You’ve been close for a while and things felt good, but now he’s distant and you want to know why a man pulls away, right?
There are a few reasons for this behavior and there are things you can do to help the situation and draw him closer to you again.
What You’ll Find Here
He’s battling something internal
He’s experiencing depression
Either he’s cheating on you or betraying you in some other way
He’s avoiding something…or you both are
There is a crisis he’s dealing with
He’s experiencing a midlife crisis
Burnout got the best of him
There is past trauma he’s now reliving
He’s afraid of being hurt
He wants to keep his independence
His feelings are confusing him
He’s afraid of losing his identity
Why a Man Pulls Away
You’ve probably had these thoughts, or something similar:
He’s preoccupied. He seems like he’s off in his own little world now and I can’t seem to reach him. The more I try, the more distant he becomes.
He says I shouldn’t be worried about anything, but I can tell something is wrong. He seems like he’s far away, but he denies it when I ask.
When I ask him a question, he’s impatient and cranky. He’s never acted that way before. I can tell something is bothering him, but I have no clue what it might be.
I think he’s afraid to share what’s wrong with me. Before, he’s always trusted me as his confidant, but now he’s keeping it all bottled up. I don’t know what to do.
Let’s look at some of the reasons for this unusual behavior from your partner so you can work on being the best you can be for him.
He’s Battling Something Internal
We all go through different stages, or some call them seasons of life. You and your partner might not always be in the same stage.
He might be feeling the desire to do something but following that dream would challenge the status quo of your relationship. He may want to change jobs but is afraid it would put more pressure on you or would force a move to a new city.
Instead of talking to you about it, he’s buried it and tried to push it away. But as time passes, he still desires the change; things are trying to push to the surface while he’s always trying to cram them back down.
He’s torn between his love for you and your relationship and his dream and he feels trapped in a way he’s never felt before. He doesn’t want to share it with you because that would draw that dream to the surface again and he’s trying to suppress it.
What Can You Do?
One thing you can do is be there to listen. Don’t push or ask him to explain what he’s feeling. He already feels guilty enough about things without having more pressure applied. You can try saying, “Let’s talk for a moment. You don’t seem like yourself lately. Is there something going on?”
Present an accepting attitude, but don’t push him. He’s battling this on his own and he might want time by himself. If so, grant it, without animosity. Let him be by himself to sort things out.
He might come back to you and spill what’s going on and you might not like the result but be there to listen if he does decide to share.
Trust that he’s labored long and hard on whatever decision he ultimately comes to and the toughest part he had to work through was how his decision would impact you both. If you think you can work with whatever decision he’s made, say so, but if you can’t, he’s already prepared to accept that. That’s probably what he’s expecting.
If he seems as if he can’t seem to resolve things on his own, encourage him to seek professional help. This isn’t all about talking or listening, but about developing the tools to manage these types of situations and to work toward goals.
Why a Man Pulls Away | He’s Experiencing Depression
When many people speak of pulling away, they most often associate depression with the behavior. He goes to bed and sleeps for twelve hours straight, then he has no desire to engage in the household, so he binge-watches Game of Thrones or sports.
He seems like he’s always tired and he might even say he feels like he’s walking around in a fog. People experiencing depression can further force their mood into decline by being hard on themselves for feeling the way they do.
They carry around a lot of negative self-talk, which further adds to the problem. They say things like, “I’m a loser”, “I can’t do it”, or “I don’t deserve it”, whatever it is.
Depression is something that can be genetic and is often something people need medication for. Depression left unchecked can but doesn’t always lead to drugs or alcohol as ways to self-medicate.
What Can You Do?
Often, a partner or close friend will recognize depression before the person experiencing it. What you can do for him is to gently discuss it with him. Without being negative, sit down with him and tell him:
- The changes you’ve noticed
- You care for him
- That you want to help in whatever way you can
During this time, you also need to take care of yourself. There are limits to what you can do to help him battle his depression. Your job is to listen and work with him to find professional help. Some medications can help battle the chemical imbalance he’s experiencing.
You can also be supportive while he undergoes treatment for his depression. You can’t fix it, but let him know you’re there and that he’s making the right choice. Don’t overdo it.
