So there’s this guy in your life…
You KNOW he likes you. You like him, too!
You have a great time together. He says he’s looking for a relationship, and you’ve told him you’re ready for one, too.
But then something happens.
He starts pulling away.
He tells you that things are crazy at work, or he’s got some family drama going on, or he’s got exams to study for, or he’s got this opportunity to go traveling, and he’s not sure he can make it work anymore.
He wants to be honest with you, because he likes you a lot, but he’s not in the right headspace for a relationship. He’d love to stay friends, though.
What do you do?
The answer might just surprise you!
Find out why men tend to pull away when they’re going through big changes in their life, and why it doesn’t have to spell the end for your relationship.
Think Like a Man
To understand why guys do this, there’s one thing you need to know:
Guys compartmentalize relationships.
Think of a guy’s life as this bubble. Inside are smaller bubbles representing different areas of his life, like health, career, family, social life, finances, spirituality, romance, and so forth.
Each bubble is a different size based on a guy’s priorities at that moment.
He may be in a stage where he’s really focused on his health and spending hours at the gym. As a result, he’s spending less time with his family.
That doesn’t mean that his family isn’t important to him. It just means that he has limited time in the day, and right now he’s choosing to spend that time on something else.
None of us have infinite time and energy. If we need to spend extra time and energy on one thing, we have take back the time and energy we’re spending on other things.
Keep that point in mind, because it’s key to what I’ll be explaining next.
When Everything Changes
It’s often not until a guy’s life is going well—he’s happy at his job, he’s happy with his fitness, he’s in a good headspace—that he’s ready to devote time and energy to a serious relationship.
Romance is a priority for him, and he has plenty of time to spend with you.
You’re loving every minute with him. He’s devoted, he’s available, and it feels like this could go somewhere when suddenly…
Something changes in his life.
Maybe his housing situation becomes unstable, or there’s a round of layoffs at work, or he gets offered a major opportunity.
Now that area of his life is demanding his attention. He’s got a lot to figure out. He needs time and energy to do it.
Something has to give…
And often what gives is his love life.
He comes to you and says that he can’t be in a relationship right now.
You don’t understand, because you thought he wanted a relationship. You thought he liked you. What just changed?
Is he breaking up with you? Is it over? If it’s over, why does he say he still wants to be friends? Why does he keep texting you?
No wonder you’re confused, because you’re thinking like a woman. 🙂
Think Like a Woman
Women are different.
As women, we don’t compartmentalize love. We center love.
For a woman, the center of her life is love. Love is a constant. All the other areas of her life radiate off from that.
If a woman’s love life is going well, everything else in her life is manageable. If her love life isn’t going well, nothing in her life feels like it’s going right.
She can’t understand why a man would sideline her just because he’s having issues at work. Surely love keeps us centered through difficult times!
But guys don’t always see it that way.
A guy sees himself as having a limited amount of time and energy. He wants to give each area of his life his full focus, but he can’t.
Right now, there are urgent issues in his life that demand his attention, so he’s got to back off from the relationship to free up the resources he needs to deal with it.
In his mind, he has no choice. The relationship is using up time and energy he needs for other things.
Good men will tell you that up front.
They’ll let you know that they don’t have enough time and energy to devote to you the way they’d like.
If they’re going to be in a relationship, they’re going to do it 100%. And if they can’t give 100%, they’d rather hold off and not make any promises. Maybe at some point you can catch up again, when the timing is better.
For many women, that feels like rejection.
He’s saying he doesn’t want to be with you. His reasons seem pretty flimsy. If he REALLY loved you, he would move mountains to be with you. He wouldn’t let a little matter of job upheaval keep you apart.
And that would be true IF you were already in an established long-term relationship.
But in the early days of a relationship, you are still only a small part of a man’s life.
He has this whole life he’s been living that you aren’t a part of (yet). His loyalty is to his life. He wants to have his life sorted before he feels comfortable inviting a woman into it.
Purpose Over Love
Why do guys put the other stuff going on in their life before their relationship?
