What to Do When He Pulls Away? (14 Ways + Expert Insights)

It can be really tough when you notice the person you’re dating starting to pull away. You might feel confused, worried, anxious, or even a bit hurt. Trust me, you’re not alone in feeling this way. Lots of people have been where you are right now, trying to figure out what’s going on, searching for answers, and wondering what to do next without making things worse.

But the big question remains: what should you do when he pulls away?

It’s a good idea to understand the reasons behind his actions and how best to respond. Stay with me as I share some actionable tips to help you through this challenging time and perhaps strengthen your bond in the process.

Reflect on the Relationship

When he starts to pull away, it’s essential to take a moment to reflect on the entire relationship. Think about the good times, the rough patches, and everything in between.

Has it been mostly joyful and supportive, or is it plagued with issues that repeat themselves? Were there signs you might have missed? What could be the turning points where things started to change? Sometimes, looking back with a fresh perspective can reveal patterns or triggers that you might not have noticed before.

This isn’t about blaming yourself or him; it’s about understanding if there’s a pattern that could explain why things feel a bit off now.

Assess His Changes

Next, try to objectively assess or observe any recent changes in his behavior or life situations. Has he become more distant, less communicative, or maybe more irritable? Has he started a new job, faced stress at work, or experienced loss recently? Understanding these changes can give you a better handle on the situation.

Here are a few things to watch for:

  • Has he stopped texting as much?
  • Does he seem stressed or preoccupied?
  • Is he spending more time alone or with friends?

For example, if he used to text you every morning but has stopped, that’s a noticeable change. Maybe he’s stressed about something at work, or perhaps he’s dealing with a personal issue. By jotting down these changes, you can start to see if there’s a pattern. Remember though, it’s not about jumping to conclusions but about having a clearer picture of what’s going on with him.

"Has your partner been experiencing any recent changes? Changes that occur with either person as an individual are relevant. Did he gain weight? Lose a parent? Quit a job?

All of these changes can affect how a person feels about themselves and lower their self-esteem. They can cause a person to be more self-conscious and introverted.

These situations have to do with an internal problem that a partner is experiencing and have nothing to do with the relationship. You did nothing wrong and can only support your partner as they tackle these challenges."

Erica Cramer, LCSW | Clinical Social Work/Therapist, Cobb Psychotherapy NYC

Assess Your Changes

Now, let’s turn the focus inward. It’s just as important to look at any changes in your behavior.

Think about the last few weeks or months. Have you become more anxious or needy, or perhaps you’ve pulled back yourself? Have you been more demanding about his time or maybe withdrawn because you’re scared of getting hurt? It’s easy to overlook how our own state of mind and behavior can impact our partners.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • “Have I been more stressed or anxious than usual?”
  • “What have been my emotional needs recently, and how have I communicated them?”

Understanding your own changes can provide clarity and help you communicate better. It’s also about being self-aware and recognizing that relationships are a two-way street.

"Did you start working longer hours? Are you preoccupied with family drama? Are you more stressed, anxious, or depressed than usual?

Your behavior can make your partner think that you need space and that he would be better off leaving you alone. Our actions will teach/dictate a person’s reactions. If you’ve been unavailable, he may step back. If you give a snappy answer, you’re teaching your partner to avoid asking questions. Consider whether something in your life is affecting his behavior."

Erica Cramer, LCSW | Clinical Social Work/Therapist, Cobb Psychotherapy NYC

Tell Him That You Think He’s Stepped Back

Once you’ve done some reflecting, it’s time for a little heart-to-heart. Tell him that you’ve noticed he seems to be stepping back. It’s important to bring this up gently and without any accusations, just a simple observation.

You might say something like, “I’ve noticed that things feel a bit different between us lately, and I’m concerned.” This opens the door for a conversation without putting him on the defensive.

The goal here is to share your feelings and see if he’s willing to share his. Remember, this isn’t about laying blame; it’s about understanding each other better. This way, you both have the chance to express what you’re feeling and discuss what’s really going on.

Ask Your Partner How They Are Feeling

Now that you’ve shared your observations, it’s crucial to ask him how he’s feeling. He might be going through something that has nothing to do with your relationship. Maybe he’s stressed at work, dealing with family issues or even personal struggles.

