What to do when your partner is distant?

Having a distant partner can be challenging and cause feelings of loneliness, uncertainty, and disconnection in a relationship. When your partner pulls away or creates distance between you, it’s normal to have many questions about what’s happening and worry about the future of your relationship. Though a distant partner can feel confusing and hurtful, there are constructive steps you can take to improve communication, gain understanding, and bridge the emotional distance between you. Approaching the situation with empathy, patience and care for your partner can help bring you closer again.

Why do partners become distant?

There are many different reasons a partner may begin to act distant in a relationship, including:

  • Stress – Work, family, financial or other stressors can preoccupy your partner’s thoughts and emotions, causing them to withdraw.
  • Depression or anxiety – Mental health issues may lead to isolation and withdrawal from loved ones.
  • Loss of intimacy – Emotional or physical distance in a relationship can cause partners to drift apart over time.
  • Conflict avoidance – Some partners withdraw to avoid addressing relationship problems or difficult conversations.
  • Feeling smothered – The need for more independence or space away from the relationship.
  • Loss of attraction – A decrease in romantic feelings may cause distance as interest wanes.
  • Infidelity – Cheating can cause guilt and emotional distance from the betrayed partner.
  • Change in life stage – Major life changes can impact connection and require a period of adjustment.

While drawing inward is a natural coping mechanism, ongoing distance from a partner is unhealthy for the relationship. Identifying the root causes of your partner’s withdrawal is an important first step.

How to identify the reasons behind your partner’s distance

Since there are many reasons your partner could be distant, having an open and non-judgmental conversation about what they are going through is key. Here are some tips for identifying why your partner has created distance:

  • Pick a relaxed time to talk when you are both calm and not rushed. Avoid accusing tone and express care and concern.
  • Ask open-ended questions to understand what they are thinking and feeling. Listen closely without judgment.
  • Avoid blaming yourself initially as that may cause them to shut down more. Focus on understanding their experience.
  • Reflect back what you hear in your own words to ensure you understand. Clarify anything that is unclear.
  • Empathize with what is troubling them before problem-solving or giving advice.
  • Look for patterns in when the distance occurs to help identify triggers or causes.
  • Consider also sharing your experience of their withdrawal and its impact on you and the relationship.
  • If talking directly with your partner proves challenging, consider couples counseling to facilitate open communication with a neutral third party.

Having a caring conversation to get to the root of the issue will help you understand where your partner is coming from so you can begin addressing problems together. Avoid making assumptions or guesses about their reasons for withdrawing – give them space to fully open up and express themselves.

Signs your partner is being distant

How do you know for sure if your partner is distancing themselves from you emotionally or physically? Here are some of the most common signs of a distant partner:

  • Less frequent communication – Long delays returning texts/calls or ignoring messages.
  • Cancellation of plans – Bailing on dates or quality time for ambiguous reasons.
  • Avoiding intimacy – Declining physical intimacy or affecting, claiming they are “too tired.”
  • Closed off body language – Physically distant, not making eye contact, facing away from you.
  • Little interest in your life – Not asking questions or following up on your interests.
  • Short or distracted responses – One-word answers, seeming disengaged.
  • Change in routine – Sudden new behaviors like working late or going out more.
  • Secrecy – Being evasive about where they are going or what they are doing.
  • Picking fights – Manufacturing arguments to create distance.

Trust your instincts – you likely can sense when your partner is withdrawing from the relationship. Paying attention to changes in their communication, behavior routines and emotional availability are telling signs. Keep in mind thatdrawing back may be temporary or due to external factors so avoid overreacting. If distance persists, it’s time to gently investigate what is causing it.

Negative impacts of a distant partner

Experiencing distance from your partner can be very painful and detrimental to your bond if it continues long-term. Some of the negative effects of an emotionally or physically distant partner include:

  • Insecurity and self-doubt – Questioning your worth and attractiveness.
  • Resentment and anger – Feeling hurt and frustrated by their withdrawal.
  • Loneliness and isolation – Lacking intimacy, bonding and support from them.
  • Mistrust and suspicion – Worrying about secrecy or potential cheating.
  • Communication breakdown – Loss of openness, vulnerability and sharing.
  • Stress and anxiety – Obsessing over their distance and the future of the relationship.
  • Depression – Feeling emotionally abandoned and hopeless.
  • Loss of identity – So focused on their withdrawal that you lose connection with yourself.

The longer emotional distance persists without resolution, the greater the damage to the relationship. It can quickly escalate from missing your partner to feeling completely unseen and disconnected from them and the relationship. If you do not receive understanding, reassurance and engagement from a withdrawing partner, it is natural for mental health and self-worth to deteriorate, so it is important to take action.

