Why Do Men Pull Away From Relationships?

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I’m still sifting through the hundreds of responses that you gave me on yesterday’s survey:

In case you didn’t know, all I asked was this: What is the most important question you have about relationships that you’d like me to address in my new eBook? Next thing I knew, I was flooded with questions like this:

Why can dating be so difficult for educated, career oriented women in their 40’s?

What makes a man want to commit and stay committed to a relationship?

Why do men act like they like you and then when you express how you feel about them, they disappear?

What makes men run away from a relationship when you start asking where things are going??

Why do YOU think men pull away from women and committed relationships?

I don’t understand the guys that come on super strong over the course of a couple weeks, and then, all of a sudden, say that they are “not ready for a relationship.” If my behavior hasn’t changed (e.g. they are the one pursuing me), what has changed in their heads?

Why is it that men have follow-through issues? The first date goes well and then there is nothing.

Why do they pull away when things get serious?

I would like to know what to do to get a man really interested and how to continue to hold his interest so he doesn’t pull a disappearing act.

Why don’t men seem as interested in long term relationships as women are?

I’m not kidding when I tell you that I’ve got SCORES of these questions – slight variations on the same exact theme. So, my brilliant readers, since you have strong opinions on all things pertaining to dating and relationships, I’d love to hear from you:

Why do YOU think men pull away from women and committed relationships?

I know it’s a broad question, but I really want to hear what you have to say! Both women AND men, please…

Join our conversation (319 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.

Comments:

  1. 21
    Charlotte

    These are such well thought out responses and very helpful.

    One thing that has drawn me to Evan’s site is that when he explains dating behavior he does not put the “blame” on either sex for why it doesn’t work out.

    Most of the relationship sites go one way or other usually blaming the woman for why a man pulled away. She was too needy, she showed her cards too soon, she had too many expectations, she wasn’t a challenge, she was too emotional, she took his words at face value, she took things too personal, she emotionally bonded when she shouldn’t have, etc. etc.. In other words had she not done those things she is led to believe that he would not have pulled away or she should feel no loss/pain if he does bail. And there are also sites that just blame the men. I am not interested in any of those sites.

    But I understand now there are a lot of factors for the loss of interest and they cannot all be neatly explained. I believe the reason women ask this question of why men pull away is to make better choices when deciding to emotionally invest in a man. It can be difficult to understand if he is saying and doing all the things that a boyfriend would do and then lose interest. You wonder what you were blind to and why you couldn’t see it coming. Now I know it just happens.

    In my particular case I did what Evan said to do which was to stand still. I let him come to me and he did all the pursuing and I was receptive to that pursuit. I waited 2-1/2 months before I had sex and at the time I felt safe. The best thing I have learned from coming here is not devaluing myself and moving on in a gracious optimistic way.

    1. 21.1
      Lori

      Hi Charlotte,

      Are you referring to another guy or the one that rejected you when you say you listened to Evan???

  2. 22
    JuJu

    I remember reading one of the earlier entries on this blog where Evan said that men say the things they say on first dates (e.g., proclaiming he wants to eventually start a family while holding your hand) because “they are being in the moment”. Well, women (usually) are anything but being in the moment when they are first meeting someone. A woman would immediately match the man up against her mental checklist of suitable companion characteristics and attempt to imagine what their children would look like.

    Which is one of the points where I disagree with Karl (# 17). I most certainly can tell whether there is any real potential with a given man from our first few meetings. Of course, some problem might arise at some later point that will turn out to be a deal-breaker, but the basic necessary criteria I am able to discern right away. Perhaps (perhaps) men really don’t have the foggiest in the beginning (maybe partly for the above-referenced reason: they are enjoying the moment rather than actually processing / analyzing anything for future’s sake), but if I can, I would think other women do this also, and that is why they ask this question.

    As for getting hurt being an inevitable outcome of many relationships: I think, Karl, you sorta missed the point here. None of these women asked why the man broke up with them. They asked why he pulled the disappearing act. Which I personally find to be the height of disrespect. Sure, I did it myself here and there, but not to men I was in actual relationships with, only guys I went out with once or twice.

    Which leads me to the following question (and I assure you all that, since this behavior on the part of men seems a bit prevalent, this question is of inquisitive, rather than judgmental, nature): does the ability to disappear like that have anything to do with one’s ethics? To me it seems, putting it mildly, inconsiderate. I would think after an actual relationship where sex and exclusivity were involved, one partner owes another a bit more than that. And the women I personally encountered who did that to men were not good people.

    1. 22.1
      Hid

      Well said!  

