a. Cave Time or Me-Time) to restore his wellbeing and testosterone so that he can bring his best to the relationship during We-Time.


During Cave Time he will benefit most from doing things that he:

  • feels confident at
  • is good at
  • enjoys!


Those three factors will rebuild his testosterone. And, once his testosterone levels are up again to a healthy level, then he is biologically ready to return to his partner and actively engage in intimacy.

I explain this in more detail in my book, Beyond Mars & Venus, and I highly recommend exploring those chapters together.

The problem is that even though these are natural experiences and biological needs — where men pull away — it’s still a sore point in many relationships.


Because, if you (the man) tell her this, typically she will feel that:

  • You’re just making excuses
  • You don’t really love her
  • Something’s wrong with the relationship
  • She’s just not good enough


Women may feel insecure when a man needs space, but they are simply looking for reassurance.

Luckily, there are some excellent ways that you can reassure her before you take your Cave Time to help ease this moment of disconnection.


How to Reassure Her Before You Take Your Cave Time


It is really important that she understands that all men need space, and it’s not about her.

Remember, pulling away is not instinctive to her, so when she feels you doing it, she thinks: “How could you just pull away?”

The absolute best thing is for both of you to read my book, so you’re on the same page with this.

But short of that, there are some phrases you can use to let her know you need to pull away.


Some options you might use are:

  • “I just need some me-time; it’s not about you. I just need to take some time for me, and I’ll be back.”

Note: It’s always that sense of “I’ll be back” that’s so helpful to her.

  • “I need some time for me. If you need something, let me know, and I’ll create time for that.

Note: You want to help her feel that you’re still available to her even when you’re needing to take that time alone.

  • “I need to take some time alone, and it’s not about you. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Note: It’s very important to let her know that you’re not pulling away because she did anything wrong. It’s just a regular, basic need you have.


This can be so helpful, especially if you tend to be a little stressed, and maybe she sensed your irritability, and you may have even started to argue.

If you start to argue, you need to stop at that point — and believe it or not — there is a biological reason why!


When a Man Needs Space: Take It Before an Argument Escalates


For men, the more you talk when you’re upset, the more your estrogen levels go up.

So let’s say you worked a long, stressful day, so your testosterone levels are depleted, and then you’re irritable and need some time alone. Instead, you get into an argument with your partner. Well, the more you argue, the worse you’ll feel.

At this point, you’ll need to take some space to bring your testosterone levels back up in order to feel confident, relaxed, compassionate, collected, and most importantly, not be upset.

When this happens, you need to say: “I need to take some time to think about what you just said, and I’ll come back, and I’ll let you know that everything’s okay.”

This is far better than walking away without an explanation.

Men can just shut down sometimes, and women become afraid that if they say anything, they’re going to upset him.

She may become afraid to connect with you!

What I recommend is that couples create little rituals that make Cave Time a normal and regular part of their routine.

This means you have something you say when you need space and then something you say or do when you come out of the Cave to let her know you’re available again.


3 Simple Ways to Let Her Know You’re “Out” of the Cave


Now, these rituals could be simple.

You could simply say: “If you need anything, let me know. I’m here.

OR offer an act of service, like: “Hey, let me make you some tea. Would you like that?

Another thing you can do is just have a physical gesture. 

This gesture could mean you’re available for conversation, to do things for her, and to connect with her.

One reassuring physical gesture could be a simple touch of the hair or the shoulder that becomes a signal to her that you’re out of the Cave, and you’re available.

Remember, men needing their Cave Time is a very common sore point in relationships — even for me!

Way in my past, I would be teaching a lot of seminars and need more time alone, and my wife would say, “Oh, you’re just making excuses!”

But when she saw other men needing space too, then she saw that this was normal, acceptable, and healthy behavior. Nowadays, we’re even luckier because we have the biological evidence of why men need space.

This is why it’s very important for both partners to receive the education and resources that will help them create the best rituals for their relationship.

The best advice I can give is to read my book and make sure you are receiving the content we provide here at MarsVenus.


Grow in love,


Sign up here to get our best tips delivered straight to your inbox.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.