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When They Pull Back in Relationships

November 28, 2023 admin

Have you ever found yourself in the early stages of a relationship where things seemed to be going well, but suddenly, your partner started to pull back, leaving you feeling confused, bewildered and wondering what went wrong?

Or, have you ever found yourself in a relationship where you gave it your all, but it just wasn’t enough? If so, you may have experienced the impact of fear of failure in relationships

As a matchmaker with 28 years of experience and a relationship coach for the past 10, I have spoken to numerous men and women regarding their relationships and the reasons behind why things didn’t work out or why the relationship ended. Moreover, I have personally experienced the challenges of being involved with a highly successful man whose fear of failure had a significant impact on our relationship.

This is a recurring topic and it’s carefully and painfully hidden, overlooked, or misunderstood and can prevent relationships from progressing to the next level.

I want to shed light on this often-overlooked issue and provide you with actionable advice on how to navigate it.

We’ll explore the differences in how men and women view relationships, the impact of fear of failure on men, and strategies for approaching a partner who is experiencing this fear.


Men: The Pacesetters and how the fear or failure is uncovered

In the initial stages of a relationship, men often set the pace. They express their eagerness, and women tend to go with the flow. However, as the relationship progresses, men might suddenly retreat. It’s essential to understand that this withdrawal isn’t always a sign of waning interest. Sometimes, men need time to process and catch up emotionally.

For men who are financially or vocationally successful, the aversion to failure, including in relationships, can be even more pronounced. Their fear of failure is heightened, given the high stakes of their professional and financial success. So, if you’re dating a successful man, be prepared for a bit of a higher threshold for what constitutes a relationship challenge.


A Real-Life Example

Consider the story of Mark, a successful entrepreneur who, at the outset of his relationship with Lisa, was enthusiastic, attentive, and deeply in love. As their connection deepened, Mark found himself retreating. Lisa, who was incredibly invested in the relationship, couldn’t understand why he seemed distant and less involved. The more she tried to connect with him, the more he withdrew.


Communication Challenges

This scenario is not uncommon. Men might sometimes struggle to express their feelings and concerns especially if they feel they are somehow letting a woman down or not making her happy. Instead of opening up, they might withdraw from emotional conversations, leading to misunderstandings between them and their partners.

Some specific examples of how fear of failure can manifest in relationships include:

1. Avoiding intimacy

A partner who is afraid of failure may avoid physical intimacy or emotional vulnerability in order to protect themselves from potential rejection or disappointment.

2. Sabotaging the relationship

They may unconsciously sabotage the relationship by picking fights, creating drama, or finding faults in their partner or believing they aren’t good enough thus giving less so their partner inadvertently ends the relationship .

3. Withdrawing or becoming distant

A partner who is afraid of failure may withdraw or become distant when the relationship becomes more serious, as they fear the potential for disappointment or rejection.

4. Refusing to commit

They may be hesitant to commit to a long-term relationship or marriage, as they fear that it may ultimately fail.

5. Constantly seeking reassurance

A partner who is afraid of failure may constantly seek reassurance from their partner, questioning their love and commitment in order to alleviate their own fears.


“Women can also experience fear of failure in relationships, although it may manifest differently than it does in men. In general, women may be more likely to take a fear of failure as rejection or abandonment, and this can lead to anxiety, insecurity, and a lack of trust in their partners.”

Elizabeth found out the hard way. In the wake of her marriage’s collapse, her husband’s revelation during couples therapy weighed heavily on her heart. He disclosed how her relentless dissatisfaction with his efforts, no matter how hard he tried, had made him feel like a failure. This revelation ultimately drove him to end the marriage and start anew, leaving Elizabeth with deep wounds of abandonment and rejection. When she met Sebastian, the scars from her past were etched too deeply, and her fear of failing to keep a man led to unintended consequences. Her genuine desire to build a perfect relationship morphed into smothering neediness, driven by a hypersensitivity to perceived rejection, inadvertently pushing Sebastian away, despite their authentic connection.

What triggers a woman’s fears:

1. Past relationship trauma

Women who have experienced past relationship trauma, such as infidelity or emotional abuse, may be more likely to fear failure in future relationships.

2. Unrealistic expectations

Having high expectations for their relationships as they fear that their partner will not be able to meet their expectations, consequently honing in on the negatives.

3. Insecurity

Women who struggle with feelings of insecurity may be more likely to fear failure, as they may believe that their partner will ultimately reject or abandon them.

4. Cultural and societal pressures

Feeling pressure from cultural or societal expectations to be in a successful, long-term relationship, which can increase a woman’s fear of failure and leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy.


If you’re in a relationship with a partner who could be experiencing a fear of failure, here are some actionable advice to help approach the situation:

1. Encourage open communication

Create a safe space for your partner to express their feelings and concerns. Use active listening techniques such as paraphrasing and clarifying to show that you are fully present and understand what they are saying.

2. Avoid judgment

It’s important to approach your partner with empathy and understanding. Avoid reacting with frustration, disappointment, or anger, which may exacerbate their fears and make them feel unsupported.

3. Provide reassurance

Let your partner know that they are not alone in their struggles and that you are there to support them. Offer words of encouragement and positive reinforcement to help build their confidence and self-esteem.

4. Ask specific questions

Sometimes, it can be challenging for your partner to articulate their fears and concerns. Ask specific questions such as “What specifically are you afraid of?” or “What would help you feel more secure in our relationship?” to facilitate open communication and provide clarity.

5. Suggest professional help

In extreme cases, if your partner’s fear of failure overwhelms them and is affecting their mental health, suggest seeking professional help. Offer to accompany them to therapy or counselling sessions or provide resources for them to find support.


Remember, approaching a partner who is experiencing a fear of failure in a relationship can be challenging. But with patience, empathy, and open communication, you can help them overcome their fears and build a more secure and loving relationship.

Navigating my personal journey, I found myself in a long-distance partnership, but there was a unique twist. My partner, a self-made man of remarkable success, seemed to operate in a push-and-pull manner. His busy schedule often served as a protective veil, distancing me emotionally. The geographical separation made his emotional withdrawal less apparent, yet its impact was undeniable.

Rather than reacting with frustration or disappointment, I took a different approach. I provided unwavering support and understanding, granting him the space he needed to process his emotions and rediscover his emotional equilibrium.

In a recent vulnerable conversation, he shared a revelation. He confessed that the fear of failure within our relationship had weighed heavily on his mind. His remarkable business success had instilled in him a sense of control, while the thought of potentially causing me pain became an unbearable burden. He began to believe that having no relationship at all was a safer path.

This revelation underscored the profound influence that the fear of failure can have, even on the most successful individuals. It also emphasised the importance of open communication and empathetic support in any relationship.

In conclusion, it’s vital to remember that the fear of failure in a relationship is a shared human experience, regardless of gender. The way it manifests may vary, but its impact can be profound. By understanding and empathising with the unique challenges of both parties we can build healthier and more resilient relationships.

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