If you've ever been in any sort of relationship, you've probably felt it ebb and flow in different ways as time went on. One such way a relationship might change is when you feel your partner becoming somewhat distant. Sometimes relationships change, no matter how much we wish they wouldn't, so it's normal to feel a partner begin to pull away if you've been together for awhile and things haven't been the same. Anyone who's ever experienced this knows that it can be really scary, because knowing exactly what to do when your partner is acting distant, without pushing them away even more, can definitely be a challenge.
To get some insight on how best to address a partner who's pulling away, I spoke to NYC relationship expert Susan Winter. According to Winter, first it's important to accept that no relationship is perfect all the time. "As individuals, we all have our ups and downs and as individuals and in a relationship, the same is true," Winter tells Elite Daily. "There are times we feel the need for space and times when our partner may also need some time away from us."
Even though a partner who's being distant can feel like a major problem, Winter explains that as long as it's not occurring over an extended period of time, then "intermittent" needs for space are completely normal. Another aspect to consider when addressing a partner's change in behavior is how long you've been dating. Addressing these types of concerns with someone who you have a history with can be much less intimidating than bringing it up to someone you've just started seeing. If you're in an established relationship, Winter recommends being direct.
"Tell your partner that you've noticed they've withdrawn," suggests Winter. "Ask them what's wrong, and what you can do to help. We're far more comfortable directly addressing our partner's pulling away in an established relationship because we don't automatically personalize their actions. Nor do we assume they're having second thoughts, as in a new partnership." If, however, the person whose behavior you're concerned about is new in your life, Winter recommends fighting the urge to immediately assume that you're the problem.
"When you're newly dating, pulling away is seen as a clear red flag that indicates trouble," says Winter. "Our immediate reaction assumes that something's wrong with the partnership, our date is losing interest, and their pulling away is the precursor to a breakup."
As tempting as it can be to let our minds assume the worst, the truth is that none of us are mind readers. Sure, they might be pulling back because they aren't sure how they feel about the relationship, or it could be because of a million other things going on in their life. The only way to find out with some level of certainty is to ask.
"Regardless of your discomfort, ask anyway," says Winter. "Similar to the way one would phrase it in coupledom, ask what's wrong and how you may be of assistance." Winter notes that while pulling away can feel like the end of the world as far as the relationship is concerned, more important than the distance is how the issue is ultimately resolved that really matters.
"In healthy relationships, explanations are given, and in tenuous relationships, communication is unavailable," says Winter. "If the pulling away is a chronic reaction to relationship difficulties, your partner is ill-equipped to handle honest conversation and conflict resolution and pulling away is their form of avoidance."
In the end, it's up to you to decide if working through your partner's communication issues is something you're willing to do. According to Winter, there is no "right" or "wrong" answer. We all have things we're working on, so trying to address each other's shortcomings from a place of understanding is key. However, at some point, if they're unable to communicate what's going on with them during periods of needing space, then this could end up being an ongoing issue. In situations like this, seeking therapy can be immensely beneficial. It's easy for problems in a relationship to feel overwhelming, but there's nothing wrong with getting help from a professional, which may allow you both to zero-in on the source of recurring issues.