How To Handle When He Pulls Away- Part 2 - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 11, 2014

How To Handle When He Pulls Away- Part 2

Click here to read part 1 of the article

Maybe you just had your first date, meetup or hookup; maybe you’ve been dating many months; or maybe you have been partnered for 28 years. Whatever the length or circumstance, romantic relationships are a place where we often get confused.  For most folks our relationship comfort is of huge value and importance. Healthy people want and need attachments of all sorts, yet we never truly know the ideas floating around inside another person’s mind.  So we don’t always know how committed they are to us at any given juncture.  This is a hard truth.

But there are indicators that our lover or a new person is interested and connected. (I went over some of those in part one.) Regardless of how clear you are that something is up, it is vitally important to become as stable and secure within yourself as possible. This is a life goal in progress. All relationships change. There are highs and lows. You will need as much “selfhood” as you can build over time to weather these and other life’s difficulties and hurts.  So if signs suggest that he isn’t emotionally or physically a safe person, or even that he isn’t really that excited about you – you owe yourself the dignity of choosing wisely.

OK. What have I heard from guys about why they pull back, stop calling or act disinterested? I’ve talked now to many hundreds of men of all ages about this. Some are nice guys and some are not. Among the not nice guys there are so many issues I couldn’t possibly review much of them here and do the subject the justice it requires. Some people are truly dangerous, and they may not look like they are unless you know what to look for. (Check in for future posts about warning signs in future articles), but usually the red-lights blink. Yet sometimes we ignore them because we are too eager for a relationship.    For now I will say, trust your gut. But if you feel like you are being toyed with, given mixed signals, feel like you somehow lost track of how to set a limit and enforce it, feel “yucky” after being with him etc. – get out. You don’t need more information about him.  If it feels bad, trust yourself and stay clear.

But for the more common of issues, here are some reasons I have often heard by average guys why they pull away. I’ll try to go down the line from the first date to the longer term:

1. You seemed “needy” and that wasn’t attractive to him.

2. You seemed very remote and he couldn’t get a read on if you were interested.

3. You shared too much about your ex or yourself and talked his ear off.

4. He didn’t feel that energy/sexual compatibility he was hoping for.

5. He only wanted a one nighter and it didn’t happen.

6. He got the sex but that’s all he wanted and now he has moved on. The previous “interest” behaviors were just a way of getting to sex.

7. He has little training for dating. He doesn’t know what or how to do this – he’s kind of innocently clueless. (Give him some direct pointers and see if he tries and improves his connection and shows effort. If not, don’t linger too long. If he isn’t meeting your needs you need not be his teacher).

8. He has a low need for intimacy or connection. He has other things to occupy him,  and you or maybe just intimate relationships in general will never be a priority or something he deeply values.

9. He is narcissistic and he wasn’t able to get you to pour adoration onto him so he has moved onto another target. (OK this strayed from the more “normal” guys I was speaking of but you should know that severe and pathological narcissism is estimated at about 5% of the population and is likely higher on internet dating sites).

10. He is narcissistic (sorry again) and the initial dates you had  gave him his supply of attention but now he is going to make you work harder by pulling away to see if he can trap you into a cycle of chasing him. (Because that’s a high for narcissists).

11. He is only interested in the chase. It’s fun. Once he has you connected to him emotionally, then he feels good about himself and you are no longer exciting. This is different from the mind games of number 10.

12. He was never single in the first place. He just got caught or is having second thoughts about cheating on his spouse.

13. He thought he liked you, he was giving it time to see if the relationship grew but there wasn’t enough chemistry or enough in common so now he wants out but doesn’t have the courage to say it. (this is a VERY common one I hear from men).

14. Another person came along and he became interested but he also doesn’t want to lose you and is confused about what to do.

15. He is cheating. (Lots of reasons for this-that’s also another article).

16. He could only keep up appearances so long and now his mental health or addictive issues are resurfacing and he is hiding them from you so you won’t discover them and/or leave him.

17. He got to feeling really close and connected -thus vulnerable, and got scared. Now he is unconsciously sabotaging.

18. He lost interest and got bored, (because longer relationships take work to stay energized) and he isn’t ready to cut it off but he isn’t able to invest anymore either. Often is just waiting for someone else to come along before he lets you go.

19. He wants out and hopes if he ignores, mistreats, or pulls back in whatever way you will give up and leave and he won’t have to be the “bad guy”.

20. Big things happened for either one of you. A trauma, a loss, a big life change; could be something you are aware of or not and his reaction to it is to retreat to try to feel safe again.

These are just some of the common scenarios and the things I have witnessed and heard from men. I am lucky that I get to sit in private counseling rooms and hear the truth that guys often never share with anyone else. I conducted support and education groups for teen guys and college men over the years where they would share stories about what they did in relationships good and bad, and how and why they pulled away.

What I am struck by is the level of indirect communication that happens in relationships. Whether it’s really bad, like he is completely a user (like just being with a woman for sex and lacks any other form of interest or respect); or if he has cheated and is afraid to say because he doesn’t want to lose his girlfriend; or if he has had that first or fourth date or hookup and isn’t “feeling it”.  Men tell me they often don’t communicate this directly. So it comes out behaviorally. If he is married/living together and there is some issue, he might stop coming home on time, or he might direct all of his attention to the TV or the house projects for instance. If it is a shorter relationship or new he will just stop returning texts as promptly; or say he has plans with his friends more often than he once did; or act unpleasant in some way and hope you will just stop connection.  I could go on – but suffice to say, paying close attention to behaviors is your best bet.

If you are rattled and it’s hard to let yourself see the signs, keep a log. I find that especially, from say a two month to a ten year relationship, it is very useful to keep a log of his behaviors. Also log the little gut feelings you have, strange conversations that don’t add up, late arrivals, promises not kept, lies he tells, mood shifts, etc. Remember to note the date and time of the events. Also log how are you feeling and coping in your life;  like when you begin to notice yourself having physical issues like headaches or stomach aches,  or are not feeling as creative, motivated or having concentration problems. Journals help us see trends and keep clear about reality.

Bottom line is, if things have seemed distant, if you feel less important, if you are beginning to hurt inside and worry about what is going on… don’t panic, don’t beg for attention, don’t accuse, and do not ignore your feelings.

About the author

Kris Gooding

Kris Gooding, LCSW is a psychotherapist, community and clinical educator, free lance writer and Mom living in Gainesville, Florida. In her practice she sees both individuals and couples. Among her clients are folks working on relationship issues, communication, sexuality and intimacy goals, anxiety, self esteem, postpartum anxiety and depression, divorce, parenting struggles, grief and other life changes. You can find out more about her at