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When should you pull back in a relationship?
Is there ever a good time to try?
Won’t it lead to a breakup?
These could be some of the questions you’ve asked yourself if you’ve ever considered pulling back from your relationship.
We think that relationships are meant to be about two people becoming closer, not pulling apart, so when would there be a reason for you to do the opposite?
It’s not as unusual as it might seem to feel this way, and there are a number of scenarios where it could actually be healthy for you to pull back from your partner. Putting some distance between you and your partner doesn’t have to be a negative thing. In fact, it could be just what you need to bring you closer so you can create a stronger relationship in the future.
But how and why would you do it and when is the right time to try?
One of the reasons a person might consider pulling back in a relationship is because they want to make sure this is the right relationship for them. They might have concerns about some toxic traits they’ve noticed in their partner or that they aren’t at their best when together as a couple. So, they’ve decided that they need to get a better perspective on whether this really is the right relationship for them by taking some space.
But it doesn’t just have to be toxic traits that make someone question their relationship. It could be that one half of a couple is feeling as though their partner isn’t as committed as they are nor giving as much of themselves to the relationship as they do.
Perhaps they feel as though they’re always the one compromising or making the big sacrifices for the sake of their partner and see nothing from their partner in return. It could simply be that one half of a couple wants their partner to notice how much effort they put into the relationship on a daily basis and the only way to show them this is by pulling away.
When you’re in love or have been in a relationship for a while, it can be easy to lose yourself. You may begin to view yourself as one half of a couple rather than the individual you are. If a relationship has become a person’s whole life, they might have become overdependent on their partner, to the point where their codependency is suffocating the relationship. If this happens, it can end up driving couples apart as there ceases to be a healthy balance between enjoying life as part of a relationship and remembering who you are on your own.
You need to maintain boundaries even when you’re in a relationship. You need to make sure you’re spending time on yourself as well as on your partner. You need to allow space for each other to be their own person.
Another simple reason that a person might need to pull back from their relationship is that people change over time. What was right when they first got together as a couple might not be right in years to come. It’s only by stepping back that a person can gain a better perspective on whether or not a relationship is everything they want it to be.
If any of this sounds like it relates to you, or you’ve got your own reason for wanting to pull back from your partner but aren’t sure how to go about it, keep reading for some ideas on where to start.
1. Make time for yourself.
Being in a relationship isn’t all about the other person. It’s just as important to dedicate some time to yourself too.
If you’re overinvested in someone else’s happiness, then you’re forgetting about your own. As much as you think your partner makes you happy, self-love is still important because it reminds you who you are away from this relationship, as an individual.
It’s healthy to focus on things that you enjoy—whether it’s watching your favorite film, seeing your friends, or enjoying a hobby just because it makes you happy and not because it’s something you think your partner wants to do.
If you don’t give time to your own happiness and remember who you are as an individual, you’ll lose yourself in your relationship. You’ll become so overinvested in trying to please your partner that your happiness will be sacrificed for it.
By taking some time to yourself, you also become less available to your partner. It reminds them that you have a life outside of them just as much as it reminds you of the same thing.
Try making time every day to do one thing just for you. It could be as simple as taking 15 minutes alone with a cup of tea and your favorite book. Even that can be enough to help you reset and remember that this relationship depends on your happiness too, and if you’re not at your best, your relationship can’t be either.
2. Evaluate what you bring to the relationship.
You might be giving everything you have to this relationship, but do you feel appreciated for your effort?
You shape your life around your partner, you do everything to make them happy, to put them first, and they are who you think about all day every day… but do they even notice?
If you’re not sure how much your partner values you and notices the effort you make, you should think about whether they are taking for granted the time and energy you’re putting into this relationship to make it work.
If you feel as though you’re always the one compromising and sacrificing for the sake of your partner, ask yourself if you are content to stay in this relationship when you see your partner accept what you do without giving the same back.
If you don’t feel as though your partner really values the effort you make to try to keep them happy, take some time away from them and think about what it is that has got your relationship to this place.
