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When a Guy Acts Interested Then Backs Off: Why & What You Can Do

In this article we are going to talk about when a guy acts interested then backs off, the reasons he does that and what you should do.

Some guys come on strong, but then suddenly pull away.

Let’s be honest. It’s a bit of a mind fuck when this happens. You might start immediately asking yourself what you did wrong or what happened. 

Before you start cataloging your alleged flaws and trying to decode all your previous messages, let’s talk about the main reasons he might have backed off.

It might not have anything to do with you at all.

And if it does, we’ll talk about what you can do about it. 

13 Reasons Why a Guy Backs Off After Showing Interest

Here are a few reasons why guys pull away – often out of the blue – after showing interest.

Why listen to me? I’m Crystal Jackson and I was a master’s level licensed therapist. I worked with couples and individuals and specialized in trauma recovery and empowerment. I now write content about relationships, self-improvement, and psychology. My work has been featured in large publications such as Elite Daily, Your Tango, Positively Positive, and Mamamia.

1. He’s Emotionally Unavailable

You might see being emotionally unavailable as a character flaw, but it’s actually a sign of trauma. A lot of emotionally unavailable men aren’t going around being that way on purpose.

Something has damaged their ability to connect, and while it’s not likely their fault, it becomes their responsibility to manage (not yours).

For an emotionally unavailable person, getting close to someone else feels terrifying.

Unless he’s very much in touch of his feelings and working on this, he might pull away instead.

This could be one reason that you started to get close and then he ghosted or stopped showing as much interest.

It’s important to be able to recognize the signs of an emotionally unavailable man. It’s absolutely going to feel personal, but it’s not.

He’s not ready for a more intimate relationship until he’s able to talk about his fears and manage them without pulling away from you in the process. 

2. He Noticed a Red Flag

When a guy acts interested then backs off there’s a chance he noticed something about you that’s a red flag for him.

This doesn’t mean you’re not a good person, but it does mean that he saw something he just doesn’t want in his life.

It doesn’t even have to be a major issue.

It can be something really small that just bothers him. Before you get offended, remember that we all have our preferences.

You might not be able to live with snoring or a man who watches the extended version of every three-hour science fiction film that’s released.

Whatever he noticed is about him, not you. 

Noticing red flags is a healthy and mature thing to do. What would be more healthy and mature is if he would just talk to you about it so you weren’t left wondering.

But honestly, are you mature enough to handle that kind of feedback without getting angry or defensive? So many people aren’t that it can be easier just to pull away.

3. He’s Figured Out You’re Not Compatible

He might have been really into you until he figured out that you’re just not compatible. How is this different from a red flag?

With a red flag, he’s seen something he doesn’t want to have in his life.

With compatibility, he’s realized you just don’t want the same things.

Maybe he’s looking for a serious relationship, but you just got out of one. Or he wants casual, and you’re ready to start a family. It could be that he just doesn’t vibe with your lifestyle.

It’s just not a good fit.

Pulling away is sometimes easier than saying that.

Recommended read: 11 Signs He Will Come Back After Pulling Away

4. He Met Someone Else

When a guy acts interested then backs off, it’s possible he met someone he’s more interested in getting to know.

His attention might have been hot and heavy until he got distracted.

If he’s seeing other people, it’s possible that someone else has emerged that has his attention.

While this might hurt your feelings, it happens. You deserve someone who sees you as the first choice, not an option or backup plan.

If you’re not in a monogamous relationship, it’s always possible that he’ll meet someone else, and things will change between you. After all, it’s possible for you to do the same. 

5. He Got Spooked by You Moving Too Fast

If it’s early days in getting to know each other and you’ve been talking about the future, he might have gotten spooked.

Do you have a tendency to move too fast in relationships?

That could be coming from being anxiously attached.

You might want to lock things down because you like him so much, but if you don’t allow the relationship to develop organically, you might scare him away.

I’m not saying you should ever handle a man with kid gloves. Hell no!

He’s a grown ass man who should be able to use his grownup words to talk to you if he feels like you’re putting on too much pressure in the relationship.

What I am saying is to read the room and make sure you’re not being pushy just because you’re so into him. Chill out, and let things evolve.

6. He’s Not Ready for a Relationship (The “With You” is Silent)

When he says he’s not ready for a relationship, it’s because he’s not ready for a relationship with you. The “with you” is silent, but it’s there. 

I once had someone say that to me after months of being in a relationship with me. The truth wasn’t that he wasn’t ready for a relationship.

He just didn’t see a future with me. It hurt. Sometimes, it still does, but it’s never the “wrong time” if it’s the right man.

If he’s not ready for a relationship, what the hell is he doing dating at all and giving you the impression that he wants one?

The truth is that he may not have realized that he was unprepared until he tried. 

Allow some grace for this experience.