Healthy ways to cope when your partner is distant

When faced with a withdrawn, distant partner, here are some healthy coping strategies to help you through this challenging time:

  • Give them space while staying available – Don’t smother them, but let them know you are open to talk when needed.
  • Focus on your own life and interests – Avoid obsessing over their distance by nurturing yourself and your friends/family.
  • Communicate your feelings and needs calmly – Avoid bottling up hurt, but express it constructively without blaming.
  • Suggest counseling – If communicating directly remains difficult, a therapist can help you rebuild connection.
  • Identify your own attachment triggers – Understand ways you may unintentionally push partners away.
  • Practice self-care and stress management – Reduce anxiety through healthy habits and relaxation techniques.
  • Stay active and engaged – Dive into hobbies, work, volunteering, or other passions.
  • Build a support system – Spend time with close friends/family who uplift and encourage you.

The most important thing is to avoid blaming yourself for their distance and instead focus on your own growth and fulfillment independent of the relationship. If needed distance persists long-term without deeper understanding, it may be time to re-evaluate your compatibility and whether the relationship is truly meeting your needs.

How to communicate about the distance in the relationship

Once you have spent some time reflecting on your partner’s withdrawal and your own reactions, you will need to communicate directly to resolve the situation. Here is how to best discuss the emotional distance in your relationship:

  • Set a time to talk in person when you are both alert, calm and not rushed. Avoid texting complex feelings.
  • Use “I feel…” statements rather than accusations. Explain your experience without judgment.
  • Listen closely to their perspective and reflect back what you hear to ensure understanding.
  • If emotions heighten, take a break and pick the conversation up later.
  • Avoid blaming, lecturing or trying to “fix” them. The goal is understanding.
  • Express appreciation for their openness and willingness to work together.
  • Suggest counseling if you cannot find resolution on your own.
  • Agree on specific behavioral changes you would each like to see more or less of from each other.
  • Schedule regular check-ins to continue the conversation and monitor progress over time.

Communication will be the biggest determining factor in whether you can reignite closeness. By developing vulnerable, non-defensive dialogues about the emotional distance, you give the relationship its best chance to become intimate again.

Things to do together to reconnect a distant partner

Once some level of communication is re-established, you can begin rebuilding intimacy through quality time together. Here are some constructive activities for reconnecting with a withdrawn partner:

  • Take a weekend trip or getaway – New scenery and experiences together.
  • Cook a meal together – Get creative in the kitchen and enjoy the fruits of teamwork.
  • Do an outdoor activity – Go hiking, biking, kayaking or for a nature walk.
  • Take a class – Pottery, painting, dance lessons…try something new.
  • Play games – Board games, card games, trivia or video games.
  • Get sweaty – Work out side-by-side or take an exercise class as a duo.
  • Volunteer – Contribute your time together to a charitable cause.
  • See live music or a show – Check out local concerts, plays, comedy or other performances.

Sharing new experiences and enjoying quality time together without distractions can help you tune back into each other and remember your fundamental compatibility. Get creative and tap into things you both find fun, meaningful and engaging.

When to seek professional help

If straightforward communication and quality time fail to decrease your partner’s emotional distance, it may be time to seek outside help rebuilding intimacy. Consider relationship counseling or therapy if:

  • Your partner refuses to discuss problems or work on the relationship.
  • You continue having the same fights with no resolution.
  • Either of you feels too overwhelmed by negative emotions to communicate effectively alone.
  • Substance abuse or potential infidelity is worsening the distance.
  • Mental health issues like depression or anxiety are causing severe withdrawal.
  • Intimacy continues deteriorating despite your efforts.
  • You no longer feel safe or valued in the relationship.
  • You are thinking about separation or divorce.

While it can feel vulnerable reaching out for support, a skilled therapist provides the tools needed to address even longstanding relationship dynamics causing emotional distance. They offer perspective and mediate challenging conversations so both partners feel heard and understood. Don’t wait until problems become severe – seeking help early maximizes the potential to achieve closeness again.

Letting go of an unavailable, distant partner

If your partner remains distant despite counseling attempts and there is no indication they will eventually reengage in the relationship fully, it may be healthiest to let the relationship go. Warning signs it’s time to move on include:

  • They are apathetic, cold or unkind when you express your feelings and needs.
  • You don’t feel loved, wanted or appreciated by them anymore.
  • Your self-esteem is suffering due to their lack of interest and engagement.
  • They blame you for the distance but take no accountability themselves.
  • They refuse to commit to working together to improve the relationship.
  • The relationship is no longer fulfilling your core emotional needs.
  • You find yourself frequently feeling hurt, insecure or angry due to their withdrawal.
  • You resent them and are questioning if you want to stay.

As difficult as it is to acknowledge, some partners ultimately cannot or will not invest in rekindling intimacy once lost. If your core needs go unmet for too long, it becomes an unhealthy relationship for you. Though heartbreaking, freeing yourself from an unavailable partner opens up possibilities to eventually find someone who cherishes you and invests in your lifelong bond as much as you do.


Experiencing distance from a partner is painful but common in long-term relationships. With understanding of the causes creating distance and good communication skills, many couples can reconnect and regain closeness again. Recognize unresolved distance issues early and seek counseling if straightforward discussions aren’t helping. If ultimately your partner cannot meet your needs for emotional engagement, letting go compassionately to find fulfillment elsewhere may be healthiest. With patience, empathy and commitment to growth, many couples can work through periods of distance together and build even deeper intimacy over time.

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