Also, make sure that whatever he’s sought out is helping him. Is any therapy working? Do the drugs help him feel better?
Encourage him to rejoin life. Do something he loves and encourage him to fight his urges to withdraw from everything.
Acknowledge how difficult his struggle is and how hard it is to feel the way he does. Don’t pooh-pooh his feelings but validate them. Remind him that feelings are like leaves floating down a stream. They’re there, but they float off into the distance and soon are gone.
In other words, he won’t always feel this way. Remind him of good things in his life or good things he’s done.
And finally, support him by helping him make healthy choices. Encourage him to eat healthier and to exercise, even if it’s a little walk around the block. Exercise helps negate stress-causing hormones and helps you feel better naturally.
Is Your Relationship Over?
Do you think your relationship is teetering on the edge of disaster? Has he aleady left? This is a great article for sure, but there are others! Just click the button to read them.
He’s Cheating or Betraying You in Some Way
I hate to throw this one out there as a possibility, but it could be a reason why a man pulls away.
Whether he’s just dreaming of someone else, is dating someone else, or has had sex with another woman, his mind is elsewhere, which makes him feel distant from you.
He isn’t likely to respond to you when you ask him about this distance, so be prepared for that.
Cheating isn’t the only form of betrayal, though. He might have an addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, porn, or something else.
He may have made a bad decision that cost him something like money or status and he’s embarrassed to share it with you, so he’s retreated.
A third way he might be betraying you is if he’s being threatened and isn’t sharing it with you. If someone is stalking him or threatening him in some way, he might not share it with you for fear of scaring you or putting you at risk.
What Can You Do About It?
Betrayal, by definition, is someone violating your trust in them. Feeling this can set off a set of feelings for you. The results for you can be serious.
One study coined the phrase betrayal trauma. This study indicated that 30%-60% of people who experienced betrayal in a romantic relationship experienced PTSD, depression, and anxiety. The betrayal negatively impacted their self-esteem and led to distrust in the relationship.
Whether you should end the relationship depends on your answers to these questions:
- Does your history with him mean a lot to you?
- Do you feel the two of you have changed or grown apart?
- Is he taking responsibility for his actions?
- Has he expressed that he’s sorry and willing to try and make things right again?
- Is he willing to go to therapy, by himself and/or with you to make things right?
- Are you both committed to the relationship?
- Do you feel your relationship is beyond repair?
If your answer to the last two is that you aren’t committed to the relationship and the relationship is beyond repair, it’s okay to end it. You have no obligation to stay in any relationship where you’ve been betrayed.
To move forward, accept the betrayal instead of denying that it happened. Allow yourself feelings of anger, shame, and disappointment. Label those emotions but let them flow like that leaf on the stream – slowly away from you.
Take a moment to reflect on the relationship before the betrayal. Were you already moving away from one another? Consider taking a break from the relationship. You can gain clarity and establish boundaries.
Finally, allow yourself to grieve the relationship because it’s different now. Don’t be too hard on yourself, but give yourself credit for surviving this betrayal and being stronger.
Why a Man Pulls Away | He’s Avoiding Something…or You Both Are
Avoidance occurs when you and/or your partner are avoiding difficult feelings or situations. You might describe your relationship as feeling like you’re living parallel lives but not interacting with one another.
You might feel as if you connect in very few ways, compared to when you were first dating and seemed to connect in all ways.
The funny part about avoidance issues is that you rarely argue. That’s probably your sign that one or both of you are avoiding something. Rather than engage in conflict, you avoid one another and grow further and further apart.
Avoidance can go on for years until someone finally realizes they’ve had enough. A few signs of avoidance include:
- He doesn’t say I love you or, more importantly for men, show you he loves you through actions like fixing things for you or doing favors for you
- He deflects any mention of a deeper commitment or furthering your relationship
- You try to get closer, but he deflects your attempts
- He doesn’t reply to your texts, emails, or phone calls
- He “forgets” plans you have together, special events, or dates
What Can You Do About It?