Is it that you’re overinvested and you need to stop caring so much? Or do you ever wonder if your partner doesn’t appreciate you because they don’t want you to do everything for them? Have you ever spoken to them about what they need from you for this relationship to work? Or, have you just assumed the role you’re in now, giving over more than they ever asked you to?
No one wants to feel as though they’re taken for granted and unappreciated. If this is an issue for you, it’s time to speak to your partner about what changes you can both make to start sharing some of the pressure and workload of the relationship. Or, you might realize that it’s time to find someone else who does appreciate you for what you do and who you are.
3. Give your partner some space.
Just because you’re in a relationship, it doesn’t mean you have to spend every single second together.
Quality time is important, and it helps to be interested in the same things so you can enjoy the time you spend with each other. That doesn’t mean that everything you do or like has to be the same as your partner.
It doesn’t matter if they like something that you don’t, and it’s ok for them to enjoy time away from you with their own friends or family, or even just on their own.
Having space from your partner, as well as friends and hobbies outside your relationship, doesn’t mean you love each other less or don’t want to spend time together. Instead, it’s a healthy way for you to reconnect with the individual you still are so you don’t identify as one half of a pair.
If you don’t give each other some space once in a while, you can start to get irritable and stop appreciating each other’s company. There’s a reason people say, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Even if it’s only a couple of hours, make sure you’re giving your partner, and yourself, the physical space you need to be able to appreciate the time you have together.
4. Make an effort to listen.
One way to make sure you aren’t coming across as too controlling or dominant in your relationship is to make an effort to listen to your partner.
You might think you already do this, but have you ever cut your partner off while they were speaking, or do you tend to lead the conversation? You could even think you’re speaking over them for their own sake, offering advice or trying to ask them more questions.
But talking over someone can make them feel controlled, micro-managed, and as if they don’t hold as much importance in the relationship as you. To make sure you both feel respected and heard, pull back a little by stopping yourself from jumping in mid-conversation or even offering helpful suggestions or anecdotes until your partner asks for them.
Make a conscious effort to hold back your own thoughts and ask to hear what your partner has to say before you launch into stories of your own. This will ensure that you’re giving your partner enough space to feel not just heard, but valued.
5. Think about whether this relationship would last without you.
If you aren’t sure whether or not you should be pulling back in your relationship, think about whether you believe it would last without all the extra effort you put into it. Do you give so much and get nothing in return?
Do you really think your partner would stay with you and want to spend time with you if you weren’t the one making the effort to organize the dates, holidays, or social calendar? Would you ever see them if you weren’t the one telling them where they needed to be to spend some quality time with you?
Thinking about the impact you have on your relationship can help you understand whether the effort you’re putting into keeping it alive is well placed or not.
The amount of effort you do put into your relationship compared to your partner could subconsciously be because you know it wouldn’t last if you didn’t do it. But if it really wouldn’t last, then is it really the right relationship for you?
A lifetime is a long time to spend with someone you’re afraid will leave you if you don’t give your all to your relationship. It takes two to make a relationship work, and if you’re the only one keeping it alive, then it’s time to think about why that is and if it’s really worth it.
6. Change up your normal routine.
If you pulled back from your relationship, do you think your partner would notice? Do you think they would suddenly realize how much time and effort you put into your relationship if you stopped looking after them or stopped keeping the relationship exciting like you do now? Would they pick up the slack if you stopped creating the life they’ve gotten so used to?
Pulling away from your partner and deviating from your normal routine isn’t always a bad thing. By no longer running after them and making all the plans, you can finally see if they start to miss all the little things you do for them. Will they begin to appreciate how much effort it takes to keep the spark alive?
If you’re always the first to apologize or make the decisions about date nights, then encouraging them to take control once in a while—and seeing how they respond—can show you if they actually want to keep your relationship strong and healthy as much as you do.
By pulling back and not doing everything for them, it could finally be the wake-up call they need to realize what it takes from you to compromise, sacrifice, and organize the way you do to keep them happy. If it’s not, then you know that they are taking you for granted and you’re better off with someone else.
