You go into a relationship giving him everything you have…
Only for him to pull away, claiming he needs space.
What is going on?
At first you assume it’s you. He’s pulling back because he doesn’t want to be with you. It feels like rejection, even abandonment.
So you look for a better explanation.
Maybe he’s pulling away because something’s going on for him. He’s busy, he’s overwhelmed, and if you just wait it out he’ll come back to you and everything will be fine again.
You talk to your friends about it, and they have a different take.
They think he’s playing you. Maybe he’s seeing other women, and that’s why he has less time for you. They tell you to dump him and get on with your life.
Which explanation is the right explanation?
Or is something else going on?
Put on your detective hat and check out these 5 reasons men pull away and the clues you need to look for.
1. He’s struggling and doesn’t want to talk about it.
As women, we know what to do when we’re stressed or overwhelmed or confused.
We go to our friends, we talk about what’s happening, and we feel better for it.
That’s not how men have been trained.
Many men have been taught to cover up their overwhelm or confusion. They don’t want to seem weak. They’ve been taught that it’s up to them to fix their problems on their own. Being a man means not leaning on anyone.
He gets into a relationship with someone who can read him like a book, and it becomes really hard to hide his struggles. Even worse, she wants him to talk about his feelings. That’s the last thing he wants to do! He doesn’t want her to know everything isn’t perfect.
So he pulls away to give himself some space to get his life sorted.
That’s one of the most common reasons men pull away. It’s how they’re used to dealing with things.
If you’ve noticed him acting stressed lately and not wanting to talk about it, then this is the most likely reason why. He should seem calmer and more settled when he comes back to you.
2. He’s not into the relationship as much as you are and doesn’t want to tell you.
When you’re in that lovely honeymoon phase of a relationship, he wants to be with you as much as you want to be with him. It’s exciting, romantic, everything you ever dreamed of.
But the honeymoon doesn’t last. Eventually, the reality check hits.
This is when you take off those rose-colored glasses, and you start to see that your relationship isn’t perfect. He annoys you sometimes, just as you annoy him.
This is often when you’ll notice him pulling away.
He’s not as obsessed with the relationship as before. He needs to get back to his normal life. Taking some space from the relationship gives him the opportunity to see if it’s still something he wants.
In great relationships, the reality check is where you fall in love with each other as you really are rather than as you want each other to be.
It’s a positive step forward. You shift from the magical thinking of the honeymoon phase to the practical thinking needed to create a real life together.
But if you’re still in the honeymoon phase when he hits the reality check, things can get awkward fast.
You’re still looking at him with stars in your eyes, thinking he’s the most perfect man you ever met. Instead of feeling flattered, he feels incredibly uncomfortable. He’s come down to earth, and he wishes you’d come down, too.
You’re so in love with him that he knows he can’t say anything, though.
He doesn’t want to hurt you. He wants to be a good guy. So he tries to figure out a way to give you the perspective he has. Taking space for himself seems like the best way to do it.
If he seems uncomfortable and distracted with you after he’s returned from taking some space, chances are he’s half-in half-out of the relationship.
3. He needs space but doesn’t know how to ask for it.
You’ve probably heard of the 5 love languages, but did you know that there’s a 6th love language?
We not only express love through quality time, acts of service, gifts, touch, and words of affirmation, but we also express love through giving each other space.
Yes, giving a man space can be a way of showing him love.
I remember talking to a male dating coach once about his relationship with his girlfriend. He told me that whenever his girlfriend got upset, he left the house and gave her space. He thought he was being a great boyfriend, because that’s what he’d want her to do if he were upset!
He obviously hadn’t learned the Relationship Golden Rule.
The Relationship Golden Rule is the opposite of the regular Golden Rule, which tells us to treat others as we would want to be treated.
The Relationship Golden Rule asks us to treat others as THEY want to be treated.
Some of us need more space than others. As a highly sensitive person, I find that I need quiet time by myself to recharge. I get stressed when I am around people constantly. It’s important to me to be with a partner who understands and respect my need for solitude.
If your guy regularly takes time for himself and seems to be in a better mood when he returns, this is probably the reason why.
4. He’s testing your boundaries to see how far he can go before you call him on it.
This is what your friends tend to conclude when they hear how he’s been acting. They think he’s trying to see how much he can get away with.
And they may be right.
Guys who’ve got a bit of player in them believe that being too available to a woman is a bad idea. She starts to get ideas about them being together, when in fact he’s made no promises at all.
If you think this might be your guy, think back and ask yourself whether you’ve ever clearly established that you’re in a committed relationship.
Have you had the “defining the relationship” talk? Have you both said that you’ve stopped dating other people?
If not, then this guy may be pulling away because you are just one of the girls he’s playing. He’s giving you just enough of his attention to keep you happy, but not enough to make you feel secure.
When a woman doesn’t feel secure in her relationship, she tends to pour all her time and effort into convincing him she’s the one. She assumes that once she shows him what an amazing girlfriend she is, he won’t want to be with anyone else.
Not only doesn’t that work, but it also plays to his advantage.
He gets to enjoy her affection, attention, and generous gifts without having to offer commitment in return.
If things are really amazing when you’re with your guy, but when he’s not with you it’s like you’re not even on his priority list, this may be the reason why.
5. He pushes away intimacy.
Men don’t just pull away in new relationships. They also pull away in marriages.
Intimacy anorexia is a condition where men are addicted to withholding emotional and physical intimacy from their spouse.
They may go through the motions of being a dutiful partner, but it’s as if they’re not even there. They don’t want a close relationship. They will do whatever it takes to stay disconnected.
Women in relationships like these tend to say that they feel incredibly alone.
They do everything they can to make their partner love them, but they keep hitting a wall.
Sometimes, if they threaten to leave, their partner will act like they’ve woken up and start acting like a real husband, but it never lasts.
If your guy pulls away instinctively every time you get close, and you feel incredibly alone in your relationship, then you might be dealing with intimacy anorexia.
So there you have it!
Your guy may be pulling away because that’s how he deals with stress. He might be pulling away because he’s not into the relationship as much as you are. He might be pulling away because he has a greater need for space than you do, or because he’s testing your boundaries, or because he has intimacy issues.
That’s not an exhaustive list, clearly, but it can help point you in the right direction.
In my next post, I’ll talk about ways to deal with his behavior. In the meantime, for a different perspective on why men pull away, check out my interview with love expert Nadine Piat.