What To Do When He Pulls Away

Crystal Jackson

Photo by The HK Photo Company on Unsplash

When we think of heartache, we often think about breakups and divorce, but one of the most heartbreaking experiences of our lives isn’t the moment of separation but the moment we begin to suspect that it’s coming.

They begin to pull away from us. At first, it’s easy to explain it away. He’s stressed. He’s busy. She’s got a lot on her plate. He’s dealing with a major change. She’s just tired.

But then, it becomes impossible to ignore. All the signs are there. This isn’t a temporary blip in the relationship. It’s a sign that things have gone horribly wrong.

Signs He’s Pulling Away

It’s easy to see the signs if we’re paying attention. We can make all the excuses in the world, but we’ll notice that the way he once was with us isn’t the way he is with us now. Everything has changed. Here are just a few signs he’s pulling away.

He Doesn’t Prioritize Time with You

He used to make it a priority to see you, talk to you, text you, and spend time with you. Now, you feel more like an obligation on his to-do list — one he’d much rather skip.

He Seems Preoccupied When You’re Together

Where he once was fascinated with you, he now seems bored or preoccupied when you’re together. You try to explain away the disinterest as stress or just a long day, but it seems like he’s never quite with you even when he’s right there.

He Puts His Phone Face Down When You’re Around

He puts his phone down when he’s with you, but instead of feeling like he’s doing it to give you his undivided attention, you begin to suspect that he’s hiding something. Does he walk away to take calls or read messages? Is his phone frequently face down when you’re in the room? This could be a sign that he has one foot out the door already.

He’s Less Affectionate

He used to shower you with attention and affection, but now even his kisses seem perfunctory rather than passionate. Compliments die down or disappear entirely, and he’s not touching you as frequently as he once did. In long-distance relationships, you notice that he flirts less and dodges your flirtation more.

He’s Slow to Respond to Messages and Answer Calls

Instant replies simply don’t happen anymore. Where he once messaged and called you as often as possible, he’s much harder to get in touch with now. He seems to be screening your calls or keeping them brief. Messages don’t get an immediate reply — or sometimes a reply at all.

Intimacy is Rare, Disconnected, or Non-Existent

Goodbye, hot bedroom life. Hello, frustration. He couldn’t keep his hands off you before, but now sex is yet another thing on his to-do list he’d rather skip. Your once spicy and satisfying intimate life is now either disconnected, rare, or non-existent. You’ve tried to talk about it, but he always has an excuse.

He Constantly Criticizes You

His adoration changed into criticism, and you’re not sure when you went from being his favorite person to being the person most likely to get on his nerves. You know you’re not perfect, but he always seems to point out your flaws. The good things about you no longer seem to matter as much to him.

What To Do When He Pulls Away

These are all signs he’s pulling away. But can the relationship be saved, or is it far too late for that? Here’s what you can do when you notice all the signs that he’s starting to pull away from you.

Ask, Don’t Assume

Start with asking him about the changes you’ve noticed rather than assuming the relationship is coming to an end. Talk about how his behaviors are making you feel and any concerns you have about the relationship. Be honest and vulnerable even though it’s hard.

You need to find out if this is a bump in the road or if you’ve reached a dead end. Do you still want the same things? Are you both invested in a future together? Is the relationship equally satisfying to both of you, or do you feel like you’re the only one who ever has to compromise? If you don’t ask these questions, you’ll never really know.

Discuss Space vs. Togetherness in the Relationship

It could be a time to talk about space and connection within the relationship. How much space do you both need? How much time do you need together? Is there a good balance of space and togetherness?

Talk about your needs and give him a chance to talk about his. Is he pulling away, or does he just need more space than you do? Finding a balance could save the relationship — or reveal that you’re just not well-suited after all.

Learn His Love Language (and Your Own)

What’s his love language? If he’s pulling away, it could be because you’re showing him love in the way you want and not the way he wants to receive it. Figure out how he likes to be loved — and find out your own style, too.

Does he need your undivided attention, or would he feel loved if you showed up with his favorite coffee as a surprise? Does he love to be complimented or would he rather you showed your love instead of simply stating it? Relationships can fall apart simply because you don’t understand each other’s love language.

Communicate Your Feelings Without Maligning His Character

Try this … I feel (insert feeling here — sad, disappointed, frustrated, lonely) when you (insert behavior here — don’t reply to my texts, never initiate sex, make excuses not to see me). Doesn’t that sound so much better than this? You’re so selfish! You never make time for me!

Learn to communicate your feelings without committing character assassination. Instead of assuming he’s selfish, narcissistic, or disinterested, tell him how you feel and give him a chance to tell you how he feels and what’s going on.

He’s pulling away. You can use this conversation as a way to connect, not a way to put him on the spot and punish him with your feelings. If you want to save the relationship, you’re going to need to be able to talk through what’s going on.

Consider Therapy (for You and for the Relationship)

It may be time to go see an individual therapist to talk about your feelings. It’s probably time to involve a couples’ counselor, too.

For many people, this is the last resort to save the relationship. It doesn’t have to be. I would have happily gone to couples’ counseling from the start in my last relationship if it meant it would have lasted. I would have gladly signed up for sessions if it meant that we could learn to communicate better, resolve our issues, and learn to speak each other’s love language.

Don’t consider therapy as something to do when you’ve tried everything else. Instead, see it as a tool to make your relationship stronger.

Don’t Take It Personally

Yes, he’s pulling away. No, it’s not personal. It certainly feels personal, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It has everything to do with him and his growth journey and nothing to do with your value as a human being or a partner.

Even if the relationship ends, it doesn’t say anything about you. It does say something about your compatibility with one another. Try to avoid taking his behavior personally. Just like you can’t control another person’s choices, you also aren’t responsible for their feelings or decisions.

Check Your Expectations

Consider if your expectations for the relationship are realistic. Is he pulling away, or is he under some stress at home or work? Are you expecting him to be “on” all the time — always upbeat, engaged, and enthusiastic?

Sometimes, he’s not pulling away. He really is tired, stressed, or even struggling with his mental or physical health. Understand that relationships have ups and downs, and none of us can be “on” all the time. Make sure that you’re not expecting perfection — that’s a recipe for disappointment in any relationship.

Know When to Let Go

Sometimes, all you can do when he pulls away is to let him go. You won’t be able to force him to stay if he’s determined to leave. It’s important to understand that you alone cannot save the relationship — not without his active participation.

This one can be frustrating when you still have feelings for him. You want him to stay, and it’s tempting to try to hold on. Sometimes, you have to stop trying to save your relationship so you can save yourself instead.

Final Thoughts

We can’t make anyone stay when they want to go, but often, when someone starts to pull away, there’s still a chance to fix what went wrong. Instead of looking at the resolution as a need for confrontation, consider trying to connect with him instead.

When you try to connect, you won’t trigger his defensiveness. He may see that you’re genuinely trying to be closer to him — not putting him on the spot or attacking his character.

It’s scary when someone we care about starts to seem disconnected. It doesn’t have to foreshadow the end of the relationship. Instead, it can be an early warning sign that the relationship needs a little more attention. With the right nurturing (in the form of communication, compassion, and healthy boundaries), you just might find that the relationship emerges from this stronger than ever.

And if it doesn’t? You may find that you have the opportunity to learn from it and emerge stronger instead.

Originally published on The Truly Charming

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

Madison, GA

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