It can happen in any relationship, whether you’ve been dating a few weeks or married for years. Something changes and the person who was once so warm and sweet toward you is now cold and distant. They’re less affectionate and avoid physical intimacy. They’re not communicating and spending more time without you.
It’s pretty terrifying when someone you love, or even really like, pulls away from you. It’s easy to assume the worst—they’re cheating, their feelings for you have changed, and so on. Of course, this may be the case in some relationships. Before you make any rash decisions, consider the other reasons why your partner may be distant.
When your heart is involved, it’s easy to internalize but your partner’s problems may have nothing to do with you. They may be stressed with pressures of work or school, problems with friends and family, or their own mental health and well-being. They may be avoiding you in order to avoid talking about a particular problem unrelated to you.
It’s also not uncommon for one partner to become distant out of fear of commitment. That doesn’t mean they don’t love you or they are not happy in the relationship, just that the idea of needing someone else so much can be scary for them. They may worry about your expectations or what the future holds and these worries may ease with time. A change in their behavior can also be a result of some unspoken conflict between you two. It’s important to take a look at your own behavior. Are you pushing them away? It’s hard to see your own bad habits, like being too critical or nagging. Take a few moments to consider if you’re doing something that could be hurting your partner.
If you can’t figure out what’s bothering your partner, it may be time to confront the issue head on. It can be a tough conversation so we’ve got some DO’s and DON’Ts to help you get started:
DON’T be defensive. There’s no reason to assume you’re the cause of their distance so try to keep the focus on what’s bothering them and try not to make it about you.
DO start with some simple questions. Ask them what’s on their mind and give them a chance to share any problems they may be dealing with.
DO acknowledge the distance that you feel.If they don’t open up, try being more direct. Tell them you’ve been feeling a distance and you’d like to know what’s troubling them.
DO listen with an open-mind. Be prepared for an answer that you may not like. Try not to be defensive and just listen.
DON’T try solving their problems. If your partner shares a concern that isn’t directed at you, then there isn’t much you can do but offer support. Don’t feel compelled to solve their problems unless they ask for help.
DO give them space. Assuming your partner hasn’t revealed any relationship-ending information, give them space to work out their problems. Give them some time to return to their usual self without pushing.