Why Do Some Men Pull Away When They Are Falling in Love?

So you’ve been dating a guy for a while, and things are going great. You’re starting to feel a deep connection with him and see a future together. But then, out of nowhere, he starts to pull away. He’s less responsive to your texts, he’s less affectionate, and he seems distant and preoccupied.

If you’ve ever experienced this, you’re not alone. It’s a common problem many people face when falling in love. But why does it happen? Is it because he’s not really into you? Is it because he’s afraid of commitment? Or is there something else going on?

Let’s find out the many reasons why men pull away when they’re falling in love.

He’s Haunted by Past Heartbreaks and Trust Issues

It’s not unusual for anyone, including men, to carry emotional scars into new relationships. Think about it — after a few rough breakups, anybody would start to be a little cautious, right?

He might really like you and start to fall for you, but then those old fears whisper, “What if it happens again?” That’s when he might put his guard up and take a step back.

"Past relationships color current relationships. How can they not? If a man was in a bad relationship and got out, that will shape the perspective of future relationships. He may expect the current relationship to end how past relationships did and try to avoid those unpleasant feelings. Even if this person is different."

— Rob Magill, MA, ICAADC| Certified Telebehavioral Health Practitioner, Magill Counseling

He’s Scared to Be Emotionally Vulnerable

Opening up is scary. Just imagine sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings with someone, and then they turn those words and feelings against you — that’s real fear right there.

If a man feels he’s falling in love, he might hit the brakes, scared of letting you see the real him.

It’s a tough spot to be in because, on one hand, he likes this connection, right? But then he’s having these, “Oh no, she’s going to see all my demons and baggage, and what if she can’t handle it?” moments. So, he steps back to protect his heart — and his ego.

Avoidant Attachment Style

Attachment styles seriously influence how we handle love — and for some, that’s in an ‘avoidant’ way. This isn’t about playing hard to get. No, it’s deeper. It’s a learned response often rooted in their upbringing or early life experiences.

If a man with an avoidant attachment style senses things are moving to a more serious level, he might instinctively start retreating.

It’s a self-preservation thing, like an emotional immune system kicking in to keep potential ‘threats’ at bay. It’s like his relationship reflexes are telling him, “Warning! Too close for comfort!”

"The unconscious explanations are likely to do with his attachment style — the deep-seated relationship template from his relationship with his parents during significant developmental stages. His sudden withdrawal and change in behavior may replicate/ mimic an "insecure" or "ambivalent" attachment style from his childhood."

— Dr. Dana Dorfman, PhD| Psychotherapist

His Behavior Is Rooted in Anxiety

Anxiety can be like this unwelcome guest who shows up just when things are getting good. For some guys, the moment a relationship starts to feel serious, their inner alarm bells go off.

They’re not trying to push you away on purpose; it’s just that their anxiety gets super loud, talking about all the things that could go wrong.

  • He’s worried he might not measure up to your expectations.
  • There’s the fear of being ‘not enough’ and that maybe you’ll leave.
  • Maybe he’s had others walk away from him before, and that worry is hard to shake off.

So, what he does is he might create some space, and distance himself a bit, to regain a sense of control.

"Depending on our self-view, self-confidence, and self-love (which is also connected to our attachment style), anxiety and insecurities will arise when we are in a relationship.

The umbrella themes of "Am I good enough?" or "Am I worthy?" often manifest in anxieties around money, body image, looks, intelligence, socio-economic status, education, what kind of car I drive, how large my house is, etc.

Self-worth presents itself as "Am I deserving of being in a loving relationship, or committed/monogamous relationship?" or "I am unloveable."David Strah, M.A., LMFT| Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Los Angeles, Ca

Still Carrying Unresolved Personal Issues

Now, carrying baggage doesn’t mean someone can’t move forward, but sometimes, unresolved issues make a person extra wary about opening up again. When a man hasn’t had the chance to unpack his past hurt, it sits there like a wall between you two.

Maybe he’s been let down during his younger years, or he’s never really healed from a big issue or trauma in the past. It’s tough to turn to a new page when the old one is still so present.

Unconscious Emotional Learning During Childhood

Believe it or not, a lot of how we act in love is learned pretty early on. During his childhood years, he might have picked up cues on how to respond to affection and emotions that stick with him.

For instance:

  • If he learned that getting too close means getting hurt, he’ll likely have a knee-jerk reaction to pull away.
  • Did he see relationships around him that were a bit shaky? That could translate into being cautious himself.

It’s subtle, the way these childhood issues glide into our adult love lives, usually without us even realizing it.

