As scary as it may be, sometimes a man you have been seeing simply pulls away or even disappears for a time. This can be really difficult.
Imagine for a moment that you've been seeing a man for a while and things seem to be going well. And then suddenly, he pulls away from you and you don't hear from him as much—or maybe at all for a while. Maybe he doesn't text you back right away, or he cancels a date, and you sense that there might be something wrong. Your fear may kick in and you may be unsure what to do. You may feel the urge to flood him with texts or drop by his house. Don’t.
It is important to resist the temptation to push him to engage with you because the distance that you are experiencing or him pulling away may not have anything to do with you. This is tough, especially if you’ve been “ghosted” in the past or if you’re the type of person who struggles with abandonment or rejection. It is scary to put yourself out there, make that initial connection, and then not hear from him. It’s natural to be afraid because it is a common occurrence in relationships, and no one wants to be abandoned out of the blue!
I know I would panic in this situation because if you’re the type of woman who fears abandonment—and you have trouble with space because “space” may mean that person never coming back to you—you might be feeling incredibly anxious about giving him space after he’s already pulled away.
But, the best thing you can do is to give him the time and ability to process whatever emotion or thought he is experiencing. Trust me.
After a week or so of him remaining distant, it would be appropriate to communicate your concern and ask him if everything is okay, especially if the two of you had been communicating regularly. This should be done in a lowkey fashion. You can just let him know that you’ve noticed that things have felt a bit different between you and him, perhaps that you miss connecting with him and to ask if everything is alright.
It's possible that he's upset with something in the relationship and as a result he withdrew (which is something that men often do rather than confront what it is that bothers them). This is not an excuse for his non-communication, but just be aware that men often are not as capable of talking about the emotions they feel as women may be. Broaching the subject in a calm way can allow for a good conversation, and the dialogue that follows can yield a solution that brings you closer.
If he has pulled away because he is not sure how to share what he is feeling, it is important to construct a safe space in the relationship for him to freely speak without fear of you reacting very negatively or emotionally. If it is a new relationship, it is possible that it’s not just working for him, but there are any number of reasons why a relationship may not be working, and it’s possible some of them may not even be about you. So, the tough part is really giving him the freedom to share with you without getting emotional or feeling threatened, because he can easily shut down if he has already pulled away without communicating.
Avoiding emotion also allows you to listen to what he says without getting defensive. For example, you may have unwittingly teased him in front of his friends and that made him feel self-conscious. And if he says that to you, instead of defending yourself, apologize, try to understand how he feels, and commit to not doing that again. Pay attention to what he's asking of you, and then change your behavior. When these open and honest conversations happen in a relationship, the conflict can be the very reason that you get closer with one another. By having that conversation, you can learn to understand one another better, and that can take you to the next level of commitment in your relationship, so it's important to understand each other's differences.
Repeat and clarify what he said. You can say, “So what you're saying is that you aren't sure about continuing the relationship, right?” And when he responds, you can tell him, “Okay, I totally understand.”
Ask him if he'd like to talk more about it, and if he says he's not ready, then calmly say that you understand, that you're open to talking about it whenever he is ready. This gives him the permission to go off into his little man cave and mull it over.
You may process your emotions by talking with your girlfriends because talking helps you feel better. But a lot of the time, men are not like that. So, he may need time to further process his thoughts after talking with you. And it’s important for you to distract yourself while he takes that time! Don’t bombard him with texts, Facebook-stalk him, or leave messages on his phone, because pressing him won’t help. You need to be patient!
Please note: I am not talking about an emotionally or physically abusive situation, where a manipulator demands you just do whatever he says. This is a different problem. I'm talking about solving a relationship problem with an otherwise safe, good guy with whom you have the potential to have a healthy relationship.
As I’ve said, there are any number of reasons a man you’ve been seeing may pull away. If it's a guy you've been seeing for a while or even a new relationship, you may panic. You could be thinking, well, what did I do? And you blame yourself. You replay conversations in your mind and double guess everything about yourself. But the truth is that you may not have done anything!
He may be realizing that he isn't ready for a relationship like you thought he was, especially if it's a newer relationship, or he may be testing the boundaries in the relationship to see if he can get some space. He may think he went too fast and now he feels like he needs to slow down, or he's just trying to figure out how he feels about the relationship. He might be checking to see if you're going to pressure him, even though he's not saying that.
A man pulling away is a relationship problem, and we internalize a lot of stuff because we have been hurt in our past. Those experiences cause beliefs to develop in us. We start thinking, “Well, I'm not enough,” or “I'm just rejectable” or “See, this is what always happens.” Pay attention to these kinds of thoughts that are going on in your mind because they're not serving you. They can be coming from old wounds that have not healed or maybe just a belief that we have carried with us for a very, very long time.
You have to reject these thoughts because if believe them, it can cause you to move toward a man and pressure him so you can get rid of your pain. That can end up sabotaging the relationship because he's saying he needs space.
During the time that you are giving him space, take care of yourself. Call a girlfriend up. Read a good book. Now, I know this can be really, really difficult, especially if you struggle with the fear of abandonment or rejection, but what you want to do is distract yourself. If a week goes by and you haven't heard from him, you can check in again and see if he's ready to talk about it.
This whole process is important because it can deepen your relationship. By talking it through when he is ready, you both can understand more of one another, and it brings you forward in the relationship.
It can be counterintuitive that, in order to save a relationship, you may need to give space, communicate that you’re available when he wants to talk, and let him come to you. It is a leap of faith, but it’s one with a higher success rate than chasing after men who may not possess the abilities to communicate their emotions as readily as you may be.
This can be so hard on the heart, and it can feel lonely to have a person you’ve made a connection with suddenly pull away, but keep the faith, give him space, and remember the dream that you have to love—and be loved—is possible!
Sign up for Single Over 30 emails to receive weekly dating and relationship advice.
Sign up to receive free dating and relationship advice right to your in-box!
For a chance for your question to be answered in a vlog or blog, send it to: [email protected] with "QUESTION" in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!