The first question to ask yourself is whether you sought out this type of person, subconsciously. If you had a parent or important person in your life who was emotionally unavailable to you, you may have developed a need for that type of relationship. It feels comfortable to you, even though it’s unhealthy.
When you met your guy, he was emotionally unavailable, but your ability to make him commit and seem as if he was available to you feels like a win. In a relationship like this, you both become trapped. You’re constantly pursuing him and he’s constantly trying to distance himself.
Your response to his distance is probably one fraught with anxiety. You text him and he doesn’t reply, so you text him again…and again, and again, and so on. Each text expresses your disappointment and anger at his lack of response. Meanwhile, the more you text, the more stressed he becomes, and the more he feels overwhelmed and even attacked by you.
Success lies in your ability to accept him for who he is and to determine if he can meet your emotional needs. Not your wants, but your needs. In other words, you want him to text you throughout the day, but you don’t need that. You need to feel that he cares for you.
Seeking couples counseling, or at least each of you seeking counseling on your own is the best course because it provides you both with tools you can use to minimize your behaviors.
If he doesn’t want to seek counseling, either with or without you, your best course of action is to end the relationship, but you should also pursue why you choose this type of partner, especially if it’s not the first time it’s happened.
He’s in the Throes of an Unpredictable Personal Crisis
Challenges are part of life. We all face them from time to time, but sometimes they blindside us enough to cause us to pull back.
If your guy found out he had a serious illness, for example, and he was afraid it might put some sort of stress on your relationship, he might pull back. He doesn’t want to burden you with his problems.
Another example is if he’s facing the loss of a job or a loss of income. Money is very important to men, who are usually raised to believe it’s their job to support their family. If that responsibility is threatened, he might pull back until he can figure out a solution.
He may be experiencing either a loss of pride or the fear of the problem and is too embarrassed to share it with you.
What Can You Do About It?
Men often need to work through emotionally difficult situations on their own first. In fact, by the time you figure out something’s bothering him, he’s probably already doing that.
Your best course of action is to allow him to do so, letting him know that you’re there if he needs you. While most women have a nurturing instinct, I encourage you to set it aside and let him work through this on his own.
If and when he needs your help, he will ask. He will also share the problem with you at some point, but it may not be until he feels he’s solved it for himself.
While he’s working through his stuff, reconnect with girlfriends or pursue a new hobby. Get involved in some volunteer work or develop a new workout routine. Keep yourself busy but available if he decides he wants to talk.
Why a Man Pulls Away | He’s Angry
Anger is one of the few acceptable emotions for men, at least by society’s standards. If someone pulls back out of anger, he’s already emotionally checked out of the relationship. In these instances, he probably feels betrayed by you.
Anger shows up in many ways. Of course, there’s yelling, but sometimes people will show their emotions through sarcasm, which is one of several passive-aggressive behaviors.
Everyone’s timeline from zero to angry is different. For some people, it’s very fast, while for others, things might simmer for months before they finally become angry enough to act.
What Can You Do About It?
This will depend on what he’s angry about. If he found out you’ve been unfaithful, then trust has been broken and you’ve probably lost any emotional connection the two of you had. The relationship isn’t lost, but you have a long road back to trust and intimacy.
If he’s angry about something else, whether you can repair the damage depends on how willing he is to accept any apology and whether you can regain his trust and rebuild emotional intimacy with him again.
So, of course, your first step is to find out why he’s angry. I’ve seen instances where a third party intervenes to break up two people, and succeeds by telling lies or half-truths. This is a sad statement about the happiness of the third party, for sure. It may take weeks or even months to undo the damage and rebuild the trust someone else destroyed for you.
Once you know why he’s angry, you can hopefully both have a civil conversation about what to do next. Usually, taking a break from one another, at least for a while, will help calm things down.
Allow him this time to get over his negative feelings about you and the relationship. Move forward with your life, even going so far as to implement the no-contact rule. If he reaches out to you, you can reply, kindly but briefly.
During this time away, work on yourself. Examine the relationship and figure out what your role in its demise was and how you can correct that. Rebuild your confidence and be ready for him when he starts missing you and wants to talk things through.
