How to Handle the "Guy Pullback"
Posted by Jenn Clark on February 23, 2011 at 4:25 PM
Oh, the "guy pullback." Some of you instantly know what I'm talking about while others may be scratching your heads and thinking, "Huh?" Trust me, you ALL know what I'm referring to. But in the interest of starting off on the same page, here's the basic definition of the "guy pullback," according to Jenn X:
When a man, who pursued you in the beginning, eases up on the pursuit.
At its most benign, the "guy pullback" will include (but is not limited to) the following behaviors
- Calling (a little) less or not calling for a couple of days at a time.
- Wanting to see you (a little) less than he did in the beginning.
- Being (a little) cold, distant, or aloof.
- Acting (a little) less enthusiastic and certain of you and/or the relationship.
In its more extreme form the "guy pullback" may manifest itself in one or more of the following ways:
- By completely blowing you off.
- By disappearing for a week at a time.
- By saying things like "I need space," "I'm not sure how I feel," and "It's not you, it's me."
- By putting forth little to no effort in sustaining the relationship or moving things along. Basically, he checks out.
Handling the "guy pullback" can be one of the most frustrating and scary things a woman deals with in her relationship. And, unfortunately, our natural instinct is to "come closer" to our guy. I say "unfortunately" because that is the exact opposite of what you need to do. (And, more often than not, doing what comes naturally will have a disastrous outcome.) So here you go. Here's how to handle the "guy pullback," Jenn X-style.
1. Minimize it - One of the basic relationship principles is the slower things go in the beginning, the less your guy will pullback. You know how I've told you that it's important not to be with your man every minute of the day? Why it's essential you don't give up your own life in order to spend time with him? Why you need to put the brakes on how often he wants to see you and to sometimes say "no?" How crucial it is not to jump every time he asks? Sisters, THIS is why. By being just outside his reach and just a tad hesitant, you create HEAT. You create burning desire. Nobody likes things that are too easy to attain; especially men. When he has to work a bit to attract and sustain your attention, when he's allowed the opportunity to miss you, that's when he's much less likely to pull back. So, in the beginning, your job is to stay cool. Let him initiate calls, texts, and dates. Let him pursue. And stay busy with your life so that seeing him too much isn't even an option.
2. The sex factor - After sex, most men will pull back to some degree. In a way, it's a bit of a test. He's probably wondering if you're going to act like most women before you and get all "girlfriend-y" and "relationship-y." Again, if he has to WAIT a bit, has to work for it a bit, the less he's likely to pull back. No matter what, after you have sex with a man for the first time, your job is to act like nothing's changed. You don't start calling all the time (or answering all his calls on the first ring). You don't get clingy or needy. You don't ask for reassurance about where you stand or where the relationship is going. You stay calm. You act no differently. And this will usually prevent the "post-sex pullback."
3. Don't push him into pulling back - With the way many women behave these days, it's no surprise men pull back. You're not going to win his heart by baking him cookies, posting sweet words on his FB wall, or buying him things. In fact, the more you "give" in the beginning, the more he will pull back. The same goes for telling him "I love you" first, trying to pressure him into a relationship, or attempting to move things along quickly. Let HIM be the initiator. Let HIM be the first to say "big words" to you. Let HIM be the one to secure a relationship. If you push, he may indeed acquiesce. But I'll bet that, in the not too distant future, you'll have a boyfriend whose interest begins to wain. So what SHOULD you do? You should reciprocate. You should react. You should respond. Men need encouragement and positive reinforcement. But let him lead.
4. Be encouraging, not smothering - It's entirely possible your guy may be in pullback mode through no fault of your own. Perhaps he has a work deadline looming, is dealing with a disappointment or setback, or is trying to handle a crisis. If so, and everything is otherwise on track with your relationship, you'll know this. Why? Because he cares enough about you to tell you about it. Sure, he'll probably still need his space; his own time to deal with it in his own way. I think it was John Gray in his book "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" who called this "going into the cave." Your job is to let him. Men are often poor multi-taskers. They have trouble handling several big things at once. So here's how you deal with the "crisis pullback" - let him know you care and then let him handle it himself. Say something like this: "I know (or I'm sorry) you're dealing with/going through ___." I'm here for you if you need me." And then you leave him alone. Depending on the circumstance, I might be hesitant to even ask about it again. (Use your own best judgement here.) He may indeed pull back for a bit; go "into the cave." Allow him his time and welcome him back without reproach when he returns. And never force him to discuss his "feelings" with you. If he wants to, he will. And he'll be much more likely to do so if he doesn't feel pressured.
