What Do You Do When You Think They’re Pulling Away?

July 13th, 2017

Commitment, NEW!


Name: Eleanor
Question: How do you ask someone whom you have known for a long time, where you stand with them? I think the world of a man who is in my life, however I feel that he is pulling away and we spend less time together now than we have done previously. He has a family wedding coming up, I am not invited, that is fine, as I do not know any of the people concerned. We see each other a couple of times a week and usually on a saturday. He has a lot of pre wedding occasions to deal with, family members coming from all over the country, a stag weekend which he has helped arrange, and he has some family staying with him for the wedding, so I have not seen him for a couple of weeks now. I rang him, once, and his phone just went straight to voice mail and I left a nice friendly message, but have not heard back. I just think Ive been side lined and wondered if anyone else had been in the same situation and how they dealt with it. The last time I saw him he seemed pre occupied and I asked him what was up and if he wanted to talk about it, he could chat to me, so I would have thought, if it was me the problem was with, he would have said so. I just feel in limbo and have decided not to contact him again, to give him space. I don’t feel I figure as highly in his life as I thought I did.
Age: 45

Depending on his behavior up to this point, I think you have to wait this out and see how he acts when the wedding is over. It could be that he’s preoccupied with all the plans and events he has to attend, especially if he has family coming in from other states. I know in my family, there’s a suffocating level of expectation and obligation put on family members to be at every event. It could be the same for him.

He likely has side-lined you. The question is whether it’s because he wants out of the relationship or is just consumed with a chaotic schedule due to this wedding. He could be thinking that you know what’s going on and that he’s busy and that you intuit why he hasn’t been available.  In his mind, you get it so he doesn’t have to explain anything. People have a tendency to compartmentalize in times of stress. They prioritize which fire needs to be put out based on the potential for drama and hurt feelings. So, he could be assuming that you’ll be there when things calm down for him so he doesn’t feel any urgency about communicating with you. I’m by no means saying I think that’s acceptable. I don’t.  People can only focus on so much at one time, and he might be choosing to back burner you for now because his bandwidth is stretched thin.

As frustrating as it is, you have to wait this out. If, after the wedding, he’s still distant then you simply have to ask him what is going on. Just keep in mind that – should he be ambivalent about continuing the relationship – he very well might tell you nothing is wrong. Some people – men and women – don’t want to be the bad guy. So, instead of breaking things off, they just pull away in increments until the other person says they’ve had enough. That way they can say that they’re just busy or pre-occupied or whatever excuse they can concoct to deflect blame and that the other person was the one who wanted to split up.

For now, you have to give him his space. When things calm down, ask him what’s up. That’s the only way you’re going to know. If the distancing behavior continues, you have your answer. If that should happen, don’t assume it’s you that is the problem. Maybe he’s not ready for anything serious. Maybe he’s still hung up on someone else. Who knows? Just don’t hang in there for too long out of a fear of being alone,  as you’ll be staying in a relationship where you are already alone.


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13 Responses to “What Do You Do When You Think They’re Pulling Away?”

  1. fuzzilla Says:

    Hmm. Moxie’s right that we don’t know a lot about his behavior or how long they’ve known each other up ’til this point, and that’s information that could make a big difference in which approach makes sense. If they’ve been dating a couple months, I’d say give him space and wait it out. She says she’s known him “a long time,” which makes me think years. In which case I’d cut my losses.

    I remember dating someone for about two months. He canceled a date, saying he had a really horrible day. I said fine and asked him later what was so horrible about his day. He said, “Oh, work was just really annoying, I was tired, etc.” He didn’t do anything to be mad about, per se, but I was really hurt that seeing me wasn’t something he was looking forward to after a bad day at work. Didn’t seem to bode well for the relationship and we broke up not long after (I think it was my attempt at a “define the relationship” talk that precipitated it – which was fine, because if it wasn’t going any further, I didn’t wanna waste more time. That’s why I brought it up).

    • fuzzilla Says:

      It’s understandable that he’s busy with wedding stuff, but cutting off all communication? If he cared he could send a quick text or occasionally call to be like, “OMG, such and such family member is being such a drama queen, just needed to hear a friendly voice” or whatever.