Ask him directly, “How are you feeling about everything?” This encourages him to be open about his thoughts and feelings.

It can be helpful to create a safe and comfortable environment for this conversation. Maybe you’re sitting on the couch with a cup of tea or taking a walk together. Make sure he knows you’re there to listen and support, not to judge. If he isn’t ready to divulge, don’t push. Sometimes, just knowing someone is there to understand him can bring a lot of relief and clarity.

Communicate Openly and Honestly

Communication is key in any relationship, especially when one of you feels a bit distant. During this time, it’s important to talk openly and honestly about your feelings without placing blame. So, instead of dropping hints or expecting him to read between the lines, let him know exactly how you feel about the changes you’ve noticed.

Say something like, “I feel worried when we don’t talk as much. I miss our conversations.

It’s also useful to focus on how you say things. Your tone can set the stage for a productive conversation or a defensive reaction, so keep it calm and encouraging. Remember, the aim is to open up a dialogue that leads to understanding, not an argument.

"Talk to him; be honest about your feelings and perspective about what is happening. Tell him you think he is pulling away and explain how it makes you feel.

Maybe he doesn’t realize he is doing this. Maybe there is a simple explanation. Maybe something difficult happened, and he doesn’t want to burden you with his problems. Whatever the case, going straight to the source will ensure an accurate answer."

Erica Cramer, LCSW | Clinical Social Work/Therapist, Cobb Psychotherapy NYC

Set Clear Boundaries

Boundaries aren’t about keeping distance; they’re about understanding each other’s needs and respecting them. If you need more communication or reassurance, make that clear. Conversely, if he needs some time alone, respect that too.

Here’s what setting boundaries could look like:

  • Talk about what both of you need to feel secure.
  • Agree on how often you’ll check in with each other.
  • Set limits on what’s acceptable in terms of space and communication.

For instance, you might say, “I understand you need more alone time, and I respect that. I just ask that we check in with each other by text at least once a day to stay connected.” This kind of clarity ensures both of you are on the same page and prevents misunderstandings.

Give Him Space

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is step back a little. Yup, give him the room he seems to be seeking.

It might feel counterintuitive, but giving him space can actually help bring him closer. Sometimes, people pull away because they feel overwhelmed and need a breather. Respect his need for solitude, and use this time to focus on yourself. It’s not about ignoring him but letting him have his moments of peace.

Everyone processes emotions and stress differently; maybe he just needs some alone time to sort through his thoughts. You could frame it like this: “I’m here when you’re ready to talk, but I understand you might need some space right now. Just know I care about you and support you.”

"When a partner pulls away, our first instinct is to try and pull them closer...However, when someone is pulling away, more often, this means they need space. I always advise my clients to give the partner space if they are pulling away; that’s what they’re asking for, whether they’re saying it or not."

Adam Paine, LCSW | Licensed Mental Health Therapist | Owner, Enteave Counseling

Be Patient with the Process

Relationships ebb and flow naturally, so patience is crucial when you notice distance. Changes won’t happen overnight, and that’s perfectly okay! Allow yourself some grace and remind yourself that this is a part of growing together.

Here’s what patience might look like in practice:

  • Allowing the situation to unfold at its own pace without forcing a resolution.
  • Keeping yourself occupied with hobbies, friends, and your own self-care.

Think of it as a plant you’re nurturing. Just because you don’t see immediate growth doesn’t mean there’s no progress. Little steps, like regular but comfortable check-ins, can make a huge difference over time.

Stay Busy and Independent

While he’s taking his space, it’s crucial for you to stay busy and independent. Engage in activities that make you happy and fulfilled. This could be anything from reading a good book, catching up with friends, or even starting that hobby you’ve always wanted to try.

Keeping yourself occupied not only makes the time pass more quickly but also helps you maintain your own sense of self.

For example: Instead of waiting by the phone, you’re out with friends, laughing and enjoying a new restaurant. Or maybe you’re finally tackling that DIY project at home. Staying busy ensures you’re not overly focused on his absence and reinforces your independence and strength.

Focus on Personal Growth

Instead of dwelling on insecurities or what-ifs, steer your focus towards personal growth. Invest in yourself and your well-being.

