Vail Daily relationship column: When one person withdraws |

Vail Daily relationship column: When one person withdraws

Neil Roenthal

Has this happened to you? Two people fall in love with each other. But then one person runs away, pushes the other person away, escalates with anger or personal attacks or withdraws. The person who has not withdrawn becomes enormously puzzled by this obvious change of heart and frantically attempts to charm, buy, entice, cajole, threaten or seduce the other person to win then back.

As it turns out, this is a common relationship experience that causes immense heartache and confusion for the person who is being rejected. “What happened?” they ask. This relationship is “The One,” so this can’t be happening. What can I do to rescue the connection between us? This bond is too important for me to lose.


If the relationship breaks up, there may be many answers to those questions. You may never know with any degree of certainty what actually happened because the other person may not tell you the whole truth.

What is that truth? The following are some of the more common reasons for a person withdrawing from an otherwise-good relationship:

Support Local Journalism

I didn’t actually love you. I tried to, but I couldn’t get there — or I got there, but I couldn’t stay there.

I’m afraid of being too vulnerable, too exposed, and getting hurt. Intimacy is too close. You could reject me, leave me or betray me. I can’t take that risk, so I run away from love or I push you away. Better to be safe than rejected, abandoned or found to not be good enough. I’m very afraid you’ll find out I’m inadequate and leave me.

I don’t feel worthy of love and/or affection, so I don’t let myself love — and I don’t give my heart.

I met someone else I want more than you, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings by rejecting you. So I’ll make myself very busy or otherwise unavailable and sooner or later you will get fed up with me and leave me. I don’t want you to think I’m the bad guy.

You were good as a port in-the storm, but now I’m looking for someone to be in a serious relationship with, and you don’t match my vision of whom I should end up with.

Actually, I am involved with someone else (or married). But I don’t want to get discovered, so I had better cut things off now, before I get caught.

I won your heart too easily, so something must be wrong with you. You must be needy and desperate for choosing me so readily. So why would I want you?

I told you what you wanted to hear. I’ve grown good at acting and pretending.


Some of these answers are cold and callous. Some are completely self-absorbed. Some indicate that I have serious psychological issues. The bottom line is that if it doesn’t feel like you are involved with someone who is equally interested in a relationship with you, then probably you’re not. Either confront the other person and ask for an immediate change in his or her behavior, or drop this relationship and find someone healthy who actually wants you.

Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 24th year of publication, and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website: He is the author of the new book: “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Keeping the Flame Alive.”

Support Local Journalism