Surely a relationship is more important than anything else!
This is another area where men and women differ.
For a lot of men—especially successful, driven, ambitious men—what makes life meaningful is their purpose.
Their purpose is what they’ve been put here on this earth to do. It may be their career, their activism, their vocation, or just this feeling of being born for something more.
They’ve been taught that their purpose is the most important thing in their life. Not love. Not relationships.
Relationships come second. Love is a luxury, not a necessity.
Now, you and I are shaking our heads and thinking, “What kind of life is that? Everyone knows that love is the only thing that matters.”
But we’re women. Men have often received a different education, from teachers like masculinity expert David Deida.
Deida wrote a hugely influential book, The Way of the Superior Man, in which he emphasizes the importance of a man’s purpose:
Every man knows that his highest purpose in life cannot be reduced to any particular relationship. If a man prioritizes his relationship over his highest purpose, he weakens himself, disserves the universe, and cheats his woman of an authentic man who can offer his full, undivided presence.”
Yes, Deida is actually saying that a man disappoints his partner when he puts their love first. He claims that women only respect men who put their purpose first.
He gives the example of a soldier being called to fight. His wife is crying at the door as he prepares to leave, begging him to stay. Does she really want him to stay, though? Deida says no.
If he chooses his relationship over the call to battle and stays home with her while all the other men go out and fight, she would lose all respect for him. To be a man, he has to put his purpose before his relationship.
Men hear lessons like this and take them to heart.
They learn that to be a man means prioritizing their purpose over love.
So, if a man’s purpose is in jeopardy, because the heat has been turned up at work or he’s been laid off or he’s got a difficult year of study ahead, he will postpone relationships while he works on getting his life back on track.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t still like you. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t still have feelings for you.
It just means that he has a higher calling. He believes he must follow it or risk betraying his purpose as a man.
How Will You Respond?
Some women punish men for that.
They say, “You’re clearly not committed to this relationship. Either you choose me or we break up.”
Other women feel personally rejected. They’re certain that he’s not telling the truth.
Still other women see it as a request.
They respect the fact that he’s being honest and don’t take it personally.
When a man tells you that he can’t be in a relationship right now because he has things going on in his life, he’s asking you to respect his need to take a step back.
His life just got a whole lot more complicated. He needs to have back the time and energy he’s spending on you.
You may not even know the full extent of what’s going on for him. We’ve all got things going on that we don’t share with anyone. The more complicated life becomes, the less energy we have for others.
Wanting more than he has to give is a recipe for disaster.
A guy friend of mine had a very demanding job in software development. He was a great guy and super successful. But he wouldn’t date because he kept finding that women wanted more time than he had to give.
His work hours were crazy. He wanted love, but he was tired of having women get mad at him for not being available enough. Finally someone told him the solution:
Date a crazy-busy woman.
Busy people understand the challenges of having to balance a lot on your plate.
Keep the Door Open
If you like this guy and you think there’s potential, don’t stand in the way of what he thinks he needs to do.
Let him go with grace.
You can say:
Do what you need to do. I get it. I’ve really enjoyed being with you and maybe we could catch up again when life settles down. In the meantime, best of luck!”
And then you go home and pull up your online dating profile and throw yourself back out there in the dating pool.
Hey, if you hooked a guy as great as him, then you can do it again! You’re on a roll.
It’s really hard to let go of someone you like a lot.
But have faith in your own destiny.
You were made to love. You will find love. Maybe with this guy, maybe with another.
Only a very confident woman can let a man she likes a lot go with a smile.
She knows he needs to do this thing. She sends him on his way with blessings. She knows he’ll remember her. She leaves it up to fate whether they’ll reconnect again. But the fact that he wants to stay friends sends a very clear message that he’s hoping she’ll keep the door open.
In the meantime, you’ve got your own things to do and love life to pursue. Your purpose may lead you to someone completely different, or it may lead you back to him. Who knows? Love is a great mystery, and that’s part of the fun. 🙂