It’s likely upsetting to him that he’s not ready, but one day, he’ll meet someone he really wants to be with and will suddenly get ready — meaning that he’ll be willing to endure the discomfort of growth for her.

But it’s not you, or he’d try.

7. He’s Got a Different Communication Style

This one is often overlooked, but it’s totally possible that he just has a different way of handling communication than you do.

He might have gotten comfortable with you and relaxed into his normal communication rhythms.

Have you talked about how often you like to be in touch? 

As a person who is anxiously attached in relationships because of my childhood, I am often hypervigilant about communication.

When something changes, I have high anxiety. I used to put this responsibility on my partners before realizing that my feelings and triggers are mine to handle.

It’s possible that his communication style is simply a little different on an everyday basis. 

It’s important to talk about needs and expectations in relationships.

This can help you avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings. If you haven’t talked about this yet, it’s time. 

8. He’s Avoiding Commitment and Playing the Field

You could be dealing with a commitment-phobe if he came on strong but then pulled away.

It’s also possible he’s playing the field and splitting his time between many conversations and people. This could create a noticeable change in his behavior toward you.

Dating is the worst sometimes, right? Trust the process.

If he’s for you, he’s not going to leave you wondering if he’s interested or not. It’s a good idea for you to keep playing the field, too, until you meet someone who has true relationship potential.

Plus, if you keep dating, you won’t hyperfocus on one person and worry about what he’s doing or not doing. 

Recommended read: 10 Clear Signs He Is Getting Serious About You

9. He Doesn’t See You as a Long-Term Partner

It’s possible that he acted interested initially but then decided that he doesn’t see you as a long-term partner. This could be an issue of chemistry, compatibility, or even long-term goals.

As you get to know each other, you’re supposed to be assessing if it’s a good fit.

It doesn’t matter how attracted you are or how great they are if they don’t fit into what you want for your life. 

While it may hurt that they don’t see you as The One, it would hurt more if they pretended it for a little while and then revealed the truth.

If you don’t have long-term potential for him, it doesn’t mean you don’t have long-term potential. You just need to find the right person. And be the right person, too.

10. He’s Not Over His Ex

It’s possible that he thought he was over his ex but realized he isn’t done healing. I’ve been there.

It can be devastating to realize you’re still hung up on an ex when you wanted so much to be ready to move forward.

He likely didn’t mean to mislead you. He just wanted to connect and find love.

But if he still loves someone else and revisiting that in his mind, he’s probably not ready to be dating.

You can’t make him stop, but you can respect his decision to pull away when he realizes he’s hung up on someone else. 

11. He Lost Interest

When a guy acts interested then backs off he may just have lost interest.

This one might not have a clear reason. He might not even be able to explain it. He was feeling the vibes, and then he wasn’t. 

Look, you don’t exist to entertain him.

Someone who genuinely likes you isn’t going to lose interest if you have a challenging day or show that you’re a flawed human being.

You can’t hold on to someone’s interest, so don’t even bother trying. Just be you. If he loses interest, it really is his loss. 

This happens, but put yourself in his shoes. If you lose interest, there’s not always a clear reason. You have the right to move on (so does he).

12. He Just Wanted a Casual Fling

Maybe he just wanted to hit it and quit it. It’s entirely possible that he saw you as a casual fling or one-night stand while you were building up a fantasy of a relationship in your head.

Did he misrepresent himself, or did you hear what you wanted to hear?

If he’s completely into you and then pulls away after you’ve gotten intimate, it could be because he only ever saw you as a fling or friend with benefits

That’s the thing with mature relationships.

You need to be mature enough to discuss your expectations before taking that step.

This doesn’t mean the other person will always be honest, but it’s a risk you take.

You can’t control what he does, but you can make sure you’re being honest and upfront with him during the relationship.

Recommended read: How to Really Get Your Ex Back: 5 Secrets to Restart Your Relationship

13. He’s Focused on Something That Has Nothing to Do with You

Let’s take a step back. It might be that any of these other reasons are true — but it’s possible that none of them are true.

It could be that he’s focused on something that has nothing to do with you.

He could have a health issue. A mental health issue. A family member or friend experiencing a health or mental health issue. His dog might have just died.

He might struggle with depression or anxiety or seasonal sadness in general. He may have self-esteem issues he’s dealing with or a challenging situation at work. 

The thing is, you just can’t know unless he tells you.

But it’s possible that he’s still into you but is focused on something else. He might not even realize that he’s dialed back his attention because he’s distracted by something else in his life.

It’s even possible you’ll notice that he comes back once he’s dealt with the issue.

What You Should Do When He Backs Off after Showing Interest

1. Get Clarity — Ask Him What’s Up

If you really want to know why he acted interested and then backed off, ask him.

He might not answer, but many men will if you give them the chance and don’t come at them with anger.

