One of the scariest things that can happen your relationship is when the man who you felt such a great connection with, who you felt so close to, starts to pull away.
It can jar us, make us feel afraid and abandoned, and it totally sucks the big one.
Often, as strong women, we launch right into “fix it, fix it, MUST FIX IT” relationship strategy mode. We call our girlfriends and analyze what’s happening. We read articles, buy books and generally freak out. And we pledge to do whatever it takes to make the awful feeling of aloneness blooming in our hearts go away.
Fear of loss is more motivating than hope of gain. And having a man pull away from what felt like a good, treasured relationship can trigger full panic, all hands on deck, emotional alert mode.
Frankly, if you’re feeling distance from a man, how you handle this uncomfortable time in your relationship is crucial.
First, I want to talk about three misguided (and harmful) strategies women launch into when he’s pulling away from them:
1. Bribing him.
When you do nice things like buy him things, make romantic dinners and try to bend over backwards to show a man that you think about him, you’re taking on the masculine role in the relationship.
This backfires since he often feels smothered and like you’re doing “his job” or like you’re trying to get something out of him (which if we’re being honest, you are… even though that thing is simply honest love and connection).
He can sense that you’re reeling from his going colder and it’s likely puzzling to him why you’d invest MORE in someone who isn’t investing in you. He may feel like you’re lower value in relationship to him, or like he’s “won the game.”
2. Trying to convince him verbally that you REALLY love him.
Telling a man your feelings for him is great in small doses— but not great in the widely sweeping, dramatic way that many of us (me included) have tried it in the past, out of fear.
“I really enjoyed the ___(thing he did)___. That was great.”
“I have a really fun time with you when we ________.”
This kind of praise is wonderful. It acknowledges his contribution and makes him feel appreciated.
“I love you so much snookiewookums, I can’t wait to spend forever with you.”
Since being verbally demonstrative of our feelings comes more naturally, and we might enjoy hearing the latter (maybe without the snookiewookums part) because this kind of verbal declaration can make us feel safer in the relationship. When things get tough, we often mistakenly think that a man will want the same kind of verbal reassurance of our feelings.
Unfortunately this usually backfires and pushes him further away.
The seriousness of it introduces obligation whereby he might think, “forever? EEEK, trapped.” Wide-sweeping declarations of love like forever can feel smothering. Forever is a deep obligation. It reeks of taking his freedom away.
Your praise is better spent thoughtfully acknowledging his sincere contributions to your relationship– no matter how intermittent or small they might seem.
3. Trying to use sex to make him “feel it for you.”
He won’t fall back in love with you, move mountains to be with you and give you the careful, loving cherishing you’re hoping for (or that you feel like you’ve lost) just because you give him sex in the hope that he’ll have such a great time that he’ll melt.
If you think about it, this is a lot like trying to bribe him. Have sex with a man IF YOU WANT TO. But you won’t get a commitment or more closeness from a man by trying to trade sex for it. This is the exact wrong strategy.
Now, don’t think for a moment that I’m saying that you should withhold sex or act strange when it comes to the bedroom. Sex is great and so important for your bond. It’s the desperation aspect of doing it more so you’ll re-interest him that is problematic.
So, if all of this is not effective, what do you do when he’s pulling away?
Here’s what to do instead when he’s pulling away from you:
Okay, I know this advice sounds glib, but it’s truly not meant in that spirit. I have a tremendously hard time with this personally— which is why I know intimately how hard it is AND how crucial.
Often what we perceive as a serious problem with distance in our relationship will shake itself out over time, particularly if we allow him space. Relationships ebb and flow over time. Freaking out does not make anyone love you more.
Honor your feelings of fear and worry, but separate them from action.
Just because you sense a rift forming between you and your man, it doesn’t mean that you are required to launch into action. If you’re prone to this, we’re truly on the same team. I feel you. But RESIST this urge.
And I understand the fear that if you don’t act, then he’ll really leave. I deeply do. But, even though you’re feeling afraid, doing things that act out that feeling isn’t the answer.
Fear is a relationship killer.
When we give into fear, we spiral. We start to “act as if” but like it’s over, not as if things are fine and he’s just gone into his cave for now.
When we let those monsters under our bed come out to play, we risk treating him like he’s done something wrong, making mountains out of molehills and REALLY causing a problem, even if his distance was actually minor or temporary. And if there IS a big problem already, we make it worse when he’s pulling away already. Being afraid never inspires someone to come closer to us.
All fear gets us is suspicion, fault finding and a race toward a deeper problem. Fear lies to us. It melds into worry and creates a situation where we feel like by worrying more about our relationship, we can make it better.
Gently put your focus back onto yourself.
When we are in fix-it mode, we’re thinking all about him, hoping to change what’s happening and how to make the pain we’re feeling go away. We usually AREN’T thinking about making ourselves genuinely happy separately from him or considering how we could use this time to make ourselves feel good no matter what. And, focusing on ourselves might feel like the exact opposite of what we want to do.
Centering yourself and showing yourself the love you feel like you’re missing right now is the only way to get your attractive mojo back. Insecurity is not an aphrodisiac for him. Getting your center back is tremendously attractive.
A man is attracted to your feminine energy, not your attempts to fix him or force the relationship in the way you want it to go in. If it’s truly coming to an end, letting your fear take the wheel won’t make it better, but getting back to who you are if you’ve lost yourself in the relationship always helps.