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What To Do When Someone Pushes You Away

by Lyndon Langley
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What To Do When Someone Pushes You Away

What To Do When Someone Pushes You Away

I was dating someone for about three months when he told me that his ex had cheated on him. He said it matter-of-factly one day while we were out for coffee and I didn’t know what else to say besides “Oh.”  He never elaborated further but I assumed the cheating meant nothing to him anymore. We continued to date casually until another couple of months later when he started getting very distant. One night after dinner at my apartment, he got up in front of me and said that he couldn’t see himself continuing our relationship much longer because of the way he felt around me. It hurt so bad. I immediately apologized and tried to explain that I’d been working hard to change myself to make things better. I even took time off from my job to work on myself and improve myself because I wanted us to be happy together. But instead, he pushed me away harder. Finally, I asked him if there was anything else I could do to help him get through this difficult time and he said no. That’s when I decided to break up with him.
It wasn’t easy breaking up with someone who I really cared about but I’m glad I did. Now I’ve found someone new who is truly amazing and I wouldn’t have met her if I hadn’t broken up with him. However, it still hurts sometimes when I think back on the last few months. What happened? How come something that should have made both of us happier actually made us unhappier? Why did I push him away? And why does it keep hurting now?
Here are some possible answers to those questions. These are just theories based on my experience and observations of others’ relationships. Please don’t take these as gospel truth; rather use them as food for thought.
One possibility is that your partner has finally reached their limit about the level of intimacy they’re comfortable sharing with you. They may have always shared everything with you but suddenly they seem reluctant to share certain parts of themselves. This doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t attracted to you, only that their comfort zone has changed. If your partner feels like they can’t trust you enough to reveal certain aspects of themselves, then you might not be ready to handle that yet.
Another possibility is that your partner isn’t sure how to deal with the emotions they’re experiencing right now. As human beings, we live inside a bubble called consciousness where most of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories, etc., exist. Our conscious mind can’t access many of these things because they don’t fit into the categories of logic and reason. So, when something outside of our conscious awareness – whether it’s an external event or a memory from long ago – intrudes upon our present moment, it usually causes confusion. In other words, we don’t understand what’s going on. Your partner might be struggling with this confusing aspect of themselves and trying to figure out how to manage it.
A third possibility is that your partner hasn’t developed good self-care skills. Because they haven’t learned how to give and receive love, affection, attention, appreciation, validation, reassurance, empathy, and encouragement well, they struggle when people try to provide any of these things for them. Without developing these important life skills, your partner will continue to push people away because they don’t know how to respond to attempts to offer them these gifts.
If your partner has difficulty receiving these types of gestures of love and care, it’s likely that they grew up feeling neglected by their parents and therefore internalized shame around receiving such kindnesses. This means they may not be able to receive your efforts to show them love without also pushing you away.
How can you tell which theory best applies to your situation? The first thing you can do is try to be aware of your own reactions and behaviors. Try to notice if you tend to react negatively to your partner’s attempts to connect with you. Are you quick to judge them? Do you feel rejected when they reach out to you? Do you want distance between you two? Is it easier for you to disengage than engage? Then ask yourself what triggered those negative responses. Was it something your partner did or said? Or maybe it was something that occurred externally. Were you watching TV when your partner called? Did you hear a noise outside? Were you thinking about something else?
The next step is to explore what factors trigger your reactions. For example, if you find yourself wanting distance from your partner, ask yourself where that desire comes from. Is it based on something your partner did or said? Or is it due to something happening externally? Once you become aware of what triggers your reaction, you can begin to address it. Perhaps you can avoid being distracted by activities during phone calls. Or perhaps you can talk to a friend before answering the phone so you won’t feel so overwhelmed by your partner’s call.
You may also want to consider learning about effective strategies to cope with emotions. There are many free resources available online that contain helpful tips like breathing exercises, meditation techniques, writing lists, journaling, talking to friends, exercising, listening to music, taking breaks, etc.
Finally, if your partner continues to reject your attempts to connect with them, you may want to consider counseling or individual therapy. It’s perfectly normal for people to push people away when they’re suffering emotionally. But when this happens repeatedly despite your sincere attempts to help, it may indicate that there’s deeper issues involved. People who experience repeated rejection often end up losing hope of ever having a successful intimate relationship, which leads to depression and despair.
So what can you do if you realize that your partner is struggling with intimacy and you want to help them? First, try to identify what exactly is causing them distress. Is it something that’s occurring externally or internally? Next, try to determine if your partner is willing to learn coping skills and practice them. If they are, then you can teach them the skills needed to effectively communicate their needs and wants. If they’re unwilling to learn these skills, you’ll need to seek professional assistance.
©DarleneLancer 2018

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