Reasons for Distancing in a Relationship

Don't pursue a lover who needs breathing room.
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Emotional distancing in a relationship happens when one of you feels like the other is asking too much or is feeling smothered in the relationship. The distancing partner attempts to put space between you to reduce anxiety. If one partner pursues the other, the distance becomes greater in response. Understanding why your partner feels overwhelmed or smothered can reduce her need for distance.

1 Conflict Rules the Relationship

When conflict occurs often in a relationship, one of you may back off to reduce the fighting and the hurt that can accompany this conflict, notes psychotherapist Jay Earley on the website “The Intimacy Dimension.” Although the fighting may decrease as a result, the problems aren't resolved and the cycle may continue. Allow your partner to back off until he is ready to work with you to find a solution without anger and resentment. If you frequently fight about one or more issues without resolving them, consider seeking the help of a counselor, who can help you work together to find common ground.

2 Life Is Stressful

One of you may withdraw to reduce stress in your life, suggests the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center in “Bridging Emotional Distance.” The stress might not be the relationship, but could include grief, unemployment or job dissatisfaction, academic pressure and many other sources. Make sure you support each another to make your relationship a peaceful haven. Empathize with your sweetheart and share the load.

3 Trust Is Lacking

Lack of trust can cause one of you to withdraw to avoid hurt and betrayal, notes Earley. If your love was betrayed in the past, she might worry that you will betray her. She could also lose trust if you have previously lied, cheated or betrayed a confidence. Build trust by doing what you say you will do and telling the truth. Apologize if you broke her trust and ask her how to make it up to you. If the hurt occurred in a previous relationship, remind her that you aren’t the person who betrayed her.

4 So Many Differences

When you don’t share the same values or see things from the same perspective, misunderstandings can develop that create distance between you, notes the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. You might distance yourself if you and your love don’t process things the same way; for example, you might process things emotionally and relationally while your partner views things from a logical and fact-based perspective. Learn to appreciate your differences and use them to strengthen your relationship, not push you apart.

5 Let Me Breathe

If you fear being overwhelmed by your sweetheart, distancing could result, reports therapist Heather Leavesley in “Pursuing and Distancing in Relationships.” Express your needs and ask your partner to relax the hold you feel. You could say, “I need some space to pursue my own interests.” Help your love see that space allows you to feel better able to contribute to the relationship.

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.