We’ve all been there. To hell and back that is.
We’ve all found ourselves caught in the throes of a new romantic connection that seemed so perfect in the beginning and then died out so suddenly that we were left reeling in the aftershocks and wondering what happened?
It usually goes something like this: We meet a man who seems so promising and full of potential in the beginning that we allow ourselves to get caught up in a whirlwind romance, one that has all the markings of a long term relationship.
He comes on like gangbusters, ardently pursuing and letting us know in a multitude of ways that he’s into us.
He calls, texts, drops by unexpectedly and makes no secret of the fact that he just can’t get enough of us.
In the early stages of a relationship like this it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. We start thinking ahead, looking at what a future with this person might be like and allowing ourselves to dive in head first.
And then suddenly he pulls away.
When this happens it can throw us into a tailspin, wondering what we did or said or didn’t do or didn’t say. Wondering how things that seemed so right turned out to be so wrong. We rack our brains trying to understand exactly what the problem is and more importantly how to fix it.
We can feel this man pulling away — even if he doesn’t come out and say it. All the signs are there. The calls slow down, the conversations get shorter, he seems distant or preoccupied, etc. — until he finally just goes AWOL. So what happened? Why did this man who started out pursuing so openly and ardently suddenly just disappear?
First let’s look at the reasons he did NOT pull away (so we can stop kidding ourselves and get back to the business of salvaging our relationships):
“He’s afraid:” This is one of the biggest misconceptions about why men pull away and one of the most dangerous. Why? Because it throws you into convincing behaviors that inevitably backfire. They backfire because you’re operating under the premise that he’s afraid of his feelings, afraid of being hurt. They backfire because in truth it’s not his own feelings he’s afraid of, it’s yours. If anything has him backpedaling at this juncture you can bet you’ve not only misread his signals but have responded to important cues by pushing harder (in that subtle, indirect way we women do — nudging, as I call it), thus pushing him further away. There is such a thing as too much too soon and if there’s anything he’s afraid of, that’s it.
“He’s been hurt:” This falls into the “he’s afraid” category in terms of defending someone’s reason for pulling away. And it makes sense doesn’t it? He’s been jerked around so badly in his past relationship/s that he’s understandably afraid to let it happen again. Right? So why aren’t you doing the same? Haven’t you been hurt too? Badly? But you’re not only not pulling away, you’re scrambling to figure out how to reel him back in. We convince ourselves that someone pulls away because he’s “afraid,” but this logic doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. That’s because it isn’t based on logic in the first place. Love is not logical. It’s not something we choose to take part in or not take part in at will. If we did, wouldn’t you just choose right here and now to stop loving him? The man whose own inaction is telling you he’s willing to risk losing you?
“No one’s ever shown him love like I have:” This is categorically untrue. While there may be something to the “no one has ever loved him like I do” part, it’s not the reason he’s pulled away. Unless you’re willing to look at the shadow side of that statement, in which case you better hope it’s untrue. If you’ve never been on the receiving end of one of those kinds of connections — where someone moved too fast, came on too strong, or tried too hard — consider yourself lucky. And if you have, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. It’s usually a giant turn-off. And it replaces feelings of love with feelings of pity, which is one thing you do not want to happen. The minute you start trying to win someone over who’s already pulling away, you’re in danger of pushing them past the point of no return. This kind of behavior isn’t flattering. It’s smothering.
“He’s confused:” This one is probably true. But chances are good that it’s not his feelings of love and adoration that have him so perplexed. He’s probably wondering how such a fun, playful, lighthearted and carefree connection turned so quickly into a minefield of drama and expectation. If this is the case with you, your best course of action is to A: knock it off, and B: lighten up.
“He’s busy:” There’s probably a grain of truth in this one too. He may very well be busy. But people do what they want to do. They make time for what’s important to them. And they offer reassurances — pre-emptively — when time constraints interfere with connections they value. Ask yourself, “would he be too busy for (insert the name of some Hollywood starlet or Victoria Secret model he secretly lusts after)?” The answer — and you know it — is no.
“He found someone else:” This one is probably the hardest to stomach and yet if it’s true, the sad reality is that it didn’t cause him to pull away. His being open to that in the first place is the result of him already having pulled away. This one may also be the hardest one to recover from, but it is doable.
“He’s just not into you:” While this may be true now, it wasn’t always. He couldn’t “pull away” if he wasn’t into you in the first place, right? So the question there is what happened? And more importantly, what can you do to turn it around?
First of all chances are good that you were doing way more “pursuing” than you’re aware of. And because relationships follow the same laws of physics that everything else does, the only way to restore the equilibrium is through balancing it back out. You have to know what you’re doing wrong in order to right those behaviors and hopefully get things back on track.
Women are lot more indirect than men and a lot more in denial about what exactly constitutes “pursuit.” But that doesn’t mean we’re not doing it. And it doesn’t mean the men in our lives can’t see right through it.