  3. 23
    Selena

    Re: Honey #16

    A few years ago when the HJNTIY book was being discussed all over television and the internet I thought (bemusedly), “Oh someone actually wrote a book about that? I could have written that book as could most of my friends lol.” And from there it got me thinking about all the “relationships” broadly defined, that I had ended/backed off from – and why. For whatever reason, at some point after the initial attraction I decided the guy just wasn’t for me. Maybe it was some aspects of his personality. Maybe it was mannerisms, habits. Mostly it was feeling that “there just isn’t enough there”, something was missing, or as you put it, a general sense of it just didn’t feel right.

    It was after this review/reflection of myself I was better able to understand the guys who had backed out of a relationship with me. They realized I wasn’t the woman for them. Simple as that. End of story. Took some of the mystery (and sting) out of past dating experiences.

    I believe intense attraction, infatuation, not only blinds us to the red flags that someone really isn’t right for us, but may also persuade us to see more there than there really is. We may misinterpret someone’s level of interest as higher than it really is because that’s how we feel. And you are right Honey, analyzing the *real* compatiblity tends to come later.

  4. 24
    Karl R

    JuJu said: (#22)
    “I most certainly can tell whether there is any real potential with a given man from our first few meetings.”
    Selena said: (#23)
    “at some point after the initial attraction I decided the guy just wasn’t for me. […] after this review/reflection of myself I was better able to understand the guys who had backed out of a relationship with me. They realized I wasn’t the woman for them. Simple as that. End of story.”

    Juju,
    Selena’s reply covered your statement far better than I ever could. It applies equally to men and women.

    JuJu said: (#22)
    “None of these women asked why the man broke up with them. They asked why he pulled the disappearing act. Which I personally find to be the height of disrespect.”

    Let me get this straight. You’re saying that the women aren’t hurt by the rejection? They’re hurt because the men are rude about it?

    I agree that it’s rude. I’ve had women vanish on me also.

    But my original statement covers this as well. If you’re that hurt by discourteous behavior (which is inevitable when dating), then you aren’t mature enough to handle a relationship.

    JuJu asked: (#22)
    “does the ability to disappear like that have anything to do with one’s ethics?”

    I’d call it a matter of courtesy, not ethics.

    Some of it relates to a person’s past experience. After several breakups, I have an opinion of how I’d like to be treated. That’s the way I treat women when I break up with them.

    However, if you’ve never been on the receiving end of a breakup, or all your breakups involve your partner vanishing, you probably won’t have those experiences to base your own behavior on.

    1. 24.1
      Hid

      I think maybe you’re missing the point. One can expect this lack of consideration from men/woman in their 20’s, 30’s maybe but when in our 40’s and still dealing with the nonsense of their inability to be authentic and openly discuss then there is a problem. There is no reason for an emotionally mature person man/woman to not have enough self-respect to communicate what is on their heart it really is that simple. This is a reasonable expectation that we woman have.   Men fail to realize sure you can have your fun… sex…. but in truth when one is not able to just be simply honest….. Show her/him the respect all men/woman deserve then here is the problem. There is no reason in our quest for love in this life we need to go around wounding people.   We can choose to be a positive experience for others or not.   As far as men not wanting to have that “uncomfortable conversation” well that is a sad excuse.     Men are stronger than that, trust a woman will respect you for it, and furthermore the way you handle will affect the memory of her interaction with you. It’s up to men; do want to leave someone feeling bad after spending time with you or would you rather leave with a positive impression.   This is not to suggest she/he won’t be hurt, but this hurt is part of life. The other is just plain selfishness and completely unnecessary.  

  5. 25
    JuJu

    But my original statement covers this as well. If you’re that hurt by discourteous behavior (which is inevitable when dating), then you aren’t mature enough to handle a relationship.

    Hmm, not sure I agree with this (I am not sure I am seeing the connection), but let me think about it some more before I respond.

    I actually never had anyone vanish on me, but one guy did break up with me via e-mail (not as bad as Carrie Bradshaw’s breakup on a post-it, but still), which I thought was extremely cowardly and disrespectful. Our relationship was at approximately the same stage Charlotte described in post #2.

    Just to clarify, when I said I more or less know from the start, I didn’t mean that I know how our relationship will progress or whether a relationship will even begin (after all, there is another person involved, and I don’t know what he is thinking), but what I can determine, with considerable accuracy, is whether he is the kind of man I could possibly fall in love with.

    1. 25.1
      Jen

      I totally disagree with it, it is so dismissive. We are not Vulcans who can categorize everything in to the categories of logical and not logical. We are human beings with feelings, both men and women. It is not immature to expect a modicum of decency in communicating the end of a relationship, however short or long its duration. If they can’t handle a scene, texting gives them an out. Not ideal, but at least it is something and it takes little effort. How about if we flip that statement to say if a man can’t communicate with a woman at that basic level, that he isn’t mature enough to be dating?

