When you love someone, you want to spend time with them, connect with them and communicate.
That’s why it’s so hard when the exact opposite happens.
If you’re dealing with a boyfriend who’s become a brick wall, I have some insights for you.
I’ll tell you why guys do this and how to respond.
I’ve been “the emotionally distant boyfriend,” and I have firsthand experience in this…
Every situation is different, but it’s almost always one of the reasons below:
Here are the most common reasons your boyfriend is emotionally distant and what to do about it.
1) He is stressed and overwhelmed
The first and most common reason is that he’s overwhelmed with life and work.
I know it’s not exactly reassuring to hear it has nothing to do with you, because you still want to get through to him.
But sometimes it’s really true.
He may also be struggling with depression, anxiety, family problems or health concerns that he’s just not comfortable opening up about right now.
If he’s got that thousand yard stare and seems beyond your reach, sometimes it’s better to leave him be, at least for a little while.
A bit of time and space can do wonders in a relationship, and he’ll open up when he’s ready to.
2) He’s upset or angry at you
The second of the top reasons your boyfriend is emotionally distant is that he’s ticked off at you.
If you’ve recently had a big fight or clash then the reason is most likely that conflict and whatever it was about.
If it’s not that then the origin can be a lot harder to pinpoint.
A bit of confrontation here isn’t the worst thing, because it is important to let him know that you’re not going to play the guessing game of figuring out what’s got him so chafed at you.
You deserve an explanation, and even if he doesn’t want to talk it out fully he at least can tell you the general issue with you that’s making him so gloomy.
3) He’s avoidant attachment style
The idea that we all have attachment styles of giving and receiving love was developed by the British psychologist John Bowlby.
His basic theory is that the way we had our needs met or unmet as an infant and child influences how we give out and take romantic and intimate love as an adult.
The main types of attachment styles are anxious, avoidant, anxious-avoidant and secure.
The anxious individual craves constant validation and reassurance of being lovable enough. The avoidant individual feels stifled and controlled by love, the anxious-avoidant cycles between the two.
The secure individual can give and receive love in a balanced way.
One of the biggest reasons your boyfriend is emotionally distant is that he may be the avoidant attachment style and run from intimacy, feeling stifled and crowded out by too much demand of his time, attention and vulnerability.
4) He feels overly criticized by you
Next up in the reasons your boyfriend is emotionally distant is that he may feel hounded.
I’m not saying you’re a nag in any way, but he may perceive it that way.
Some men are very bad at taking criticism or even gentle adjustment, and I count myself among them.
It’s something I’m working on!
Sadly, sometimes all it takes is a bad day or two coupled with you commenting on a few things he’s doing wrong to set off a bit of a downward spiral.
He may shut off and emotionally withdraw simply out of a kind of exhaustion at the work of being in a relationship.
Even the smallest critique of something he’s done or improvement on how to do something better may be interpreted by him as criticism or judgment.
How can you fix that?
The only way is through open communication and being patient and kind with him in explaining that you are not trying to chew him out.
5) He feels you don’t understand him
Another of the key reasons why your boyfriend may be emotionally detaching from you is that he thinks you don’t understand him.
Is he right?
That’s a matter of debate.
I think that truly understanding another human being in any relationship or situation is one of the hardest things in the world.
After all, even if we intellectually or somewhat emotionally get them, we aren’t in their body, their shoes and looking through their eyes.
The problem is that when you focus on how misunderstood you are and how greatly unique your problems and frustrations are from other people, you become isolated.
You create a self-fulfilling prophecy like the protagonist of JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye who ends up in a mental asylum because of his basic belief that the world’s after him and giving him a raw deal.
If your boyfriend is stuck in this pattern of focusing on how you don’t really get him, you are best off by encouraging him to lighten up a bit.
Yes, you may not get everything about him; he also likely doesn’t get everything about you.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t love each other and enjoy this short life together while you can!
It also doesn’t mean you can’t communicate and get to know each other better even if it’s never “fully” understanding.
6) He’s got goals that diverge from yours
Another reason why your guy might be clamming up is that he has very different goals from you and he’s not sure how to bring it up.
Being on different paths in a relationship can definitely be the end of it.
For that reason he may be hesitating in even mentioning his goals which diverge from yours and may be somewhat “checked out” in his emotions.
He’s basically weighing the issue of how to break it to you that he wants to do something very badly which might not be what you want.
In this kinds of situations you can go to a friend or family member for advice, which can be good, and I also really recommend talking to a love coach.
The folks at Relationship Hero are accredited professionals who you can connect with in minutes to talk about this issue and resolve it.
If you and your boyfriend are diverging onto different paths, then a breakup might seem inevitable, but it absolutely doesn’t have to be.