Are you ready to listen without attacking him for what he tells you? Can you take total honesty, or is your default defensiveness?

Before you ask, make sure you’re going to handle it with kindness and grace. You don’t have to like it.

But if you want to know, stop talking over all the possible reasons with your friends or making assumptions and just ask. 

2. Slow Down

When a guy acts interested then backs off, you shouldn’t chase him. Slow down instead.

Take a deep breath.

Are you overthinking this? Is anxiety from the past rising to the surface? 

You need to check in with yourself. If you’re feeling anxiety in your body, you need to address it. It’s not his responsibility to soothe you or take away your issues.

His job is not to heal you. It’s your job to manage your own healing. 

Take a moment for yourself. What do you need?

Figure out the answer to that, and you’ll know what you need to do next. By slowing down, you can respond to the situation rather than impulsively reacting to it.

3. Believe Actions > Words

If a guy acts interested then backs off, focus on his actions rather than his words.

He might say he’s still into you, but if his actions say something else, pay attention. If he has integrity, his actions will match his words — and vice versa.

Otherwise, he just might be telling you what you want to hear.

So, if he says he still wants to be with you but doesn’t make time for you, believe what he’s doing over what he’s saying.

Don’t sit around and wait for him to call. Go live your life.

Believe what he’s showing you, not what you want to believe. 

4. Accept It

It’s important to accept what’s happening. If he’s pulling away, let him.

You can’t hold on to anyone who wants to leave. Stop trying to do it. Practice acceptance.

This doesn’t mean you have to like it. It just means that you stop resisting what you know to be true.

Make a choice. It may be time to delete his number or simply stop responding to his half-assed attempts at contact.

If you only get a middle of the night “u up?” message, it’s time to disengage — or be honest with yourself about your situationship.

5. Stop Chasing Him, Persuading Him, and Trying Too Hard

You are wonderful. You are worthy to be loved.

Stop chasing him.

Stop trying to convince him of your worth.

And stop trying so hard to keep this man who doesn’t want to be kept.

If he’s suddenly pulled away, let him walk out the door and wish him well on his journey.

You won’t have to convince the right person to stick around. You won’t have to beg the right person to respond to a message or make time to see you.

Trying hard to keep someone is a sign that you have healing to do. He can’t heal you. It’s not his job. 

6. Move On

If a guy acts interested then backs off, let him walk away. Choose dignity.

It’s time for you to move on.

Engage with someone else. Date. Put yourself out there. 

Stop fixating on this man and live your life. You don’t even have to date.

You can just focus on your life and goals and move forward. Stop looking behind you at the man who couldn’t see your worth. 

Recommended read: The Alpha Female: 12 Traits of the Woman High-Quality Men Like

7. Learn From It

Every single person we meet offers us life lessons if we’re looking. Did you learn from this interaction? Did you notice the lessons at all?

If someone starts pulling away and you get anxious, that’s not about them at all. It’s about you. Observe your own responses — mental and physical ones.

Pay attention to how you react. If you have triggers, what can you do to heal them? 

Even if you learn someone was dishonest with you, you can learn the signs to look for next time.

If you miss out on these lesson, you’ll likely have to repeat the experience until you learn it. If you don’t want to keep repeating the same cycle, you need to figure out what you’re meant to learn from it.

8. Break the Cycle 

If everyone you’re dating seems like the same man in a different body, it’s time to change what you’re doing.

Break the cycle.

Date someone who doesn’t seem like your type if your type is no longer working for you.

Figure out if the way you’re engaging is unhealthy. 

Healthy relationships are out there.

If your vibe is attracting unhealthy people, you might have something you still need to address.

You might be sending out unhealed vibes and attracting those kinds of people to you. If there’s a cycle, empower yourself to change what you’re doing to impact the results. 

9. Know Your Worth

At the end of the day, when a guy acts interested then backs off, the most important thing you can do is to know your worth.

You are worthy of love. You’re worthy of being treated with respect and kindness. Why would you tolerate less?

If you’re sitting in your worth, you’re not going to keep thinking about this guy who is pulling away. Give him the space he needs.

Let him keep moving.

Recommended read: The Power of the No-Contact Rule and How to Use It


If he wants you, he knows where to find you, right? Observe what he’s doing, and make sure your response to his actions is in accordance with who you are and what you want.

And, most importantly, with what you deserve.

If he’s going to leave, you can’t stop him.

Even knowing the “why” might not change what happens next. Just remember that you get to decide what you do about it, how you think about it, and what you learn from the experience. 

Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.

It just might be a blessing in a damn good disguise. Accept your blessing, and don’t spend another moment focused on why he’s doing what he’s doing.

The Universe has got your back. Trust that, and keep going.

Recommended read: How to Become the Best, Most Attractive Version of Yourself

Photo by Daniel Monteiro on Unsplash

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