If you have been with someone for a while and you are feeling disconnected in your relationship because it seems like your partner is pulling away, it can put you into a serious panic mode. You might find yourself questioning what happened. What did you do? What does this mean? Are you headed for a breakup? Even if there's no logical reason to immediately jump to that conclusion, your partner's distance can take your mind to that place. The reality is, getting worked up over it isn't going to solve anything. So what can you do if you start feeling like your partner is pulling away?
"It's important to recognize exactly why your partner is pulling away in the first place," Emily Holmes Hahn, relationship expert and Founder and LastFirst matchmaking service, tells Bustle. There's no one size fits all reason for why your partner will start to create distance when things seem to be going really well.
If they're dealing with stress at work, family issues, or anything outside of the relationship, Hahn says it's just important to be understanding. "Actively help them deal with whatever it is head on," she says. "These kind of tough times can ultimately bring you two closer."
But if your partner is pulling away because things are moving too fast, find ways you can slow down the tempo while still keeping the spark alive. It's all about helping your partner feel comfortable with your relationship again. "Either way, the only way to really resolve this issue is to sit down and have a direct conversation," Hahn says.
According to experts, there are both good and not-so-great ways to react when you feel your partner is pulling away. So here are some things to do immediately if you want to restore your connection.
1. Remain Calm
The first thing to do if you start feeling distance is to remain calm. "Don’t freak out," licensed marriage and family therapist, Heidi McBain, MA, tells Bustle. "Your partner may just need some space." You never know. Once they've had some alone time, things might actually be better than before. "If they are introverted, this may actually be a good thing because it can mean that they just need some time to recharge," she says. So try not to get mad, defensive, and or lose sleep over it.
2. Take A Step Back To Reflect Before You Approach Them
When it comes to bridging any distance in your relationship, communication is key. But before you approach your partner with your concerns, take a step back and just reflect. As licensed marriage and family therapist, Rachel Wright, tells Bustle, you should journal or meditate in order to gain some mental clarity. When you're stressed out and worried, it's easy to say the wrong thing or say it in the wrong way. "Do extra self-care so that you show up in the conversation as the best possible version of yourself," she says.
3. Try To See The Situation For What It Really Is
As Dr. Alexandra Solomon, author of LOVING BRAVELY: Twenty Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Wanttells Bustle, a partner pulling away could be a huge red flag. For instance, it can indicate cheating or fading interest. On the other hand, it could simply "reflect the presence of a 'pull'" that has nothing to do with you. "Be mindful of the rush you may feel to assume that your partner pulling away is a bad thing," Dr. Solomon says. "That story might reflect a fear that you carry rather than something grounded in truth." According to her, our assumptions come from our own fears. So being self-aware of your thoughts is key. "If we stay curious and open, we can give our partner a chance to talk about what’s going on for them while reducing the chances of them responding defensively," she says.
4. Be Direct And Talk To Them
After you've taken a step back to do some self-reflection on the reality of the situation, the next step is to talk to your partner. "Don’t play games and don’t ask your friends to analyze their behavior," Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist, tells Bustle. "Ask them what they’re feeling and if there is anything they need first." Just be sure to really listen and then respond with support. "If you make demands or accusations, they’ll likely withdraw from the conversation," she says.
5. Do Something Thoughtful For Them
"We all have ups and downs and sometimes we experience stressors that cause us to isolate," therapist, Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, tells Bustle. If you know your partner is pulling away because they're going through a challenging time, show some compassion. "Do something thoughtful for your partner," Powell says. "Take the time to make a genuine gesture of love and see how it is received."
6. Give Them Space
When your partner starts pulling away, the tendency is to do all you can do to reel them back in. But according to experts, that's actually ineffective and may have the opposite effect. "The standard advice therapists give to a person whose partner is pulling away is don’t pursue a distancer," Anita A. Chlipala, LMFT, and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple's Guide to Lasting Love, tells Bustle. If you do, you may end up creating a cycle where they'll just get even more distant. So although it's probably one of the hardest things you can do, it's really best to just give them space. If you get anxiety when they pull away, Chlipala says it’s OK to let your partner know. "Share that information and negotiate what you both can do to get your needs met," she says. For example, if they just need space sometimes, ask if they can give you a heads up so you won't have to worry as much.
7. Don't Close Yourself Off To The Connection
Allowing your partner to have the space they need means you should genuinely be understanding. When your partner shuts you out to figure things out on their own, it can be super hurtful. But as Nicole Mason, Esq., relationship coach and Founder of the Mason Counsel Group, tells Bustle, it's important to stay open to the connection even when you pull away yourself. Don't allow resentment to build inside of you.
If you start to feel like your partner is pulling away, don't worry. It doesn't always mean a breakup is inevitable. Although it may seem scary to just let your partner go and figure things out on their own, your relationship may be better because of it. So just remain calm, keep working on you, and trust that everything will work out in its own time.