We tend to think that anything short of throwing ourselves at someone is ok, especially in this day and age when it’s so easy to do Facebook drivebys, send random texts and pick up the phone just to say hello. And in a perfect world those are all fine. That’s how so many of us communicate these days. But if your love interest is already pulling away, the last thing you want to do is increase the behavior that caused him to withdraw in the first place.
By the way, “initiating contact” is just one form of pursuit. It seems to be the most popular, as well as the current buzz phrase with online psychics. The minute a client tells me that she’s stopped initiating contact (and using those very words), I know she’s been to too many psychics.
So what are other forms of pursuit that you want to be mindful of, so you can pull your own energy back in and balance out a connection that’s gone awry? My definition of pursuit in this context would be anything that’s designed to win your love interest over — no matter how casual, subtle or indirect.
And yes that’s often initiating contact. But it’s also posting social networking status updates in the hopes that he’ll see them (and thus you) in a positive light. It’s expressing feelings — not just love and affection but also anger, indignation, disappointment,etc. — anything that can translate as being so invested in him that his actions evoke an emotional response. It’s explaining, convincing, reassuring, apologizing, etc. — anything that’s designed to paint yourself in a certain light. Ever hear of the phrase “trying too hard?” That’s how this comes across. Asking for definition (“Where do I stand?”) If the answer to that one were favorable, I can promise you you wouldn’t need to ask.
And then there are the more damaging forms of pursuit, which invariably occur after he’s already shown clear signs of withdrawal. Delivering an ultimatum, which always fails. Withholding intimacy. This one also always fails because it registers as extortion and translates as pursuit. Unfriending him on the various social networking sites. Blocking his number. Hanging up on him or storming out and slamming the door behind you. Being “cold” or making a point of showing displeasure in him, even if you don’t say a word.
It may be hard to see these as pursuit as you’re in effect doing just the opposite. But who are we kidding here? This is really about showing him you mean business, that he’s going to have to step up if he wants another chance with you, or that he’s really gone and blown it this time. These are major pursuing gestures because they’re all designed to throw him into a panic and get him scrambling to win you back. And he knows it.
Men have had to learn to navigate around all of our subtle cues and hints and innuendos because we are so indirect. And all those little gestures get magnified and distorted until they turn into giant red flags and send your loved one running for cover. We get angry and are mystified when they don’t work, but let’s face it: they don’t work because they’re duplicitous.
Only one person ever pursues at a time in any relationship. So if he’s not, you can bet you are. The trick to turning it around is to not only trust that this is what’s happening, but to gather your own internal resources and pull them together rather than scattering them out into the Universe.
So with that in mind, what can you do to stop the merry-go-round, change this dynamic and get your man pulling back toward you?
Women always feel the need to “do something.” While men may be hard-wired to problem solve and fix things in the tangible outer world, women want to dive in and fix their relationships — long before they even are relationships. We’re so busy tweaking and fine-tuning our romantic connections that we end up short-circuiting them before we even get a chance to take them for a test drive.
The single most important (and effective) thing you can do when your man pulls away is this: nothing. That means not calling, texting, emailing etc. Not explaining yourself one last time. Not blocking or unfriending him. Not posting videos of you whooping it up in Cabo with all of your fabulous friends. Not trying to scare him into thinking he’s lost you. Not parading your hot new (male) friend in front of him. Not plopping his stuff unceremoniously on his doorstep in the dead of night. Not finding ways to bump into him unexpectedly. Not giving him the cold-shoulder when you really do bump into him unexpectedly. And so on. In other words: really and truly nothing. Nothing.
Before you say (as many clients before you have said): “But I don’t want to play games!” Consider this: This isn’t about playing games. This is the absence of games. All of the above — all of the nudging and hinting and explaining and reassuring and reacting and trying to elicit reactions in someone who’s already showing signs of withdrawal — those are games.
This is more about getting centered and reminding yourself that you are valuable and that your value extends to far beyond this man’s interest. It extends beyond whether he’s misinterpreted your intentions or returned your affections. It extends to fully understanding the concept of personal empowerment, which turns out to be the best aphrodisiac in the world.
It’s about trusting that he will circle back (and this is the beauty of doing nothing — he really will) as long as you pull your own energy in rather than letting it frantically dissipate into the ethers, which is what happens when you stop listening to your instincts and start allowing anxiety to govern your actions.
The reason this works is because pulling your energy back in (which does not by the way mean over-correcting, i.e., becoming cold and indifferent) concentrates it into a magnetic force that will energetically pull him back toward you. He doesn’t have to know you’re pulling it in. He’ll respond to it energetically, just as you did when he pulled away in the first place.
Remember: if a man wants you, nothing will keep him away. And if he doesn’t want you, nothing will make him stay.
As long as you’ve not waited until it’s “too late” to pull things back into sync, meaning as long as you’re not guilty of completely chasing him away, pulling you own energy in will trigger a corresponding reaction in him and he will at the very least poke his head in in the not too distant future. How you handle that then will determine your chances for getting things back on track. But at that point it’s almost entirely in your hands.
Why He Pulled Away
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I also highly recommend the book How to Be an Adult in Relationships by David Richo.