Why He Pulls Away When You’re With Him & How to Deal With It
This is a great question from a wonderful member named Katie G.
Congratulations to you and David on your wedding!
So. I finished both programs, Commitment Control and Understanding Men, a couple of months ago. I loved them: what I learned from you took my relationship from “eh, we’re not really there yet” to the next level so, so quickly! In fact, my boyfriend and I are getting set to move in together, and this weekend he was telling me how hard it was going to be, when the time came, to shop for an engagement ring for me (I have picky tastes). A total 180 from how things were before your program.
So I owe you a huge thanks!
Anyway, I do have a question, and I’d love a little extra guidance from you. It’s about this thing that plagues me: why men pull away. Because of what I’ve learned in your programs, I no longer flip out when this happens. I don’t like it, but I understand it and don’t take it as a sign that my relationship is about to implode on me. But… my boyfriend doesn’t fit the mold when it comes to withdrawal.
He’s fairly new in my city, doesn’t know very many people. So am I. So we tend to spend a lot of time together, most days of the week… not to mention he’s getting all set to move in! So when he’s pulling away, he doesn’t actually go off on his own. He still wants to hang out with me, do things with me. He just does all this in a very disconnected, unengaged way. He’s pulling away, but he’s with me.
And it drives me crazy. I would much rather he take a few days to himself, do his own thing, and come back to the relationship renewed. But he just doesn’t do it, and I don’t know how to handle that. Spending time with him when he’s all disconnected is hurtful to me… and it changes my feelings for him when he acts that way. I know that’s probably unfair but I can’t help it. I had a difficult childhood with neglectful parents who saw me more as an inconvenience than anything else, and when somebody even just seems not to care much about me, my head and heart automatically pull away. It’s not a conscious decision I make.
He always seems to come back to the relationship his bright self again, but I feel like these periods erode away at the foundation of what we have together. It means the time we spend together isn’t always as full of attraction and connection as it needs to be, and it taints my feelings for him. But I don’t know what to do about it!
For instance, he’s been pretty withdrawn most of the week and wants to spend time with me tonight. I sort of non-commitally agreed. I think I’m going to tell him I’d like a night to myself tonight. Give him some of the space he wont seem to take for himself.
But can you give me some tips for handling this in the future? How do I create that bit of necessary space when I sense he needs it? I don’t imagine it’s a good idea to tell him “you’re acting withdrawn, call me again when you’re your normal self” or to reject him and tell him I don’t want to hang out with him without explaining why. I guess I can become suddenly “oh, so busy” when he’s in a withdrawn period, but I think that will be difficult to pull off when we live together.
Your programs and the blog have all been so massively helpful, I know you’ll have some good advice for me.
Thanks, and congratulations again!
– Katie G.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> MY ANSWER
Congratulations on seeking answers and looking to understand men more. Nothing lights me up like a generous woman who really wants to, and seeks to understand men. Because – I know that any woman who does this is going to experience a lot less heartache in her relationships with men. When you understand men, you stop feeling as anxious and stop acting all needy. But most of all, understanding really gives us more than our fair share of power as a woman. (Click here to take the quiz on “How Feminine Am I Actually?”)
Yes, I can say that I know how FRUSTRATING your situation is.
It seems as though you are implying that he prefers to ‘hang about’ with you, yet not give you his full presence. It’s irritating when a man does this – in fact, personally, I find that I get stressed if ever my man does this, and it completely BAFFLED me, I used to stand there, arms facing towards the sky in desperation, wondering “what is going on?? Leave me alone or BE with me!” Otherwise, I star to just feel suffocated.
Yet here’s the funny thing. This man loves you. It’s just that this particular way of showing it that he practices, means a lot more pain than love to you, and I understand. But just know that he actually loves you, otherwise he wouldn’t bother spending time with you.
No matter how hen-pecked ANY man is, he will NOT just hang about with a woman for lengthy periods if he doesn’t enjoy your company, because men are built to run away and go empty themselves of the feelings of ‘connection’, as you learned about in depth in Commitment Control. (Check out out Commitment Masterclass here)
They physically can’t hang about with you unless it’s fulfilling their needs somehow.
Now for your questions.
You’re not asking the right questions my dear! This isn’t about throwing space his way – although I totally understand how you got that idea.
What you need to do is understand. Yes, it’s the long way to do things, but it’s the right way to do things. And, there’s much more fun and love for you at the other end of the ‘long way’.
So I’ll start dissecting this for you.
It’s quite simple.
Don’t Assume you know what he Needs without Considering His Position First
1) Don’t give him unwanted gifts. Ie: don’t forcibly give him space from this emotional place you are in right now! You only want to give it because you’re fearful, which is not really giving.
Would you like it if for your birthday, all you wanted was a new bracelet, and what you didn’t want and never wanted was meat pies, and YET your best friend bakes you three meat pies just for your birthday because she couldn’t STAND the thought that you couldn’t have meat pies and felt that you NEEDED that? I mean, she did it without even ‘getting’ where you’re at and what you even like?