5. Don't believe the myths - When your guy is pulling back, you'll know. You'll feel it in your gut and will just sense that something is wrong. Don't make the mistake of listening to well-meaning girlfriends who may say things like "He's just busy" or "He's scared." As my boyfriend, "L," will tell you, "Men make time for what is important to them." "L" is right. If he's smitten, he won't go days without contacting you. It doesn't matter if he's sick, swamped at work, or studying for exams. No guy is too busy to send a quick text or to make a brief call to a woman he cares about. And men don't usually "get scared" because they feel intensely about us. Sure they "get scared," but it's usually because we've scared them away. So identify the pullback. Call it out (in your mind, NOT to him please) and don't make excuses for him.
6. When he pulls back, let him - OK. Here it is; the crux of what we're talking about. You know his interest is lessening. He's still calling, but not as much. He still wants to see you, but is less enthusiastic. He just seems...distant. Things just seem...off. You're not sure why, but you do know that he IS; that they ARE. So what do you do? Let's first start with the converse, with what you DON'T do. You DON'T move closer to him. You don't ask "What's wrong?" or "Are we OK?" You don't start baking cakes or writing him poetry or buying him gifts. You don't initiate calls and contact. You don't make plans with him or ask him to meet your family. In fact, you stop all of that. You pull back, too. I like to say this: If he wants space, give him the galaxy. Be busy. Be hard to get a hold of. Go back to being just outside his reach. You are friendly for sure. You are cool. You aren't mad, hurt, or disappointed. (OK< you probably are, but letting him know and getting angry with him will do neither of you any good.) But you let him know loud and clear - WITH YOUR ACTIONS - that his behavior is unacceptable and you aren't the type of girl to sit around waiting for him. And you certainly don't want to reward his bad actions with attention (either positive or negative). He doesn't call multiple times when he says he will? Guess what you do? You go out with your friends and don't return his call for a day. (Or better yet, wait until he calls again before answering.) Game playing, you say? Term it however you will. I like to think of it as showing a man how you will and won't be treated, in a language he understands.
Generally speaking, men don't respond well to women behaving all emotional and pressuring them to reciprocate. They don't like to answer questions such as "What's going on with you?" and "Why are you acting like this?" What they DO respond to is the fear that they may lose something important to them. Show him just how important you indeed are. And the way you do this is by giving him space, pulling back as well, and allowing him the opportunity to miss you. Pressuring him or even giving the illusion of heading towards him will cause him to shrink back further, and very possibly disappear altogether.
7. If he's seriously pulling away, let him go - Here's the "guy pullback" in it's extreme form. Basically is the "pull away" or the "pull out" and you're just a quick step away from a "break up." If he's continually canceling plans, consistently choosing everything else BUT you, and making all kinds of effort to distance himself from the relationship - then, girl, we have a problem. If he's saying things that allude to him not feeling the same about you or is telling you directly that he needs time to think things over, then you need to let him go. It will come as no surprise that the LAST thing you want to do is to try to convince him to stay. Discussing things at length or attempting to negotiate some sort of resolution will do more harm than good. So do yourself (and your self-esteem) a favor - no tears, no begging. No banging your head against the wall trying to get him to see things your way and from your perspective. No fights or arguments. If he's heading for the door, open it WIDE for him. Go black-out, midnight, not even a night-light DARK. Stay away from him. And use the time to resolve that you don't deserve someone who is willing to throw you aside. Do this and chances are good he will indeed eventually come around. But if (and when) he does, will you really want him anymore? Hmmmm.
I like to think of the whole "guy pullback" thing as a kind of dating physics. What's that law of motion that Newton guy came up with? Oh, right, here it is... "To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction; or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and directed in opposite directions." (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Those science buffs out there may think this is a crude analogy, but it's one I can wrap my brain around and picture in my head. Here's how it works out: He pulls back, you pull back. He moves away from you, you move away from him. It's simple, really. But here's what Isaac Newton didn't anticipate (at least when it comes to HUMAN bodies): Responding to his pullback with an equal pullback yourself will almost always cause another reaction - he will once again move toward you.
Jenn Clark is a relationship advice expert and author of the book “How to Be a Goddess (A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming the Woman Men Dream About…).” You can find it on her Facebook page or on Amazon.com.