"During childhood, we learn how to “be” from watching our parents and caregivers. If a parent or parents are loving and kind, a child learns to be open to love and vulnerability. However, if parents are defended, use “love” to be hurtful, or respond to life in an angry or shut down manner—the child will learn that behavior when it comes to relationships. Of course, all of this early learning occurs on an unconscious level."

— Dr. Carla Marie Manly| Clinical Psychologist | Author, Joy from Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Befriending Your Fear

It’s a Defense Mechanism

When things in a relationship start feeling too good to be true, some guys pull up their defenses. This isn’t because he doesn’t care. No, it’s the opposite. He cares a lot, and that’s exactly why he’s afraid of getting hurt.

  • Pulling away could mean he’s trying to avoid potential pain before it happens.
  • It may also be a way for him to test the relationship’s strength — can it handle a bit of distance?
  • Sometimes, it’s about needing to reassess his feelings without the pressure of being too close.

He doesn’t want to needlessly expose himself to heartache, so he unconsciously shields his emotions, putting a little space between you as a protective measure.

"For some, getting too close can be uncomfortable, eliciting emotions of fear, which result in withdrawal. It could be that they never had such a close relationship, so it is new to them. 

Others pull away precisely because of past experiences. If a man had a previously close relationship and was rejected, it is easier to be the one to pull away and reject than re-experience the pain on the receiving end. Thus, it can be a defensive mechanism to protect oneself."

— Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC| Certified Imago Therapist, The Marriage Restoration Project

Unsure About how Strong Their Feelings Are

Catching feelings can feel like a whirlwind. One day, it’s casual and fun, and the next, boom, it’s like a high-speed train. It can leave a guy questioning just how much he’s actually into you.

Is it love, or is it just the excitement of something new? He might need a time-out to figure that out.

He won’t typically say, “Hey, I need a moment to sort out how I feel,” but you’ll see it in his actions. More time spent alone, hesitating to make plans, and the classic “I’m just really busy right now” lines. What he’s trying to do is step back and gauge the depth of his emotions.

Feeling Overwhelmed by How Fast Things Are Moving

If things are moving at lightning speed, some guys might start feeling like they’re losing solid ground.

Here’s what that might look like:

  • Suddenly, he’s less responsive to texts and calls, just needing to catch his breath.
  • Dates become less frequent as he’s pumping the brakes to slow things down.
  • He might emphasize wanting to “take it slow” and enjoy the moment.

It’s not that he wants to call it quits; he just needs to make sure the pace is right for him.

Caught Between What He Feels and What He Thinks

Sometimes, a guy gets stuck in an internal tug-of-war. His heart’s on one side, caught up in all those butterflies and warm, fuzzy feelings. And on the other side, there’s his mind — weighing in with a checklist of logic, worries, and what-ifs.

This internal conflict can cause him to suddenly pull back because he’s trying to reconcile the two sides. It doesn’t mean the emotions aren’t genuine; it just means he’s trying to make sense of the intensity in a logical way.

Worried About Losing Their Sense of Freedom

“Dude, take it easy!” Sometimes the ghost of single life whispers in a man’s ear, making him question whether truly he’s ready to give up his bachelor badge. Even though he’s head-over-heels for you, there’s a little voice telling him he could lose the solo adventures, the spontaneous outings with friends, or just the simple pleasure of being by himself.

  • No more spontaneous guys’ nights out without checking in.
  • The freedom to chill on the couch all weekend, undisturbed.
  • Being able to make decisions without considering someone else’s feelings.

The thought of potentially losing that personal space can feel like a bit much.

"The most common variable is that men are afraid of losing their freedom and independence. Men will often consider falling in love from a practical perspective. Then, they will begin to wonder about such things as whether they will still have time to go out with their friends, how a more serious relationship may affect their football Sundays, or their ability to do what they want when they want."

— Lynell Ross| Certified Health and Wellness Coach | Behavior Change Specialist | Founder and Managing Editor, Zivadream

He’s Wondering if You’re Truly Compatible

Compatibility is like the secret sauce to a lasting relationship. So, it’s only natural for a guy to take a pause and think about whether you two are really compatible.

“Do we like the same things?”
“Do our future plans align?”
“Can I actually live with her love for pineapple on pizza?”

These are the big questions! He might seem a bit distant while he’s pondering these points.

The “Pulling Away” Is a Flight Response

Ever seen a bird suddenly take off when you get too close? Well, humans have their version of that, too. When things get serious, a man’s instinct might tell him to fly away—fast. Love can feel like a huge commitment, and that can be scary enough to trigger his flight response.

It’s not that he doesn’t have feelings for you — it might just be his way to avoid potential emotional discomfort or a situation that feels too intense.