No way! You’d be like, what are you doing? It’s incredibly selfish, right? She’s in effect, just taking from you.
What I’m suggesting to you is that you forcing space on him in this way is not what he wants. If he wanted it, he would take it for himself.
You’re thinking he’s like you. You’re thinking he’s a woman; and women often have difficulty asking for things DIRECTLY, or taking action directly; it’s just not how we communicate. Definitely not primarily. We communicate indirectly.
You you think you’re ‘picking up’ on a need, when the need is not there. It’s called projected empathy. You would like a man to anticipate your needs, so you do it to him, thinking he wants it too. But he doesn’t.
It’s not Fair: He Doesn’t KNOW he’s Hurting You
2) He has NO IDEA that he’s hurting you, and that’s not fair. You’re just acting frustrated and he probably half feels that, but at the same time, wonders what the hell is going on and what he did wrong.
I can almost guarantee you that he doesn’t get what’s going on. He’s a man, and if he’s masculine at his core (which he is, because he wouldn’t have attracted you otherwise. It’s obvious from the way you write that you’re feminine at your core) – the fact that he’s masculine at his core means he’s insensitive by default.
Even the most sensitive men are insensitive. Men don’t get it. You have to teach them that something hurts you.
As a feminine woman, it’s your job to communicate that you are hurt by something. Now, when you’re dating in the early stages, you have to EARN that right (to do that), you can’t just come out with ‘the crazies’ right off the bat. So, I don’t know how long you two have been dating, but you seem serious already, so I’d say it’s ok for you to communicate that you’re hurt or angry.
It doesn’t have to be with words (though it can be), it can be with your body, your eyes. Now I give you strategies on how to communicate fears and needs to a man in Commitment Control, but for the most part, when I work with women, I don’t want to give you every single darn step – that would mean you being inauthentic and you would have learned nothing. (Click here to get your “Goddess Report”)
I want you to know that this is a process of learning and relationships are an art, there is science to it – especially dating, but when you’re past the early dating stages, you have to fall in to your own way of communicating, and being willing to stuff up and make mistakes and to hurt and be hurt, and be real. So feel free to express how this is hurting you, but not in a malicious way!
In fact, if you wanted to use words, you could. He just won’t be as responsive to words.
I can give you a starting formula on how to communicate that it hurts, and that you want him PRESENT, and totally THERE with you.
You MUST start by reinforcing him when he IS present with you. Be the happiness and joy that you truly are inside, in your heart, when he does that (I know you probably routinely hold back a little, like most women, because you want to test and you always want more). But if you don’t show the contrast between your happiness when he IS there, present with you, and the unhappiness you feel when he’s aloof and being Absent Adam, he won’t get it.
The Assumption that he Actually Intends to Hurt You
3) I suggest to you that your feelings for him don’t actually change when he hangs around you in a non-committal way. I suggest that you are angry because you assume (unconsciously, and with reference to your painful childhood) that he is doing this to hurt you. When he’s not.
As I said, he has no idea that what he’s doing is hurting you. You’re the only one who can communicate that to him.
He’s there with you but he’s not THERE with you? Totally Normal
4) You mentioned that your man doesn’t fit the mold because he’s with you but he’s absent at the same time. He does fit the mold. This is normal for a masculine man, although it feels painful to you, and to all women.
Literally, the time that a man can spend totally PRESENT while he’s WITH you, is extremely low. He’s not designed that way!
I think that more than anything, the most hurtful issue here is that you are expecting something where you shouldn’t be.
See, what I figured out in my very slow (but eager and seeking answers) brain over the years is that we get hurt and disappointed when what we GET or what we experience does not match what we originally expected.
Which means, you think that if this man isn’t giving you constant attention when he’s WITH you, then….there’s something to be scared about…and, there actually isn’t, my lovely!
What you need is more and more GOOD female friends to spend hours with, and share time with. (read my article about picking your friends carefully)
My last words to you: I know how difficult this is. And sometimes, it’s going to suck. But that’s part of what you sign up for when you enter a relationship with the opposite sex: stuff that’s a bit sucky, and stuff that’s insanely joyful and passionate. And yet – this is something you need to laugh about and start to love in him. Because if he was connecting with you whilst he’s with you all the time, you’d start to lose attraction for him. Really, you’d start to find him rather like a pile of vomit – that you are also about to vomit in to.
It’s NOT attractive to you when a man is always connected. Where would his ability to be empty and to focus be? Where would his manhood be?
I mean, if he was a ball of oxytocin like you and I are, you would have turned your nose up at him, rather than caring so much about him that you’re emailing me for answers. Enjoy the fact that he’s being who he really is at his core. He may not always be present, but he’s being a man, and he’s committing more and more to you! What a relief!!
If you’re reading this and would also like to see your relationship go one step further with a man like Katie G’s did, Commitment Control will get you there. Click here to watch the Commitment Masterclass.
If you liked this post, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What do you think? Do you agree with this? And have you also experienced what Katie is experiencing here? I look forward to hearing from you!