why men pull away from women

So you’ve got yourself together. You have a great job; you know how to have fun – you’re successful and smart. You know how to meet guys, flirt well, and date effectively. Yet you are left with an ongoing frustration. Why do men lose interest?

Here are four reasons why men pull away from women, and two approaches you can take to change it.

1. Men pull away because of their upbringing

We’ve all been brought up within a unique set of circumstances with particular parents, environment, and culture. This applies to the guys that you meet. Their upbringing could explain why they pull away.

The relationship we have with our parents that forms us when we are young is called attachment. Different attachment types lead to different behaviors when we are adults. Our relationship with parents becomes a template for all our relationships.

There are three basic attachment types:

1. Secure: I’m ok; Mummy and Daddy are ok; you’re ok.

2. Anxious: I’m ok if Mummy and Daddy are here; you’re ok if you don’t leave me.

3. Avoidant: I tell myself I’m ok on my own, but I’m angry with Mummy and Daddy; you’re ok if I have my space, and you don’t get too close.

If a guy pulls away, he’s behaving consistent with his relationships template – he might have an Avoidant attachment style. Or, more subtly, if you have an Anxious attachment style, this might lead to clingy, possessive behavior that means that he pulls away. Uh-oh!

Our relationship with parents becomes a template for all our relationships. Click To Tweet

2. Men pull away because they need independence

Men and women want different things from relationships. It’s not the simple ‘men just want sex’ difference – it’s more profound. Intimacy means something different for men.

Men value independence, so when we get close to a woman, we realize how much we need our freedom. Guess what? We pull away. Then, once men have reconnected with their need to do stuff by themselves, they come back, because they need love and intimacy. And the cycle repeats.

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It gets complicated when women misinterpret a guy’s need to be by himself (AKA independence). They think the worst: “I did something wrong,” “It’s all going to end,” “Why do I keep attracting these men?”.

When you add that most men cannot articulate their feelings and emotional needs clearly, you’re left with a smart, together woman seeming like she’s an over-analyzing neurotic who’s scaring men away.

I exaggerate (slightly) for effect, but you get the point. The challenge is to trust the man. Trust the strength of the relationship and let go of the panic.

No, I’m not saying ‘when he pulls away, do nothing.’ I’m saying – really consider what he needs. He’ll come back stronger. And if he doesn’t come back, he wasn’t worth your time or energy.

3. Men pull away after because of evolution

From an evolutionary point of view, men and women are different. Mating with as many different females as possible makes evolutionary sense. In most mammals, continuous mating with the same partner means the male will take longer and longer to climax.

Yes, you read that correctly. It even has a name – the Coolidge effect. Male sheep come quicker when mating with different female sheep. The evolutionary priority is to have as many offspring as possible.

If he pulls away, the chances are that there is someone else in his horizon. Commitment doesn’t always make evolutionary sense for a man. Harsh, but that’s nature for you.

Commitment doesn't always make evolutionary sense for a man. Click To Tweet

4. Men pull away because masculinity is changing

Masculinity is definitely having a bit of a moment. 21st-century men are uneasy in a way that previous generations were not. Look, I’m not saying that we don’t live in a male-dominated society and that sexism doesn’t exist. I’m suggesting that men’s traditionally strong position in society is being questioned – and rightly so – as we aspire to equality.

Until now, we never had to go within, analyze our role and position, and understand our feelings and emotional state. Men were the hunters, providers, and protectors. Our role models were the strong, silent type — the heroes performing extraordinary feats.

Now men’s roles are changing quicker than role models. To whom can men look for guidance and inspiration? The question ‘What does it mean to be a man?’ doesn’t have the definite answer it used to because social roles became fluid. This may explain why the main reason of men dying under fifty in the UK is suicide.

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The interesting part? Women have been thinking about, challenging, questioning, and creating their roles anew in society for decades. Committing to a relationship becomes more complicated when men don’t know who they are. But our emotional development is catching up.

You might be thinking it’s all doom and gloom when a man pulls away. It’s not that one of these ideas is the correct answer. It’s more that you’re left with alternative perspectives on the situation. But what can you do?

What to do when he is pulling away?

It’s more about your whole approach towards men pulling away. I’m going to use the term ‘mindset,’ because it goes a little deeper than the standard dating advice ‘When He Pulls Away, Do This Immediately and Get His Attention Back.’

Here are two mindsets to practice.

Mindset 1: Do not take it personally

Not taking it personally does not mean that it’s never personal. There might be something about your approach or behavior that leads to men pulling away. And you know what? That’s ok! You are a capable woman that has everything she needs to date effectively.

Here’s a related example. As a trained schoolteacher, it took me a while to learn that when a class badly behaved, or a particular pupil kicked off in class, it wasn’t personal. Only when I internalized that I have no idea what was happening with that individual that I began to relax. I didn’t know the circumstances of what happened that day or what they were dealing with! They might have had a bad argument with their best friend; their mum might be ill in hospital; anything really.

Given that most men find it challenging to discuss their emotional state, when he pulls away he might be dealing with some difficult stuff. Most likely, it is not you. It’s nothing about how you look, what you wore, or what you said.

It’s also worth remembering that each man’s reaction will be unique to his personality. Yes, he is influenced by broader societal roles, stereotypes, upbringing, and all those factors, but he is an individual.

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You can talk to him and try to understand the reasons, but you can’t control someone else’s feelings and response to your behavior. A man will respond in whichever way he responds. You still have a choice, you’re ok, and you can move on.

You are a capable woman that has everything she needs to date effectively. Click To Tweet

Mindset 2: Grow self-awareness

Growing your self-awareness will insulate you from the experience of him pulling away. Having said it’s not personal, the paradox is that you’re responsible for your life – nobody else. If you don’t act, then you won’t get anything. And if you’re getting the same undesirable results in your dating life, then it’s up to you to look at yourself.

But not at what you do – you need to go deeper. This kind of work about your values, who you are, and what you stand for – all deepening self-awareness – will always help you dating and creating a relationship. It will also insulate you against the experience of men pulling away and will help to build your resilience.

A woman who is serious about meeting a good man needs courage, self-awareness, and a willingness to be responsible for her own experience. Knowing what you stand for, grounds you in any challenging circumstances.

The thing about this mindset – it isn’t a quick fix, and it doesn’t guarantee instant results. It’s a long game, but ultimately more satisfying.

Getting dates is easy. Having a few good dates is a bit more challenging. But meeting a good man to share your life with someone is a real prize.

Men will pull away from women – but you can deal with it! If you’re serious about meeting a good man so that you can share your life with someone, you’ll likely experience a man pulling away.

It’s very straightforward to focus on the action you should take, or a strategy to employ – so much dating advice is at this level. I’m interested in more significant, longer-term, more practical changes. Once you start focusing on your mindset, you will discover strategies that match your unique personality.

Changing your actions won’t alter anything about men pulling away. Acknowledging that it’s not personal, knowing that a man’s feelings and behavior are down to him, and doing the deep work about who you are – these things will shift your experience.

James is a dating expert at Good Man Plan. He helps single women to avoid the players and attract good men. James’s writing and ideas on men and masculinity have been featured on Good Men Project, The Guardian, and on BBC2. He has also guest-edited for BBC Radio5Live.

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