Karen Fratti
September 13, 2017 2:53 pm
John Shearer/Contributor/Getty Images

There are few things worse in the world than feeling your significant other suddenly pulling away from you. It’s jarring. There was the honeymoon stage when you two were all but inseparable and finishing each others’ sentences and taco orders, and now all of a sudden, things are crazy different now.

It can happen with any relationship, at any time.

And it’s just as crappy as when it happens with a long-term partner as it does with a new fling. You can’t help but think that it has something to do with you, even though you logically know that someone being distant is rarely about you. Knowing what you know about being with someone else, the odds that is something about you are moderately or fairly high in your head. Crap, right? However! There are tons of reasons people start to pull away when they’re in a relationship, and there are ways to handle it so that you — no matter what the outcome — know you did your very best to keep it together.

Here are some things to do when you feel your partner start to pull away.

1Give them space.

OMG, this can be the absolute hardest thing to do when you sense something’s off in a relationship. But sometimes getting totally self conscious and starting ask “what’s wrong?” roughly 16 times a day could make things worse. Give yourself a timeline to work with and let them brood or play for however long you feel comfortable with. Make it more than at least a day. Everyone needs some alone time, especially if this is a new thing and you haven’t come up for air in a bit.

2Straight up ask.

Once you hit your time limit and things are still decidedly different, and you’re pretty sure that you’re not just imagining things, you have to ask. The longer you put it off, the more you risk resenting them or making a huge mess out of things.

3But proceed slowly.

If their behavior is somewhat new, asking if something is up with them might be the easiest way to avoid further, unnecessary conflict. In a long-term relationship, it could be easier to say, “Things are different — what’s up?” But in a more casual relationship, you might not know their seasonal funks or moods yet. Keep your mind open.

4Remind yourself that it might not be about you at all.

If the sex has suddenly stopped or they’re texting less, it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. In fact, it might have nothing to do with you at all. People get weird for all sorts of reasons. You and your partner aren’t the same person — their method of dealing with personal stress might involve pushing someone close to them away (hopefully temporarily). That sucks in the short term, but finding ways to work together will bring you closer.

5Talk about how you feel.

People can get moody or have things they deal with in ways that are so different from your own stash of coping strategies. If they’re not open to talking after having some space to deal with it and hearing straight up that you’re there for them, then you have every right to tell them that this whole situation isn’t working for you.

6Don’t start snooping.

No matter what scenario is playing out in your mind, try your very best to let them come to you before you start thinking about what their iPhone passcode is. Snooping is not the way to solve any relationship problem, but it’s a great way to start a whole bunch of new ones.

7Follow their lead moving forward.

This is especially true if they’re going through something acutely, and you want to be supportive while they get through a really rough time at work or whatever. But even if it’s just the natural settling in of dating, it might not be the worst to settle in with them. For example, if all of a sudden they start making plans during your normal “date nights” (and your normal date night was every day), feel free to do the same! Sometimes what can be perceived as “pulling away” is actually someone settling into the normalcy of a real relationship. That’s actually a good thing. Remember, the honeymoon stage ends and real life sets in eventually.