Testing your partner to see if they notice the difference when you stop making an effort for them can be one way of seeing how much they care about what you do for them. However, if you already feel as though there is an issue with you being underappreciated, then it’s best to communicate with them about that.
Seeing that you’re making less effort won’t help them to understand the way you’re feeling unless you talk to them too. You can try to see if they notice you pulling away to illustrate your point and help them realize firsthand what you do for them, but a strong relationship is built on communication and finding ways to work through your concerns together, not setting your partner up to fail.
7. Let go of control.
When you’re usually the one making plans and decisions in your relationship, it can be healthy to consciously take a step back and relinquish some of the control to your partner once in a while.
Although you might think that it’s your partner not doing enough to help, once you try to let go of the reins, you might realize that you like being in control more than you realized.
Leaving a free evening for your partner to plan a date night or letting them choose the schedule on a trip could help teach you that letting go and allowing your partner to take control isn’t such a scary thing.
They may not plan the date or trip how you would have, but that doesn’t mean that what they’re doing is wrong. What’s more, having some free time to be spontaneous and just enjoy a moment together can do much more for your relationship than always having a plan.
You’ll never learn to share the responsibility of your relationship if you don’t pull back and allow your partner to make some of the decisions. You might learn more about your partner and how they approach life, but also about how you approach it too.
8. Learn to trust in your relationship and yourself.
Do you find your partner pulling away from you? Are they accusing you of micromanaging them or smothering them with too much attention and demanding more in return than they can give?
At this point, it’s healthy to pull back and allow a little bit of space between you in your relationship. But what is it that makes you get so involved to the point of detriment in the first place? Is it because you don’t think your relationship would survive if you didn’t manage it? Or do you believe that your partner won’t want to stay with you if you don’t entice them?
Finding the reason behind your need to overinvest in your relationship can help you understand how best to pull back. This will create a healthier balance between you and your partner.
If it’s because you don’t trust that your partner will stay with you if you don’t go over the top in managing schedules and dates, then you could be doing more harm than good.
Equally, you might discover that it’s a lack of self-confidence that’s stopping you from believing that your partner really wants to be with you and is making you practically force them to stay.
It’s more likely that by giving your partner a bit of space to do their own thing once in a while, and allowing them to make some of the decisions about what you do together, they’ll want to spend more time with you because they appreciate your company and won’t feel “managed.”
Are you afraid that your partner won’t want to spend time with you unless you make or bribe them? If so, this either isn’t the right relationship for you or you’ve found the crack in the foundation of this partnership. You’ll need to work on fixing this together if you want what you have to last.
9. Keep yourself occupied.
What happens when you don’t have any plans and have nothing to do with yourself? You overthink.
If you’re not keeping yourself busy and focused on activities outside of your relationship, then you’re going to find yourself obsessing about it and centering your whole life around your partner.
It’s good to have other interests because it reminds you of who you are as an individual and stops you from overthinking your relationship. You need some time once in a while where you don’t have to share or compromise with anyone else so that you can just enjoy something for the simple reason that it makes you happy.
The busier you are, the less time there is to overthink the little things and turn them into much bigger issues. You won’t have time to overinvest in your partner and self-sabotage your relationship by criticizing and overanalyzing it.
By keeping yourself busy, your relationship won’t become an unhealthy obsession. Everything in life needs balance, especially your relationship, so make sure it’s not your sole focus.
10. Think before you react.
If you’re worried about coming across as overly emotional or too intense in your relationship, one of the simplest things you can do to help with this is to think before you speak.
It may sound obvious, but when you’re caught in an emotional situation, it can be easy to say the first thing that comes into your head and stumble over your words. Then you may find yourself unable to let the argument go.
Reacting emotionally makes it hard for you to get your point across, losing your partner’s attention by the time you’re able to say what you mean.
Try to practice controlling your emotions by taking a breath before you respond. If you need to, take a few minutes to yourself to think about what you want to say rather than reacting impulsively.
Pulling back in a confrontation can actually help you make more of an impact with what you do say, instead of being seen as too intense and overemotional. It’s a good habit to get into in any situation where you want to make your point count.