Ask yourself: What are some areas you’ve always wanted to improve or learn about yourself?

Perhaps it’s building your confidence, managing emotions better, or just taking better care of your health. Now is the perfect time to pursue those goals. It also shows that you value yourself and are not solely dependent on the relationship for your happiness.

"Ask yourself what your needs are at this time. Do you need connection, fun, comfort, or something else?

Find ways to meet these needs for yourself that do not include your partner.
- Schedule something fun to do by yourself or with a family member.
- Join a club for connection.
- See a therapist for comfort."

Ashley Gray, LCSW | Individual and Couples Therapist, Empowered Therapy, LLC

Prepare for All Outcomes

Hope for the best, but be mentally ready for any outcome. Yes, even if it means facing the tough reality that things might not work out. This doesn’t mean you should expect the worst, but being prepared can help you handle whatever comes your way.

Take some time to reflect on what you want and need from this relationship and consider what you’ll do if those needs aren’t met.

  • Make a list of your dealbreakers and must-haves in a relationship.
  • Think about what life might look like if you were to navigate it solo for a bit.
  • Consider talking to a friend or a therapist to help sort through your thoughts.

By preparing yourself emotionally for all scenarios, you build resilience and set yourself up for making the best decisions for your well-being. Remember, it’s about being ready, not pessimistic.

Consider Couples Therapy

If you both are willing, couples therapy can be a game-changer. It’s not just for relationships in crisis; it’s a proactive way to understand each other better and improve communication.

A therapist can help by providing a neutral space for both of you to express your feelings and needs safely. They can also offer tools and techniques to help rebuild your connection. Think of it as doing a “system update” on your relationship—sometimes, you need to reboot with professional help.

You could suggest it by saying something like, “I think it might help us to talk to someone who can guide us through this tough time.” It shows that you are committed to making the relationship work.

Know When to Let Go

Finally, it’s crucial to know when to let go. Holding on to a relationship that’s no longer working can be emotionally draining for both parties. If you’ve tried everything—open communication, giving space, setting boundaries—and the relationship still isn’t improving, it might be time to consider parting ways.

Signs it’s time to let go include:

  • Your needs are consistently not being met even after multiple discussions.
  • The relationship brings more pain than joy.
  • Your values and paths are increasingly divergent.

This decision comes with its own set of challenges, but sometimes, coming to terms with this reality is the healthiest option available. This doesn’t mean you failed; it means you recognize your worth and the need for a healthy relationship.

It’s okay to admit that you’ve grown apart. Ending a chapter might just be the start of something new for both of you.

Excerpts From the Experts

“If you want to address this with the partner, here are the steps I’d advise:

Empathize with your partner:

  • Has life for him or you been particularly stressful lately?
  • Has there been a recent change?
  • Is he working more hours?

State the facts about the situation:

  • How long has it been since you’ve had a date night?
  • Haven’t been intimate for x number of weeks?
  • Don’t watch shows together in the evening for the past month?

Say how this is making you feel:

  • “I feel sad”
  • “I feel disconnected”

State what you want:

  • “I want Friday nights to be date night.”
  • “I’d like you to kiss me goodbye before you go to work.”

Why do you want this/and why would it be good for your partner:

  • “Because I feel more connected because I love you.”
  • “Things will be more relaxed around the house.”

Adam Paine, LCSW | Licensed Mental Health Therapist | Owner, Enteave Counseling

Assess relationship changes:

  • Have you experienced any changes as a couple?
  • Did one of your children start to exhibit behavioral problems?
  • Did your sex life change?
  • Did you recently have an important milestone?

These changes can reflect how the couple feels about one another and the current role they want to play in each other’s lives.

Tell him how you’re feeling and that you think he’s stepped back: Sometimes the less we talk about little things, the bigger and worse they become. When there are issues in a relationship, time can heal, but time can do irreparable damages to unaddressed issues.

  • Tell him how you’re feeling and that you think he’s stepped back / disconnected.
  • Explain how the situation makes you feel and if you can think of any steps to resolve it.
  • Tell him about your expectations for the relationship and what you need to feel emotionally fulfilled from it.

