That’s how it felt when my ex left.
I couldn’t understand why he had pulled away from our relationship and gradually become more and more withdrawn.
Everything had been going so well between us. We had met each other’s parents and key friends. We had vacationed together in blissful harmony. We had even breathlessly said those three magic words.
I truly thought the relationship would go the distance.
For the last few months, he had seemed touchy, but it was nothing extreme. He was a disgruntled freelancer who was having trouble drumming up business.
I thought that if I was patient with him, he would eventually stop pulling away from our relationship and come around.
Instead, his calls and texts became more and more rare. I had started calling him and inviting him to do things, but it seemed to make him angry. I thought that if I carried the weight of our relationship for awhile, eventually he would feel better and get back to normal.
Eventually, I confronted him about his withdrawal and he abruptly ended things.
This drove me to get to the bottom of why men pull away from relationships, and more importantly, what to do when he pulls away from you.
Here are the most common reasons why men get distant when a relationship seems like it’s going well:
1. He’s overwhelmed.
Men compartmentalize their relationships more than women do. If a man is at work, he’s thinking about work. If there is a crisis somewhere in his life, he is going to be focused on solving that.
If your man is going through a stressful time, he must be supported to deal with it, but this support may look different than it would for you. For a man, “support” might mean leaving him the hell alone for a while while he tackles his problem in his own way.
For example, my freelancer ex was having a work crisis. He simply could not deal with my relationship needs and the fact that his income was in the toilet. He had to drop one or the other to get his life together. The fact that I got angry and demanding pulled the rug out from under him— even though that was not my intention.
2. Your relationship has hit the awkward stage.
In the first three months, things are usually perfect. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and the relationship is going great. Everyone is on their best behavior.
Then, reality starts. You have a misunderstanding. One or both of you get stressed. The communication starts to become strained. Usually this happens around the 3-6 month mark, and lots of new relationships don’t survive it.
Sometimes men start to communicate less during this time since they simply cannot maintain the level of intensity that they did in the very beginning. It can feel like a man is pulling away, when the reality is that he’s getting more comfortable with you.
3. He’s having doubts.
Compatibility is tricky. At first, when everything is going perfectly, it can be easy to think that the rest of the relationship will be smooth sailing. The problem is, as you get to know each other better, potential long term stumbling blocks become more and more obvious. If he’s ready to settle down and thinking “forever,” incompatibility is a big deal.
Consider whether your lifestyles line up, whether you want the same things and whether you’re truly compatible with him. If there are big areas where you two differ, he could be waking up to the reality that even if he likes you, your relationship might not go the distance.
4. He’s eyeing someone else.
Of the reasons why men pull away, the idea that there might be another woman can be the most scary. Most women (me included) freak out when they’re worried about their man falling for someone else.
The most important thing to do if you suspect there is someone else is to calm yourself down and take care of your feelings before you do anything with him or the relationship.
You must decide what you want first. If you still want him and are interested in preserving your relationship, do not angrily confront him. Get your facts together first and then calmly broach the subject with him. This is difficult, but if you want to stay together, it’s crucial. If you become a raving lunatic, you definitely won’t help the situation— and might even drive him right into her arms.
5. Men process their thoughts and feelings differently.
Men’s brains are wired differently from women’s. Women have more connections between their brain’s hemispheres, which helps us think and feel at the same time. That is pretty significant, because when it comes to relationships with women, men take extra time and space to process everything because of the way their brains are set up.
If you’ve ever wondered why it takes guys twice as long to call back as you would expect, or why they seem to have logical solutions to problems but strip out all of the feelings that you explained with a problem, this is the reason.
Men’s brains are optimized for spatial and motor skills, while women’s are optimized for analytical and intuitive thinking.
If he’s emotionally overwhelmed and pulls away from you, he needs time to think about you, examine his feelings, think again, and come to a solution. This isn’t something you can force. It’s a common mistake to try to rush a man into making a decision about anything before he’s ready.
What should you do when he pulls away?
No matter why your man has pulled away from you, what you do about it is key. Lovingly focus on something else besides your relationship. Sometimes this is exactly what a man needs to come back toward you after getting distant.
Now is an excellent time to get back to yourself. Make fun plans with friends, immerse yourself in a hobby, get busy at work. Do fun things without him.
The urge to chase him or try and do something to make him come around can be overwhelming. However, remember that his distance is his choice. That means right now he wants and needs space. If you try to force him into a closeness that he doesn’t want, you will lose him anyway.
It’s important to keep this in perspective when you feel rejected by a man, or he just isn’t coming toward you in the way you want. The harder you push, the more he will pull.