What Can I Do If I Feel My Partner Pulling Away?

“These kind of tough times can ultimately bring you two closer."

by Kristine Fellizar
Originally Published: 
I feel like my boyfriend is pulling away — what should I do?
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If you and your partner have been dating for a while and you’ve started to notice a shift in your relationship — they aren’t as responsive to your touches as they were before, they’ve stopped planning romantic dates nights, or they’re just acting more distant overall — you may be up all night wondering what can you do to stop your partner from pulling away.

According to Emily Holmes Hahn, relationship expert and founder and LastFirst matchmaking service, recognizing what’s going on with your partner is the first step to figuring out why they’re pulling away in your relationship. “While it’s easy to jump to conclusions, there's no one-size-fits-all reason for why your partner is acting distant when things seem to be going really well,” Hahn says.

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. These kind of tough times can ultimately bring you two closer."

But if your partner is pulling away because the relationship is moving too fast, you can 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. Below, you’ll find some tips for restoring your connection.


Remain Calm

The first thing to do if you start feeling distance in your relationship 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."

Once they've had some alone time, things could actually be better than they were 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.


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 to gain some mental clarity. When you're stressed out and worried, it's easy to say the wrong thing. As licensed marriage and family therapist, Rachel Wright, tells Bustle, "Do extra self-care so that you show up in the conversation as the best possible version of yourself.”


Try To See The Situation For What It Really Is

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As Dr. Alexandra Solomon, author of LOVING BRAVELY: Twenty Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want tells 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. "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.


Figure Out If Anything Has Changed With You

When your partner pulls away, it’s easy to blame them for any changes that may have occurred in your relationship. But there’s a chance that you may not be totally blameless yourself. “Notice what has changed, not just with your partner but also with you,” therapist Kimberly Perlin, LCSW, tells Bustle. For instance, have there been any changes in your life or behavior that may be impacting your partner? Maybe you started a new job, and you haven’t been as attentive to their needs. Their distance may be a response to that change. If you realize that you may be part of the issue, Perlin suggests figuring out ways to modify your behavior.


Write Your Thoughts & Feelings Down

As much as you may want to confront your partner right away, letting out all your anger, frustration, and sadness, might only make things worse. Instead, clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly suggests spending time journaling to flesh out your thoughts and feelings first. “The journaling process can help you gain objectivity and crystallize the dynamics at work,” Manly says. “Although you can’t control your partner’s behaviors, you can step back to gain insight that will help you communicate effectively with your partner.”


Have A Conversation Using “I” Statements

Once you’ve taken some time to figure out your feelings and gained some clarity, ask your partner to make time for a discussion. Manly suggests using “I” statements to explain your feelings in a non-antagonistic way. For example, you can say something like, “I feel confused and sad because it seems like you’re pulling away. I’m wondering what might be going on and how we can get back on track.” This is a soft approach that puts your feelings out there, and won’t put your partner on the defense.


Give Them Space

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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. If they indicate they’ve been distant because they need some time or space, the best thing you can do is listen and give it to them.

"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 best to just give them space.


Stay Open To The Connection

If your partner needs space, try and be as understanding as you can. “Without knowing exactly what's going on, it's important not to take anything personally,” therapist Merissa Goolsarran, LCSW, tells Bustle. “Feeling personally attacked might prevent you from truly connecting with your partner to understand what's going on.” It's important to stay open to the connection even when times are tough. Don't allow resentment to build inside of you. Instead, trust that your partner will come back around when they’re ready.


Find Ways To Meet Your Own Needs

Giving your partner space may mean that your needs won’t be met until they figure themselves out. Because of this, it’s important to figure out you what might need at this time and see what you can do for yourself.

“Do you need connection, fun, comfort, or something else?”Ashley Gray, LCSW, individual and couples therapist, tells Bustle. “Find ways to meet these needs for yourself that do not include your partner.” For instance, you can schedule something fun to do by yourself or with a family member, join a club for connection, or see a therapist for comfort. “Meeting your needs on your own will take care of you, and will meet your partner's need for space without making them feel pressured to include you in their rejuvenation time,” Gray says.


Do Something Thoughtful For Them

If you know your partner is pulling away because they're going through a challenging time personally, show some compassion. "We all have ups and downs and sometimes we experience stressors that cause us to isolate," therapist, Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, tells Bustle. "Do something thoughtful for your partner. Take the time to make a genuine gesture of love and see how it is received."


Emily Holmes Hahn, relationship expert and Founder and LastFirst matchmaking service

Heidi McBain, MA, licensed marriage and family therapist

Rachel Wright, licensed marriage and family therapist

Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, therapist

Anita A. Chlipala, LMFT, and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple's Guide to Lasting Love

Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist, speaker, and author of upcoming book, Date Smart

Kimberly Perlin, LCSW, therapist

Dr. Alexandra Solomon, author of LOVING BRAVELY: Twenty Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want

Merissa Goolsarran, LCSW, therapist

Ashley Gray, LCSW, individual and couples therapist

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