7) He’s checked out of the relationship
Sometimes a person will just check out of a relationship.
It’s kind of like they go on autopilot. Nothing is seemingly wrong, but there definitely isn’t a lot right either.
He mumbles answers, offers halfhearted smiles and approaches intimacy as if it’s kind of a boring obligation.
Just going through the motions…
But who wants a relationship like that, really?
The truth is that you need to call this out. Far too often we get used to a person and start taking them for granted or even getting annoyed at them for no real reason.
If that’s what he’s doing then he needs to decide whether he’s in this relationship or not.
Because if he’s not, then you’re better off breaking up pronto.
8) He’s sexually, emotionally or intellectually bored with you
The next of the reasons your boyfriend is emotionally distant can be that he’s simply bored of you.
This can mean physically, emotionally, intellectually, or all three.
The shine has worn off and he’s bored with the reality of being together with you. He just doesn’t care.
Sadly, some men are indeed addicted to the thrill of the chase.
Once they achieve stability and reciprocated love they just lose a lot of the interest, passion and excitement that they felt in pursuing you.
If this is him then you’re better off finding out sooner rather than later.
Because a man who’s purely addicted to the thrill of the chase is not likely to be any kind of long-term partner for you, at least not until he’s dealt with his inner demons.
9) He’s interested in another woman
If your boyfriend is into another woman that can be another explanation of the reason he is emotionally distant.
When his energy and attention is focused on someone new, you become an afterthought.
Some guys can multi-task or even be infatuated with more than one woman at once (notice I didn’t say in love)…
But generally a guy is going to have one person in mind as his priority.
And if it’s not you, it may well be somebody else he knows or is talking to online and finds highly captivating.
He may not have cheated yet, and he may not even be planning to.
But he’s more into her than he is into you.
He’s using you as insurance while he scopes out future love prospects.
Finally, we come to the last possibility, which is hard to swallow but may indeed be the case:
10) He’s cheating on you
This is what you are probably dreading to read, but it’s one possibility:
He may be distant and checked out because he’s cheating on you.
The harsh truth is that most men who cheat usually have clear signs if you know what to look for.
And one of the signs is being very emotionally or physically unavailable.
On the flipside, if he seems to be overcompensating and being extremely over-affectionate that can also be another tell.
Basically if your guy suddenly has become a stone statue when he used to be a living and breathing human, something’s not right.
And that something very well could be another woman.
How to know if your relationship is worth investing in
If your boyfriend is emotionally distant, the most pressing question you likely have is whether to break up.
Only you can know the answer to this question, but there are some quick and brutal ways to tell if it’s time to walk away.
Here are 20 quick questions about your relationship.
If you answer “yes” to more than 10 of them then my honest advice is to walk away from this relationship.
- Does your boyfriend start fights with you for no reason on a regular basis?
- Does he ignore valid concerns and comments you try to talk about with him?
- Does he use silence and emotional distance to punish or get revenge on you for disagreements he has with you?
- Does your boyfriend intentionally freeze you out in order to emotionally manipulate you?
- Does your boyfriend often borrow money or resources from you that he never pays back?
- Is he ashamed to be seen in public with you or call his girlfriend?
- Does he intentionally flirt with other women in front of you or indicate that he finds them more attractive than you?
- Is he spending more and more time away from you and guilting or shaming you for requesting more time with him?
- Does he blame you for his psychological issues or problems when you’re just trying to help
- Does your boyfriend intentionally try to lower your self-esteem and make you feel bad about your insecurities?
- Does he demand support and compassion for his struggles but consistently fail to give you the same in return?
- Is your boyfriend verbally, psychologically or physically abusive?
- Does he undermine your core values or demand that you adopt the same beliefs as him?
- Does your boyfriend hold breaking up with you over your head as a gambit and threat to get his way?
- Is your boyfriend’s behavior making you significantly depressed or anxious in ways that he refuses to address?
- Does he engage in behaviors that are harmful to himself or others but refuse to be held to account for them?
- Does your boyfriend play the victim when he’s done something wrong?
- Is he cheating with other women or sexting them and lying about it or refusing to stop?
- Does he engage in addictive and dangerous behaviors that he refuses to get help for?
- Is your boyfriend denigrating about your hopes and dreams and trying to sabotage your future?
Bridging the gap
Is there still hope in your relationship? That’s something only you and your boyfriend can answer for sure.
Every relationship has ups and downs and periods when one person simply needs time and space.
Is that what this is, or is it more of an ending to this chapter of your life?
Reflect on how you feel, how he feels and what’s next.
Bridging the gap isn’t easy, but if both of you are willing to take steps toward each other in trust, it is possible.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
I know this from personal experience…
A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.
If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.
I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.