To Preempt Abandonment

Nobody likes to be left hanging, especially not after they’ve opened their heart. So, before he gets too deep into his feelings, a guy may pull away to protect himself from the possibility of being abandoned. It’s like he’s thinking, “If I take a step back first, it won’t sting as much if things don’t work out.”

  • He may act distant before dates become scarce.
  • He might beat around the bush when it comes to defining the relationship.
"Our brains are prewired to protect us for emotional pain. His feelings of love set off his protective warning system conveying – Pain ahead…beware! His withdrawal serves as a way to preempt abandonment – The psyche prefers and feels less vulnerable to be the leaver than the one left."

— Dr. Dana Dorfman, PhD| Psychotherapist

Fear of the Future

The future is this big, vast unknown, and let’s be honest, it can be kind of daunting. Guys aren’t immune to this fear. When they start imagining a life together, it can seem overwhelming:

  • “Are we going to be able to handle the tough things life throws at us?”
  • “What if I’m not the lifelong partner she expects me to be?”

With all these heavy questions brewing in his mind, he might back off a little to ponder the possibilities on his own.

"Deeper conversations happen when a relationship progresses. It is easy to talk about favorite foods, movies, places to visit, etc. It can be challenging talking about future dreams, especially when those dreams might not happen."

— Rob Magill, MA, ICAADC| Certified Telebehavioral Health Practitioner, Magill Counseling

Emotions Get Too Intense for Him

Love isn’t always like those chill Sunday mornings; sometimes, it’s more like a roller coaster that just won’t slow down. When emotions start skyrocketing, a man might feel the need to step back and get a handle on things.

Being in love is intense, and when those feelings come rushing in all at once, it can be a bit much.

Think of it as hitting the pause button on a movie when the action gets overwhelming. He’s still there, still watching, but he needs a moment to process it all.

His Insecurities Have Taken Over

Insecurities—they’re like those annoying pop-up ads that keep showing up, even when you’re trying to focus on something else.

  • Maybe he’s worried you’ll think he’s not successful enough.
  • Perhaps he constantly compares himself to others who seem ‘better.’

These thoughts can really gnaw at a guy, leading him to create distance because he’s worried he won’t stack up against some invisible standard.

Normalizing Emotional Unavailability

Unfortunately, some guys grow up getting the message that showing emotion equals weakness — that being ‘available’ isn’t cool. This message can really stick, and when they find themselves getting close to someone, their go-to behavior is to shut down.

It’s not that they don’t have feelings. It’s more likely that they’ve never learned how to express them in a healthy way.

So they might retreat, not because they want to, but because it’s all they know. It might take the right person and some patience to show them it’s okay to open up.

"Given that our society tends to normalize and accept emotional unavailability—particularly in men—many people unconsciously accept that the relationship can’t proceed into deeper territory. It is common at this stage for the relationship to break off or turn cold. Sadly, these patterns tend to create vicious cycles that make defensive patterns all the more hard-wired in the brain."

— Dr. Carla Marie Manly| Clinical Psychologist | Author, Joy from Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Befriending Your Fear

They Don’t Know How to Allow Someone Else in Their Heart

For some guys, the heart is like a house with a “No Vacancy” sign—there’s just no room for guests. It’s not that they don’t have the space; they just genuinely don’t know how to let someone move in. Love involves sharing that internal space they’ve reserved only for themselves, and that’s a huge step.

  • Perhaps they’ve always kept people at arm’s length.
  • Maybe the idea of sharing their inner world feels like giving away a part of themselves they’re not ready to part with.

He might care about you more than he ever anticipated, and now he’s thinking about how to reshuffle things inside to create room for two.

"...Then, in an intimate partnership with someone just right for their truest self, they do not know how to allow someone else access to that intimate place in their heart. They themselves don’t have access to it. They deeply want to connect, but all of their experience and indoctrination has taught them not to let anyone come that close."

— Mike Ensley, MA, LPCC| Counselor, Ensley Counseling

Sensing Pressure to Live Up to Certain Expectations

Let’s face it, relationships come with their own set of expectations, and sometimes the weight of those can push a man to take a breather.

Expectations can range from daily texting and constant availability to long-term commitments. There’s also the pressure of being ‘the perfect partner,’ whatever that might mean for him.

Feeling like he has to meet all these can be a bit daunting, causing him to tap the brakes and reassess whether he can—or wants to—meet those expectations.

Distracted by Stress and Other Things in His Life

It’s important to remember that sometimes life just gets in the way. When a guy’s mind is cluttered with other concerns, he might unintentionally pull back from the relationship.

This can be anything from:

  • An overload at work that leaves him mentally and physically drained.
  • Family issues that demand his emotional energy and time.

All these distractions can cause him to seem distant—not because his feelings have changed, but because he’s trying to juggle too much all at once.