11. Create some boundaries.
Boundaries are healthy to have in a relationship and a way for each of you to feel respected.
Decide what your boundaries should be and make a promise to stick to them. You might decide that looking at each other’s personal messages is too intrusive. You may agree that when you have nights out with friends, calling and messaging should be kept to a minimum.
It might be as simple as giving each other space after an argument, or letting each other have 10 minutes of peace first thing in the morning.
Having these agreements in place will ensure that neither of you ever feel dominated by the other. If you don’t have boundaries or don’t respect them, then you’re not just disrespecting your partner’s needs but you’ll come across as controlling and suffocating. This behavior will eventually push your partner away.
Discuss as a couple what’s important to you and what you can easily implement in your relationship with some boundaries you can stick to. Show your partner they can trust you to pull back when they need you to and respect them and their needs.
12. Go cold turkey.
If you feel underappreciated, whether it’s around the house or through the effort you put into your relationship to keep your partner happy, maybe it’s time to just stop.
Stop making any effort to do nice things for them or keeping on top of everything around the house until they start to notice the difference in your behavior.
Your partner is so comfortable with the way you are and so used to not having to make the effort themselves, that they’ve forgotten the work it takes to keep a happy home, a stable job and family, and the spark in a relationship alive.
Help them realize just how much effort it takes by not doing any of it for once. Go away on a girls/boys trip or to visit some family and let them start missing you again. Be extreme and they’ll soon notice that something has changed for the worse. As a result, they may suddenly appreciate the dedication you give to them and your relationship.
It’s not something to keep repeating. If your partner doesn’t notice or appreciate you once you’ve shown them how much you do for them, then they are never going to. But if your partner just needs a wakeup call to remind them to start putting in some effort, making it obvious by going cold turkey on them might be the shock factor they need.
There’s a misconception that having space to yourself from your relationship means that you want to break up, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
To have a healthy and long-lasting relationship, you must make sure you prioritize yourself and your own happiness just as much as your partner. If you’ve lost yourself trying to keep your relationship going and your partner happy, then now is the time to take a step back. The same applies if you are becoming so obsessed with them that you forget about yourself.
It doesn’t have to mean you have physical space from your partner. Deciding to pull away from them in your own mind and actions, making more time for yourself in the day, or not rushing to their every demand, can be enough to empower you to regain some of the balance you’re missing.
If you do need some physical space, that’s ok too, but make sure you evaluate how you can take this experience and begin to put your own needs first.
Pulling back from your relationship doesn’t have to just help you, it could give both you and your partner the breathing space you need to develop a healthier way to interact. Learning to be less reliant on each other and appreciating what you have starts with valuing the time you do spend together again.
Perhaps you’re trying a different approach or doing less for your partner to understand if they value the effort you put into keeping your relationship together. This might work for some people, but make sure you’re pulling away for the right reasons and your intentions aren’t to prove a point.
Pulling away from your partner should not be an exercise you do to test their loyalty or start an argument. Instead, it’s about reestablishing a balance in the attention you give your partner, the attention they give you, and the attention you each give yourselves. It’s something to do if you want to understand if you’re getting the right things out of your relationship and know whether it’s something you want to continue.
At the heart of your relationship, you’re still two individuals, spending your time together because life’s meant to be better that way. If it’s not, then something needs to change, and you should feel empowered to take the space and the time to find out what that is.
Still not sure how to step back from your relationship or whether you should be in the first place? It’s not an easy situation to be in, and it might be all the more difficult if you don’t have anyone to talk to about it. Talking to someone is a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
We really recommend you speak to an experienced relationship expert rather than a friend or family member. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can listen to you and offer tailored advice to help you identify your exact reasons for wanting to pull away and discuss the best ways for you to do that.
A good place to get help is the website Relationship Hero – here, you’ll be able to connect with a relationship counselor via phone, video, or instant message.
While you can try to work through this situation yourself or as a couple, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can fix. And if it is affecting your relationship and mental well-being, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people – both couples and individuals – try to muddle through and do their best to solve problems that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, speaking to a relationship expert is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service Relationship Hero provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to an expert. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
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