      • Selena Says:

        Yeah, not bothering to return a friendly message with a quick “I’ll get back to you when I have some time to talk” seems like a bad sign.

        I might wonder if he was taking a hiatus from the OP to pursue someone who was in town for the wedding. :(

        • fuzzilla Says:

          Yeah, women need to stop giving men who don’t communicate a pass. Yes, life gets crazy if you’re studying for the bar exam or a parent dies or any other number of things. That gives you a pass to not be physically available, but not to cease any and all communication.

          *Maybe* if it was a very, very new relationship and the reason they were busy was pretty traumatic (like, what are you gonna say to someone you’ve had three dates with after your mom dies?). But while weddings might involve some drama, they’re generally joyous and not traumatic occasions, so…

          • Selena Says:

            And the OP should use this time to evaluate whether she wants a guy prone to going incommunicado on her anyway. Feels disrespectful to me.

      • Bluegrass Says:

        Yeah, I completely agree with this. One thing that bums me out when I encounter poor communication in even the early stages of a relationship is that, in the age of texting, it takes so little effort to send along a little message to clear up any misunderstandings. To me, this makes it much less likely that this guy’s lack of attention is benign. At the very least, it indicates that he’s inconsiderate, but it probably does suggest that he wants to distance himself from their relationship, and just used this wedding as a crappy pretense to do it. I’m not saying she shouldn’t wait until afterwards, but, as someone who has had something like this happen to them recently… it really sucks. I know people like avoiding confrontation, but I still think there’s a discrete way of doing things that gives the party getting left (who may be quite emotionally invested in the relationship) some closure.

        In my relationship, it’s been me initiating contact most of the time anyway, so I suspect the guy is going to be really abrupt when it comes time to break things off, because there’s no room in our dynamic for me to take a hint.

        • Selena Says:


          Why are you waiting for him to drop the axe on you? Why not stop initiating contact and see what he does? If he doesn’t step up and change the dynamic, just move on.

  2. Eleanor Says:

    Hi, thanks for the replies and comments. I am pretty certain I have been sidelined. Whether that is for good or until the wedding is over, I have no idea. The wedding is this weekend and his guests are with him till Monday, so I will bide my time and see what happens then. I am certainly not sitting around doing nothing, I’m at work every day now through to tuesday and have things arranged for friday and saturday evening. Thanks again and have a great weekend.

  3. Nicki Says:

    Like fuzzilla said, there’s a bunch of missing info that would be nice to have. I would love to know how long the OP has known this guy and what their situation is. But Moxie nailed it anyway.

    In situations like this I would just ride it out. I probably wouldn’t reach out again until after the wedding. If that went without a reply then I would cut my losses.

  4. Yvonne Says:

    I’m confused about this letter. She describes this guy as “a man who is in my life”, says they’ve known each other for “a long time”. Are they actually boyfriend and girlfriend? If they’ve been dating for a long time, why isn’t she invited as her guy’s plus one? She doesn’t need to know any of the people involved in order to be his date, although after dating for a long time, she doesn’t know anyone at this family wedding?

    No contact with him over a two-week period, not even a text message in
    response to her call? I was in a similar situation once with a man I’d been seeing for a few months. It turned out that his upcoming trip and preparations beforehand were a convenient way to withdraw from our relationship without having to actually say anything.

    It’s hard to argue when someone has a big event coming up and they legitimately could be busy. But even the busiest person has the time to send a quick text to check in and let their significant other know that they are thinking of them.

    • Selena Says:

      Perhaps “a man who is in my life” is code for casual situation? One the man feels he can take up, or take a break from at will?

  5. betty Says:

    I wish I were as patient as the rest of you. If someone I was with for a while (boyfriend/casual/friend, doesn’t matter) didn’t invite me to a family wedding, I’d be livid and that would be the end of that. And I’d wonder who is he taking because it sure ain’t me.

    • fuzzilla Says:

      I just remembered – one of the things that prompted me to “have the talk” with the guy I mentioned above was that a friend’s wedding was coming up, and I was kinda like, “I mean, is it worth it to invite him, or is he just dead weight?”

      If the relationship isn’t naturally progressing, then move on unless you’re cool with casual (and if you are, you’re too busy having your own fun to notice him not calling or texting you).

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