He’s Having a Mid-Life Crisis
Don’t laugh. This is a real thing, and it happens to both men and women. I know the cliché is that men get a red corvette and a twenty-year-old girlfriend, but that isn’t really what a true midlife crisis is about and it’s not just for men.
At some point in our lives, we all reach a point of asking two questions:
Do I want the next twenty years of my life to look just like this?
Is this all there is to life?
Essentially, here’s what happens.
As a young man, your guy had hopes and dreams and he probably dreamt big. He knew exactly where he would be by this age, but he fell short, and now, he finds himself in crisis.
Or he suddenly realizes he isn’t going to live forever and he feels he still has so much to do.
Another possibility is that he feels trapped in the job he has and hates, but he can’t just quit because he has a family to support.
This ties into the next, which is either his ability to provide for his family or his ability to perform sexually. He’s no longer the eighteen-year-old stud he once was.
And finally, he may be facing declining health and an awareness that he has limitations he didn’t think he’d ever experience.
What Can You Do About It?
First, recognize that this is normal. Next, be supportive of him. Don’t lie to him but validate him if he expresses fears. If he wants a new sports car and your budget can afford it, let him have it. If he decides he wants to learn the foxtrot, you’d be wise to be his partner.
Let him know you’re attracted to him, even if he’s not the same do it all night stud you married. You aren’t eighteen either. Men need reassurance when it comes to sex because they want you to be pleased.
Make sure you show your appreciation for him. Again, don’t fake it or lie, but if he does something for you, let him know it meant something to you.
Remember that you’re only responsible for your happiness, not his. While he’s going through his stuff, work on yourself. Get a new hobby or join a gym. Nurture or rekindle old friendships or build new ones.
Practice self-care. Everyone should put time back into themselves. It’s how you keep from feeling burnt out and overwhelmed.
You can also try to set some couples’ goals and work toward them. This will help him see a new future for himself and you.
And finally, counseling is never a bad idea. He may resist at first, but if he truly feels his relationship is in peril, he’ll probably agree to go. Ask without issuing ultimatums and if he continues to refuse to go, find counseling for yourself.
Remember, above all, that his midlife crisis is not your fault. These are his thoughts and he is in control of them.
Why a Man Pulls Away | He’s Suffering from Burnout
There are many reasons for burnout, most of which don’t have anything to do with your relationship.
I have a neighbor whose wife recently went into assisted living due to ongoing health issues. He stayed home but probably belongs in assisted living as well. Since he refuses to go, his son is left coming over every day to help care for his father. He does everything from driving him to get groceries to walking his little dog Patches.
I spoke with the son a week or so ago and saw the signs. He’s suffering from burnout. He said his wife had pointed it out to him but he wasn’t sure what to do. His sister lives a few states away and can only come occasionally to help.
While it can be caregiving that causes burnout, it’s also sometimes a career. During the peak of the COVID crisis, many in the medical field suffered from burnout as hospitals suffered from chronic short-staffing issues. Even now, many places are short-staffed and have shortened hours or closed altogether because of it.
What Can You Do About It?
If your guy is experiencing burnout, there are a few things you can do to help.
First, it’s a good idea to help him develop some sort of self-care routine. Self-care isn’t just for women, and it isn’t all about bubble baths. Encourage him to pursue a hobby or get in touch with nature. Self-care is about activating all your senses. Encourage him to read for relaxation or to reconnect with friends.
When you’re caring for someone else, it takes away the time you might spend on yourself.
Of course, you can offer to help if his burnout isn’t job-related. Offer to take Grandma to the grocery store the next time or out to lunch. Give him a break from the responsibility.
Being supportive goes without saying. You’re probably hurting because you can see that he is. He wants to be there for his family member, but it’s often difficult for a caregiver to see how much of themselves they’re losing in the process.
He’s Reliving a Past Trauma
Many people have experienced terrible things in their lives, things others of us cannot even imagine. Most of the time, people do whatever they can to move past that trauma and you might not even be aware of a trauma your guy has been through.
Mentioning or discussing it dredges up bad memories he would just as soon forget. But memories are tricky and can jump back out at you without a moment’s notice. A certain smell or a particular phrase might trigger those old memories.