You may think you know your partner’s every thought, but you don’t, and you can’t expect them to assume yours. Don’t leave your relationship contingent on someone being a mind reader; just tell your partner what you want (and need) them to know. At its core, any successful or failed relationship boils down to honesty—honesty with your partner and honesty with yourself.”

Erica Cramer, LCSW | Clinical Social Work/Therapist, Cobb Psychotherapy NYC

Calmly ask him if something is wrong. If you’re married or in a committed relationship and giving him some space doesn’t work, then calmly (I stress calmly—no tears, no upset) ask him if something is wrong.

He could be distancing because he has a problem unrelated to you, but it’s consuming him. Possibly a work problem or something physical. Most guys withdraw when they’re feeling wounded. In this case, he’s not withdrawing from you, but from the world, including you…

Make a list of the clues that are telling you there’s a problem and ask for an explanation. If he’s gone or unavailable a lot, staying late at work, going out mysteriously, not being where he says he is, then it might be a fidelity problem. You also will get the best results if you remain calm.

In this case, make a list of the clues that are telling you there’s a problem:

  • His behavior
  • His demeanor (how he appears to you)
  • His unavailability

Tell him the things you’ve listed, and say they are making you worry. Ask directly for an explanation. If he doesn’t give you one, start making preparations to leave. If he values your relationship at all, this will get a response from him.

If he doesn’t care, then it is time for you to leave — or ask him to. Try not to add drama to this situation. It won’t help you get what you want. If you stay calm, you might at least get an explanation of what is going on.”

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. | Psychotherapist | Author, “Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today

Assess the situation and understand his communication style: Is he just some guy you started talking to, your boyfriend, or your husband? Usually, the more serious the relation, the more you can lean in a little and check in how he’s doing.

But before doing so, ask yourself if he’s someone who is emotionally available or unavailable.

  • How do you two handle conflict?
  • Does he usually want to resolve things with you immediately, or does he need his space?
  • Is he always open for communication, especially about the deeper things?

Understanding his communication style will help give you some insight on what to do here. Remember that men and each individual, in general, have their own way of dealing with their own emotions for whatever is affecting them.

Christine Mak | Certified Lifestyle Coach and Mindfulness Teacher, Soul Paradiso

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if giving him space is the right choice?

If he has explicitly asked for space or if you’ve observed that he seems overwhelmed, giving him space is likely the right choice. It shows respect for his needs. Watch for signs that he is beginning to re-engage, and use those as cues for when to gently reconnect.

Can pulling away be a sign that he’s losing interest?

It’s possible, but it’s not always the case. He might be dealing with personal issues that have nothing to do with you. The best way to find out is to have an open and honest conversation after giving him some space to process his feelings.

Should I reach out to his friends to understand what’s going on?

While it might be tempting, it’s generally better to communicate directly with him. Reaching out to his friends can create misunderstandings and might feel like an invasion of his privacy. Trust and direct communication are key in addressing such issues.

Is it ever appropriate to take a break in the relationship?

If both of you agree that a break might help, it can be a constructive approach. Clearly define the terms of the break—how long it will last, what the boundaries are, and what you both hope to achieve during this time. This can provide clarity and give both of you a chance to reassess your feelings.

Final Thoughts

When he pulls away, it can feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. It’s okay to have doubts and questions during this time. The key is to handle the situation with patience, understanding, and self-care.

Remember, giving him space doesn’t mean distancing yourself emotionally. By staying calm and open, you can create a positive atmosphere that might encourage him to come back stronger. And even if things don’t turn out the way you hoped, you’ll have grown and learned valuable lessons for your future relationships.

Stay positive, take care of yourself, and trust that everything will work out as it should. Thank you for reading, and I hope these tips help you find the clarity and strength you need.

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Leah is a creative soul with a passion for telling stories that matter. As an editor and writer at UpJourney, she channels her natural curiosity and imagination into thought-provoking articles and inspiring content. She is also a registered nurse dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact.

In her free time, she indulges her artistic side as a hobbyist photographer, capturing the world's beauty one shot at a time. You can also find her in a poor-lit room playing her favorite video games or in a corner somewhere, reading and immersing herself in the rich worlds of fantasy and dark academia.

At home, Leah is surrounded by love and laughter, living peacefully with her partner and their three adorable shih tzus.