  6. 26
    JuJu

    Btw, I definitely disagree that you have to have experience on which to base your choices (in this particular regard, at least). What about basic human decency and consideration?

  7. 27
    JuJu

    Oh, and if we agree that this behavior is discourteous, then isn’t that the real issue? We are inclined to be emotionally wounded by it, instead of congratulating ourselves on not spending too much of our time on a person who obviously didn’t deserve it. I mean, if you look at this kind of situation objectively, we should be thankful those people showed their true colors relatively early in the relationship.

    As Jackie (#6) already said, intuitively one does know if the other party isn’t truly interested. I remember that after my above-mentioned e-mail breakup I was much more angry at myself than I ever was at the man, since the red flags (one of them being the ample evidence that he was in love with the idea of being in love) were all there from the beginning, I just chose to ignore them.

  8. 28
    Honey

    Re: Selena #23 – yes, I read HJNTIY and thought it was a) great, but b) nothing anyone else on the planet who’s dated more than 2 people couldn’t have written 🙂 That said, I did enjoy the tone and humor of it – and, well, we can all use some reminders of the obvious sometimes (at least I hope we all can, and it’s not just me).

    But I was a very active dater for many years, and only 2 men have ever broken my heart – both guys that I dated for over a year. I’ve been disappointed, irritated, deceived, let down, etc. (pick your adjective) by guys that I’ve dated for shorter periods of time, but at a totally manageable intensity (say at the most a 4 on a scale of 1-10, whereas those guys I dated for over a year easily got me to a 10).

    Even if you’ve dated for 3 months, at one date a week we are talking about someone you’ve seen 12 times in perhaps 4-hour increments. That’s 48 hours, 2 days in real life. Yes, there were probably some phone conversations, too, but how low does your self-esteem have to be to be devastated over the actions of someone you’ve only spent 2 days’ worth of time with in person?

    I guess what it boils down to for me is that while you can’t control other people’s actions, your reaction is totally your responsibility and is totally changeable. Yes, there are people out there who will disappoint you for a variety of reasons and with a variety of motives (or no motives). But emotions are a choice and you can train yourself to have different responses. A psychologist who taught me how to use positive self-talk worked great for me when I was younger; biofeedback is another great way of recognizing your stress responses and redirecting yourself at an early stage, before you have an emotional breakdown. Or you could just read Evan’s blog 🙂

  9. 29
    Selena

    Re:#28

    Yeah, the men who *bruised* my heart were the ones I had loved and lived with for years. The one’s who backed out of a potential r’ship after a couple weeks or months? I have a hard time remembering their last names now.

    I don’t consider any ‘thing’ that lasted under 3 months to be very serious. You’re still just getting to know each other – and yeah, better to poof early rather than later when it will really hurt. One can look at it as dodging a bullet – to put a positive spin on it.

  10. 30
    Singlet

    From the POV of my last relationship, the guy I was with was just quicker to realise that things weren’t right than I was. I have a slight masochistic side where I am willing to put up with bad stuff for the good stuff (I’m sure a lot of women are like this), whereas he saw it more as it was and made the break. Still very hard to deal with, even though I know that it was the right move.

  11. 31
    starthrower68

    @ Karl #24,

    Karl, you are wise but must respectfully disagree with you about being hurt when a guy vanishes. We are human beings and rejection hurts. Now, some people may be hurt less by it than others, but it still stings, nonetheless. I have found, at least for myself, that it’s ok to go ahead and fact the hurt, work through it, and move on. Trying to deny it or bury it only lets it fester.

    After that initial sting of rejection subsides, I figure that person’s disappearance is probably a blessing in disguise and though I may not understand it now, somewhere down the road I will see why I was better off not having that person in my life.

  12. 32
    Karl R

    starthrower68 said: (#31)
    “but must respectfully disagree with you about being hurt when a guy vanishes. […] I have found, at least for myself, that it’s ok to go ahead and fact the hurt, work through it, and move on.”

    As far as I can tell, we agree completely on this. My 2nd post (#24) refers back to my first post (#17) where I essentially said what you said.

    You will be hurt by rejection (or possibly rudeness, as JuJu claimed (#22)) in relationships. You have to accept the inevitable, face the hurt, and date anyway. If someone is incapable of facing the hurt or moving on, they shouldn’t date.

  13. 33
    Selena

    Singlet #30

    That’s a very good point. I think many of us have stayed in relationships past their expiration date because we were getting something out of it even if it wasn’t great. We might have wanted to continue hoping it would get better, but the other person just felt “Nah, this isn’t working.”

  14. 34
    JuJu

    I never claimed the women are only hurt by the rudeness of such behavior, Karl – that’s just adding insult to injury. Not only did he dump her, he also did it in the most inconsiderate way possible.