When those bad memories re-emerge, he’s likely to retreat inward so he can rebury them again without threatening your relationship.
What Can You Do About It?
If you’re already aware of his past trauma, the two of you have likely worked through it before, so doing so now will be easier. But if he’s kept this from you, it might be tricky to navigate it.
What you don’t want to do is act angry or hurt. This isn’t about you. If you haven’t heard about this trauma before now, it’s most likely because it’s a deep pain he doesn’t care to relive.
Encourage him to seek help in working through his trauma. These things often do a number on your self-worth, confidence, and self-esteem and it might take a professional to sort it all out.
Mostly, be supportive. Regardless of the course of action he chooses, it’s his trauma to deal with. Your job as someone who loves him is to be his rock. Don’t push him into sharing things he doesn’t want to share. Just be there and let him know you love him.
Other Reasons Why a Man Pulls Away
He’s Afraid He’ll be Hurt
If your guy has had rough relationship experiences before, regardless of how long ago they were, he may still fear being hurt again.
Of course, his own actions of staying distant, or getting close and then pulling back, are becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In this instance, it isn’t that he doesn’t have deep feelings for you. He’s just a little afraid of those feelings and not quite sure how to manage his fear of being hurt.
He might not even recognize that he’s experiencing this fear.
He’s Not Ready to Give up His Independence
For some men, the very real fear of losing independence will cause them to pull back. It’s especially true when a guy wasn’t really looking for a relationship when he fell for you. He was blindsided by you and now he’s faced with the possibility of giving up what he sees as his independence.
He’s feeling the pressure of wanting to spend time with you and putting energy into the relationship versus living the life he had before he met you. He’ll need to work this one out on his own, but you can reassure him that you don’t want or need 100% of his time by sticking to your outside friendships and hobbies while allowing him to do his thing.
Why a Man Pulls Away | He’s Unsure of How He Feels
Sometimes a man just isn’t sure of what his feelings are. If he’s never experienced love before, he might be second-guessing what he’s feeling.
In addition, he might not think he deserves your love because he’s battling low self-esteem and self-worth. Not only is he unsure of his feelings, but he can’t imagine why you would want to love him anyway.
He’s Worried About Losing His Identity
If he’s been single for a long time, he may find it challenging to identify as part of a couple. People say you and they mean both of you. He’s not himself, he’s part of you guys.
He has an identity that’s centered around being single. He knows how to live his life as a single man.
Now that he faces being one half of a couple, he needs a new identity. Essentially, he’s afraid he’ll have to give up some of the things he loves about being single to be with you.
Again, reassure him that he’ll have his alone time by maintaining yours. Keep enjoying girls’ night, your hobbies, and your workout routine. If he wants to join in, fine, otherwise, let him do his own thing.
Why a Man Pulls Away
I could go on and on with more reasons for why a man pulls away, but I think by now, you’ve got the idea. Most of these reasons have nothing to do with you directly and everything to do with him navigating some part of his own life.
In any relationship, there are ups and downs. It’s how you, as a couple, manage those ups and downs that determines the future of your relationship. If you feel your man is pulling away, you can try to understand what might be behind it before you determine what you will do about it.
If you’ve successfully navigated other difficulties, this one will be easier to manage, but if it’s the first one, you’ll need patience and understanding on your side. If you feel like things aren’t getting better, you always have the choice of pursuing counseling, but if he’s not willing and things don’t seem to be improving, it might mean the end of the relationship.
To date a man, you must understand a man. Men and women do almost everything differently, and sometimes for different motivations. To a man, his financial status indicates how well he can take care of you and your family. It's a source of pride for him to be able to do so, even if you make your own money and can support yourself.
It's how he was raised.
Men also love differently. Many relationships breakup for the simple reason that a man is showing a woman how much he loves her, but he isn't saying the words she longs to hear. He's taking her car to get the oil changed, building the shelves she desires in her office and helping with the outside chores. You're probably missing many of these signs that he loves you.
You gain so much insight into the male mind that you'll be amazed at what you suddenly see and understand in the behavior of all men around you. Not just the man you're in a relationship with, but the men you work with and those in your family.
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