Hang-Ups About His Career and Future

When a man feels uncertain about where he’s headed professionally, it can make him pause and reflect on all aspects of his life, love included.

  • Concerns about job stability might have him questioning whether he’s in the right headspace for a relationship.
  • If he’s aiming for a big goal or a life-changing promotion, he could worry that a serious commitment might divert his focus.
"Some men think they can’t be in a relationship until they are set in their careers and own a home and have significant savings in the bank.

I think this is less true nowadays, but some men might also have fears of being a good father."

— David Strah, M.A., LMFT| Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Los Angeles, Ca

He’s Not Ready for a Serious Relationship

Commitment can be a big step, like jumping into the deep end of a pool. If a man isn’t ready to take that plunge, he might hover at the edge, dangling his feet in the water but not quite diving in.

Here’s what it boils down to:

  • He enjoys your company and the fun times, but the heavy stuff? That might be more than he bargained for.
  • There might be goals or experiences he wants to pursue solo before being ready for a duo adventure.

Fear of Missing Out

Popularly known as FOMO, this is a real kicker. The grass might seem greener on the other side, especially when scrolling through social media full of bachelor escapades and travel adventures.

A few things to consider:

  • Could there be an important trip he’s putting off for date nights?
  • Maybe the idea of settling down feels like he’s turning his back on a world of possibilities.

He may want to make sure he’s lived enough of his ‘single life’ before fully committing to a shared dream.

He’s Held Back by Lingering Feelings Related to an Ex

Sometimes, a guy’s heart might be like a cluttered desk, with old letters from a long-gone love still lingering in a corner. If he hasn’t fully cleared away those past emotions, they can cast a shadow over the new relationship.

There could be unresolved issues or feelings he hasn’t processed yet. Or, maybe there’s a comparison game happening, where he’s holding you up against a past relationship, even if he doesn’t mean to.

He Doesn’t Feel Like a Priority to You

Everyone wants to feel like they’re center stage in their partner’s life, not stuck on the sidelines. If a man starts to feel like he’s just an extra in your life, he might recoil a bit to see if you’ll notice — and chase after him.

Think about the dynamics between the two of you:

  • Has he hinted at feeling overlooked or out of the loop?
  • Do your plans together often take a backseat to other priorities?

He may just be seeking that reassurance that he matters to you as much as you do to him.

He Is Just Not Into You Anymore

It’s the unwelcome truth, but sometimes the spark fizzles out on his end. When feelings change, they can be hard to decode and even harder to confront.

In this case, pulling away is less about fear and more about honesty. He may be withdrawing because he’s looking for a gentle way to transition out of what doesn’t feel right for him anymore.

What this looks like:

  • He might start canceling plans more often or be less engaged in conversations.
  • The sweet messages that once filled your inbox become infrequent or… it entirely stops.
  • You feel like you’re the only one trying to keep the connection alive.

He Has Someone Else

And then, there’s when his attention has already drifted elsewhere. He may seem distant because his affections are caught up in the thrill of someone new.

This one is a tough pill to swallow, I know, but it could be a sign of one of two things:

  1. He might be comparing and feeling more aligned with this other person’s company.
  2. Perhaps he’s conflicted, trying to decide between a newfound connection and the one he’s established with you.

Bear in mind that it’s never just black and white; human emotions are a complex web, and every situation has its nuances.

More Insights From the Experts

“Men pull away because of their own fear. Whether it is self-doubt that they can sustain the relationship or a fear of feeling responsible for the emotional state of their mate, the issue is really an internal one.

A man might fear getting hurt, making the wrong choice, or being overwhelmed by his own emotions. Even if they think their partner may be “the one,” they may still feel the need to create some distance.

This is definitely not a symptom all men experience in falling in love.”

Tracy Crossley | Behavioral Relationship Expert

“While experiencing love and deep connection is a basic human need, it can be very challenging for some. Love is a place of vulnerability, and how we each approach love in relationships greatly depends on the experiences that inform our attachment style.

These experiences begin in childhood and are altered by emotionally powerful events throughout our lives.

This is particularly true for those who have experienced trauma, such as military service members and first responders, where protecting their emotional core is vital to surviving the demands of the job.”

Audrey Schoen | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Final Thoughts

When a man pulls away, it doesn’t always mean he’s not interested or that the relationship is doomed. Often, it’s a sign that he’s dealing with his own emotions and fears. The best thing you can do is to give him space and support while also taking care of yourself.

Remember, falling in love is a big deal for everyone involved. It’s okay if it takes some time for him to process his feelings and figure out what he wants. Keep communicating openly and honestly, and don’t be afraid to express your needs and feelings!

Why Men Pull Away When They Are Falling in Love

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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.