What To Do When He Comes Back After Pulling Away

Studies show that between 30 and 60% of people have experienced on-and-off relationships. In some cases, a relationship may follow a hot-and-cold pattern before it even begins. If you’ve had a guy pull away, only to later run back into your arms, you know how stressful it can be. Here’s how to handle this type of guy to avoid getting burned by his indecisiveness.

  1. Decide what you want to do. Your guy is back after giving you the cold shoulder. Now what? The first thing you must do is check in with yourself and decide what you really want. His hot-and-cold moves can get addictive, but do you really want to be strapped in on his rollercoaster? On the other hand, if you truly believe that his pulling away was an exception, not the norm, and you think you still have a shot at a good future together, go for it. Just make sure that you’re deciding what you want, rather than being pushed and pulled by his behavior.
  2. Set boundaries. Spontaneously pulling away on a partner is a toxic relationship behavior, and it’s one that you don’t need to tolerate. Set boundaries and enforce them with appropriate consequences. If possible, talk to your guy directly, sharing your boundaries and expectations. Explain that you need a consistent partner for the relationship to work. Tell him how it affects you when he pulls away and why it’s not okay. Then, get clear on what you’ll do if he pulls away again. If he’s serious about moving forward together, he won’t get scared off by your honesty.
  3. Don’t play his games. Some may believe that the best course of action is to punish a guy by going cold like he did. But as the old saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right. Don’t start pulling away just to play hard to get. If you want to get closer and develop your connection now that he’s back, model the kind of behavior you expect from him. Be emotionally available and open, just as you want him to be.
  4. Find out why he pulled away. There are several reasons why a guy might pull away after you started getting close. Rather than trying to assume or mind-read your way into figuring out your guy’s reasoning, it’s almost always best to ask him directly. If for any reason this feels too difficult, or if he gives a vague explanation, consider what information you do have. For example, was your relationship progressing too quickly? Were you getting a little clingy? Does he have a history of being a player and may have been seeing other people? It’s not your fault that he pulled away. But understanding the reason why may help you decide your actions and how to handle your relationship going forward.
  5. Pay attention to his attachment style. Sometimes, the reason a guy pulls away in relationships is linked to his attachment style. This is especially true for those with avoidant tendencies. And unfortunately, people with an avoidant attachment style also tend to struggle the most with communicating their deepest feelings and needs. See if a lot of his behaviors align with an avoidant attachment style. If he seems to be avoidant, remind yourself that he desperately craves space and independence. This isn’t personal, though it could be a deal-breaker if your needs are constantly competing.
  6. Rethink your relationship. Chances are, him pulling away hurt you. And the last thing you want out of a serious relationship is to be with someone whose needs and wants to make you feel bad. Ask yourself if you truly think he’s the right person to pursue romantically, or if another relationship type may be a better fit. Even if you really like him, he might make a better friend (or FWB) than boyfriend.
  7. Invest time in yourself. He pulled away once, and he may or may not do it again. Either way, it’s best to invest time and energy into things outside your relationship. That way, you don’t get overly consumed in what his next move will be, and you’ll remember that your life is fulfilling with or without him. Spend time with friends, take up a new hobby, and practice regular self-care. Your independent energy will show him that he needs to earn your time by putting forth a consistent, intentional effort.
  8. Remain authentic. If you’re still into him, and you’re honestly just relieved that he came back to you, make sure that you don’t get too caught up in keeping his interest. You might be more insecure now after he pulled away once. It’s normal, in this situation, to worry that he might pull away again, leaving you feeling rejected and confused once more. But if you choose to still pursue a relationship together, that’s a risk you have to accept. Don’t do mental gymnastics trying to figure out what he wants and how to impress him. Remain authentic, and be your natural self. And if he goes cold again, know that it’s not you, it’s him.

Why a guy might be pulling away in the first place

This is such a common behavior that you might think it would be perfectly obvious why it happens, but that’s not always the case. This is largely because there are so many different possibilities that could explain his behavior. However, here are some of the most common reasons guys distance themselves before inevitably coming back from more.

  1. Things are moving too fast. It’s not your fault that you want to jump in head-first when you meet a guy you really like, but inevitably, it isn’t long before he starts pulling away. This is likely because he’s a bit emotionally immature (or just extremely cautious) and prefers to take a much slower pace. It’s up to you whether you can deal with that and find a happy medium. A little caution wouldn’t go amiss, but you also don’t want to be moving at a snail’s pace.
  2. He’s talking to other women. If it’s early days in your relationship and you’re not an exclusive couple, it’s possible that he’s pulling away because he’s talking to other women and trying to decide who he likes more. If he decides that’s you, he inevitably comes back and wants to resume things. Whether you’re still there waiting, however, is another matter.
  3. He doesn’t like you as much as he thought he did. This sucks to accept but it’s certainly possible. Of course, a decent guy would be upfront about that and let you down gently so that you could move on to greener pastures, but that would require radical honesty and a bit of courage. If he’s not used to either, you basically get faded out instead. He may end up coming back if he’s bored/doesn’t have any better options, but screw that.
  4. He’s a commitment-phobe. There’s no other explanation. Things are going too well and you’re headed towards a major relationship milestone that he’s just not ready for (or doesn’t want). So, he pulls away to try and gather his thoughts and slow the pace. It would be nice if he could just grow up, but we can’t have it our way all the time, I guess.
Relationship educator, writer, host of the Relationship Reminders podcast, and mental health advocate hailing from the US and currently based in Tokyo