Center for Shared Insight, PC

Why is my partner pulling away as we get more serious?

February 16, 2017
Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.
Girl and guy on a bridge look at eachother

At Center for Shared Insight, PC, we are committed to answering your most burning relationship questions. In fact, the very core mission of our practice includes sharing insight gathered from thousands of hours spent supporting, educating and guiding clients on their personal journeys of better understanding relationship dynamics.

While pulling away in a relationship is often attributed to male behavior, this can happen from either partner and is often a pattern that emerges as partnerships start to get more serious and a bigger commitment is on the table. Here are some insights to help you better understand why a romantic partner pulls away:

Fear of commitment

Especially if your love interest initially appeared available and excited about the possibility of a relationship, he or she might be struggling with a fear of commitment. These fears are often born out of past relationships – those as early as the ones with primary caregivers. Sometimes unfavorable childhood relationships lead to models and deep patterns that continues to impact adult attachment. For instance, if a parent or caregiver was either overbearing or consistently unavailable, those behaviors are deeply rooted as “normal” and can cause a fear of being smothered, the need for additional emotional or physical space, and/or the development of an avoidant attachment style.  Either of these experiences can lead to a fear of commitment.

Sometimes, a fear of commitment is really a fear of abandonment. When this dynamic is present, pulling away can be a protective mechanism to avoid inevitable heartache if the relationship goes south.

Fear of commitment can also be a fear of missing out, and individuals can be plagued by the questions “who else is out there that might be a better fit?” or “would I enjoy spending time out with my friends more than with this person?” This dynamic can be both a fear and a coping mechanism.

These fears are probably not readily apparent to the partner experiencing them. However, if you recognize them, it’s important to reassure your partner that his or her feelings are normal and respected. Take things slow and provide space when needed. Talk about specific milestones openly – like whether it’s time to label each other as girlfriend/boyfriend – as well as childhood experiences of love. Encourage open and fearless communication about feelings, expectations, needs, hesitations, experiences, and fears. Assure your love interest that you are committed and reliable, especially if you sense a fear of abandonment.

Not truly ready

Oftentimes a relationship seems like the thing we “should” seek and being in one feels like a way to meet societal norms. But, sometimes an individual isn’t ready to surrender independence or freedom to take things to the next level. If a person has lived alone for a long time, taking the next step of moving in together or spending several nights together might require breaking decades-long patterns. It’s when these shifts to the next level start to happen, and a partner must give up control, overwhelming emotions can arise.

In this case, it’s important to give your partner a sense of freedom and cultivate an understanding of his or her boundaries around spending time together. This relationship may be slower to progress but will be stronger because of it. Talk openly about feelings around control, personal space, and quantity of time together. Notice whether your long-term visions are truly aligned and if so, be patient and loving as things unfold at the pace most comfortable to your partner. Savor your time together and notice your tendency to obsess about the future instead of enjoying the present.

Lost interest

Feelings shift, and especially in the early days when you are just getting to know someone, a series of small red flags can contribute to uncertainty about a relationship’s future – and cause withdrawal. Individuals initially put their best foot forward and with time, true colors shine. This can be a wonderful thing if that authenticity contributes to the attraction, but sometimes it reveals misaligned values, desires, or other concerns.

Listen to your heart and it will be clear whether this relationship is worth fighting for. Take time to mediate, talk with trusted friends, or even meet with a therapist about the concerns. Ask yourself whether there is core alignment in long-term desires, values, or goals and if so, determine whether you are both actively committed to cultivating more attraction, passion, and connection.

At Center for Shared Insight, PC, we help clients overcome relationship challenges to become their best selves. So often, relationship dynamics are the result of deep patterns or experiences that need special attention for healing. If you notice these repeat situations in your life, it might be time to talk with a trusted professional. Contact me, Dr. Hick, for a free discussion and consultation today.

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