Why Men Pull Away When Their Woman Is Upset

Written by Allanah Hunt

As women we often believe that if our partner’s truly loved us, they would be able to see when we are upset and want to protect and comfort us. Isn’t that what a man is supposed to do?

So when he pulls away, we tell ourselves he doesn’t love us.

For a long time, I believed this to be true. I thought if I showed how upset I was, that my partner would give me the comfort I wanted. And the more he pulled away, the more upset I got. I truly expected him to follow me and do whatever he could to make me feel better.

It was only after a couple of failed relationships that I discovered the truth. And like any ‘truth’, it will not be universal to every man however, it is common to the majority.

A man needs his woman to be happy in order to feel like a man!

If you are miserable, he feels like he needs to fix you. Well the first time anyway.

But if no matter what he does, you are often upset, angry or emotional, he feels worthless and helpless. He truly feels threatened at a very deep level and will often do anything to avoid facing you or your emotions even going so far as to leave the relationship altogether.

What might feel like a series of temporary emotions to you, spells ongoing misery to him particularly if you are telling him you are upset because of something he has or hasn’t done.

As women we can struggle to recognise this as for most of us, seeing someone upset or crying brings out our maternal or empathetic side. We have a desire to comfort that sees us move toward rather than away from the person. For us, in many ways, this brings a closer connection with someone we care for.

But most men are wired very differently. They care at a very deep level but if they feel unable to ‘fix you’, they will often walk away rather than continue to experience feelings of helplessness or powerlessness.

Men have an ability to compartmentalise different parts of their life in a way that sometimes I envy. So if it appears they are happily watching television even though you are clearly upset and wanting to talk, it’s because they can’t deal with how he feels when he sees and hears your emotions. He has simply decided to flick a switch in his brain as a way to escape.

Unfortunately, this defence feels like rejection to a woman. It feels rude, unfeeling and even like abandonment in some cases. It leaves us feeling unloved and invisible. And as we see actions as demonstrating the truth far more clearly than words, we convince ourselves that our partner just doesn’t care.

It might feel true for you but for your partner who loves you deeply, he feels misunderstood, misaligned and completely alone. He has nowhere to go with his feelings and so simply withdraws even further. And if he believes he can’t make you happy, he would rather let you go than continue to cause you pain.

The greatest gift you can ever give another person is your own happiness – Esther Hicks

When your man sees you happy, he will move towards you. He will want to bask in the reflection of your happiness as it makes him feel like a success. He will feel accepted and respected both of which are vital to a man’s sense of self-worth and his ability to truly be himself.

Now you may be thinking, ‘but I need to be myself too’. Why do I have to show a happy face when I’m annoyed or feeling hurt?

I’m not saying you can’t have emotions or that you can’t be honest about them. But when you bring those emotions into the space between you and your man, the chances are that you will not get the outcome you are hoping for. In going to him when you are emotional, he will feel attacked and immediately be on the defensive.

Imagine you had an issue with a colleague at work. If you were to spew your emotions across the boardroom table, would you be met with respect and understanding? Would this be a path to resolution?

While your relationship with your partner is far more intimate, and you may feel it’s a place to be ‘completely honest’, bringing your intense emotions to the table will not result in the understanding or respect you desire. Your words will not be heard above the feelings that will be triggered in your partner.

So the way to resolve issues between you is to learn healthy ways to manage your own emotions so that you can have a rational and balanced discussion about what is bothering you. When you are in balance, you can address the issues in a calm manner which will encourage conversation. And remember that any conversation is a two-way street. If you want him to listen to your point of view, then you must be prepared to hear his in return even if it feels uncomfortable.

In this way you give and receive respect. Two people who love each other and who choose to navigate the trials of a life together. Never forget that your partner has emotions too. Just because he doesn’t express them in a way that you recognise, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

With a strong base your partner will feel able to comfort you when you truly need it. In those times when life throws you a curve ball, he will want to be your rock. And he will turn to you when things are difficult for him too.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Sharing the highs and lows of life in a supportive and loving way is a gift beyond compare. A gift you can give to your partner and one you can receive in return.

About the author

Allanah Hunt

Allanah Hunt is an author and founder of Power And Freedom where she works to encourage people to reclaim their personal power and create a life of freedom and joy. Your past does not dictate your future unless you allow it to!

“It is only as you take responsibility for your life that you discover just how powerful you truly are” - Allanah Hunt


  • Finding more emotional strength and balance will benefit us all around, won’t it! I’ve seen this phenomena in men. Thanks for explaining it so well, Allanah. I’ve been a highly emotional person all my life, but when I’m able to come from a place of calm with my guy, it just works better. At the same time, he’s very accepting of my emotions as long as there’s no implication of blame.

  • Hi Allanah…I definitely have experienced the difference between how men and women want to deal with what’s bothering them. I personally learned to give myself a pause, and a take a few breaths before any emotional discussion and truly come from the place of wanting us both to be happy with the outcome.

    At the end of the day that’s why we all do the things we do, because we believe they’ll make us happy.

    And deciding beforehand the response you need to have in order to feel happy isn’t necessary when you’ve already made up your mind everyone will end up feeling happy…even if you have to go through a few difficult moments to get there.

    I love the idea you talk about of a strong base…and the awesome thing there is that we get to create that base together!

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