    Clear now?

  15. 35
    Ruby

    As far as men over 40 are concerned, I find that many older men don’t seem too interested in getting into a serious relationship any more, sometimes including not even having a steady girlfriend. They seem happy with casual relationships. Generally, they’re divorced, are dealing with kids and ex-wives, have finished raising kids and now want some “me time”. Or they’ve never been married or lived with anyone and probably never will. I didn’t see this too much whan I was younger and men were thinking more about marriage and/or starting families.

  16. 36
    JerseyGirl

    I think men aren’t as loyal to women as women can be to men. I also think men are less willing to make self sacrifices for a relationship when women are willing to sacrifice so much more. Men really have it easy. At the end of the day, on top of it all, they can blame it on biology about how many women they want to bed. It’s a reminder that no matter what you do as a woman, for him, the quantity is always more important. Whatever is newer is better to men and you just can’t compete with it.
    I’d love a good relationship. I just don’t think men today want the same and are willing to put in the effort that will equal my effort. And I think me nwant female adoration all the while telling women how unimportant we are as indivdual people but how much we matter as far as variety goes.

  17. 37
    Karl R

    JerseyGirl said: (#36)
    “I think men aren’t as loyal to women as women can be to men.”

    According to therapist Judy Kuriansky, PhD, “I believe that 60 percent of women will at some point in their marriage embark on an extramarital affair.”
    Click here

    JerseyGirl, how are you defining “loyal”? I would say many men AND women fall short in that regard.

    Furthermore, it seems that many women are attracted to men who are disloyal. It seems that most women (initially) choose men based on whether they are exciting or boring, not based on whether they are loyal or disloyal.

    How many single women have affairs with married men, with the expectation that these men will leave their wives and marry them? These are men who have a proven track record of disloyalty.

    JerseyGirl said: (#36)
    “I just don’t think men today want the same and are willing to put in the effort that will equal my effort.”

    Think about your last three relationships. What percentage of the dates did you plan? What percentage of the dates did you pay for?

    If you discount the effort that the man puts in, then you’re going to skew the perspective about who is putting in what amount of effort.

    My girlfriend says that our relationship is the best relationship that she has ever been in. The reason: our relationship takes less effort from her than any of the previous ones.

    Perhaps your expectations about a “good relationship” are getting in the way of having one.

    JerseyGirl said: (#36)
    “I also think men are less willing to make self sacrifices for a relationship”
    “Men really have it easy.”
    “they can blame it on biology about how many women they want to bed.”
    “no matter what you do as a woman, for him, the quantity is always more important. Whatever is newer is better to men and you just can’t compete with it.”
    “I think me nwant female adoration all the while telling women how unimportant we are as indivdual people but how much we matter as far as variety goes.”

    What decent man would want to date someone with that attitude?

    I’m not about to waste months of my life with a woman who assumes I’m scum, trying to convince her that I’m a decent guy. Any decent guy is going to find this attitude so offensive that he will vanish as soon as he gets a whiff of it.

    The guy who is that lousy might stick with that kind of a woman … provided he thinks he can still get what he wants out of the relationship.

  18. 38
    sayanta

    I know this blog is about debate and discussion- and although the decent guys here have always made excellent points, I have to say this: if a woman is absolutely intent on hating men and the state of dating, no amount of logic and argument, no matter how civil and reasonable, is going to change her mind. For example, say you’re calmly walking down the street and someone just randomly comes up to you and starts screaming, “Why do you have green hair, you moron?” even though you’re blond. Do you stand there and calmly say, “Wait a minute, crazy lady (or dude). You are mistaken. My hair is not green, but a lovely shade of strawberry blonde. Can’t you see?” No…you just ignore him and get the eff out of there.

    Now- I don’t want to sound like I’m making fun of the guys who post with reasonable arguments about why women shouldn’t be fed-up, jaded, etc. Sometimes, they’ve done wonders to boost my morale. But the pattern is- the SAME female posters come on here hatin’ and the same men put forth arguments that you shouldn’t hate because of xyz. Boys, I think you’re beating your head against a wall here….

    But if you’re just posting for the hell of it, because you love it, go right ahead, I guess….

  19. 39
    Evan Marc Katz

    Thanks, Sayanta. So, from now on, would you please be the woman who backs me up and makes my reasonable arguments for me?

    Like the female Karl? Because I’m exhausted at defending myself in my own house!

    The way I see it, if you don’t like the cooking, find somewhere else to eat. Don’t keep coming to the restaurant and complaining to the management that the chef sucks. 🙂

    XO

    The Management

  20. 40
    sayanta

    EMK-

    LOL- you already have A-L for that though…I’m afraid I can’t compete with her.

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