How Do I Stop Pushing My Boyfriend Away?

Dear Neil:  I am hoping that you can help me get a grip on my inability to trust—before I push away my boyfriend once and for all.  It seems as though I conjure up reasons to fear that he is not devoted to me, and then I become extremely anxious, panicky and explosive.  So anxious, in fact, that I accuse him of wrongdoing and start a fight.  I do this knowing the whole time that I’m being irrational.  I have done it so many times that I cannot believe that he is still with me.  I am afraid that he will decide that being without me would be easier than staying with me—and it probably would be.  What should I do to help us?

Fearful in Pittsburg, PA

Dear Pittsburg:  The unspoken stance you’re taking with your boyfriend is: “I’m afraid of you hurting me.  So I have to distance us because that will feel safer for me.  But what I’m really hoping for is for you to give me all the reassurance in the world that you really do want me, that you’re not going to leave me, and that you’ll go to the end of the earth to keep me.  Then I’ll feel safer, less anxious and I won’t have the need to get angry and push you away.”

But as you’re discovering, your stance isn’t so safe after all, because such a stance also causes people to reject us, and it inadvertently brings about the very things we are so afraid of.  The other person will eventually get fed up with us and leave, creating the very hurt and rejection that we were trying so hard to avoid.

You’re not directly asking for what you want and need in order to feel safe.  Instead, you’re in grave danger of sabotaging what you want by being impossible to get along with, and you’re making your boyfriend feel less and less safe around you.

Here’s what you can do:

  • When you become anxious or combative, take a time out from your boyfriend and ask yourself:  “What is threatening me right now?  What is occurring that feels so unsafe to me?  What do I need in order to feel safer and more protected?”  Then ask your boyfriend directly for the reassurance you seek.
  • Let him know that when you get explosive, combative, anxious, or when you attempt to break up with him, that what you’re really trying to say is that you’re feeling insecure and you need his encouragement and reassurance.
  • Look at your abandonment issues: the fears you have about being left, dumped, rejected, abandoned or betrayed.
  • For that matter, look at your childhood history regarding trust.  Could you trust your parents with your safety, well-being and sense of self worth?  Could you trust your brothers and sisters?  How about your extended family, such as aunts, uncles, grandparents or cousins?   What were you taught as a child—directly or indirectly—about opening up, trusting other people and feeling safe in their presence?
  • Look at whether you are repeating a familiar pattern, doing to your mate what one of your parents did to you.  Or are you replicating your parent’s marriage with your boyfriend?

On pages 12, 24, 54, 77, 81, 104, 120, 124, 133, 169, 200, 201, 216, 228, 230, 240, 244, 247 and 275 of my #1 international bestselling book Love, Sex, and Staying Warm, I address the issue of pushing someone away in more depth, and provide additional recommendations to address this issue.

13 comments on “How Do I Stop Pushing My Boyfriend Away?

  1. I have Asperger’s syndrome, so it is very hard for me to create any form of interaction or to love someone at all. But, a miracle, it happened, I love. I’ve been with my boyfriend for seven months now and he took my virginity, and he took me whole, all tho I fought with my arms and legs. I tried to be good and kind to him for the first three or four moths (and that is extremly hard for me because of my disorder, but I needed to succed), and when I knew I ‘caught’ him, ans when he said he loved me, I started to, cool off. But in a way I was cooling off, and in another my love was getting stronger and stronger with everytime I hurted him and pushed him away and destroying him and breaking up with him, because he was fighting with me trying to make me understand that he will not leave and he loves me and wishes to spend the rest of his life with me. He asked me to marry him. I said yes. And kept breaking his heart almost every night making him go through hell over and over again, crying in front of me literally begging me to stop and to finally trust him. But then, earlier today. He told me to f myself and that I am a bitch and he can’t stay if I will keep pushing him away. But I don’t really want to do that. Everytime I push him away I actually want to tell him I love him but I end up insulting his guts and making him feel unloved and unwanted and I beg him to leave me. So he was very angry at me, saying that he will stay only if I stop leaving him and doing what I do. I don’t really see all of this ‘his way’. He says I am hurting him and stuff, but that is not my intention. After seven months with my future husband, I don’t know him for who he is. I just refuse to meet the true him. If the man who insulted me today and was that angry at me is him, than I don’t want to know him. But we are right. Leaving means death to both. Staying means death to both. What do I do? Please keep in mind that I’m an aspie, and trying and show affection and love and listening is extremly hard and not an option.

    • The true him is the man who has stayed at your side for seven months. Of course he is going to get angry and say things he doesn’t mean. Look what you’ve put him through. You–and I am in the same situation–must just stop. No therapist or relationship expert can fix it for us. We know what the problem is, what we are doing wrong. You have put him through the test and he has passed. He’s not going anywhere, as long as you stop pushing him away. I’ve been with my bf even longer. I know the same about him. We are always going to have days where we feel like pushing them away–but we have the strength to resist. Stay with him. Love can win.

  2. I constantly push people away. Any relationship I have I ruined. I have a boyfriend now. I really like him. I actually love him. But the more feelings I get for him the more I want to push away. I warned him that I tend to do that and he said that I won’t be able to push him away because he’s there to stay. I’m grateful for that, but my thing is that I have very low self-esteem. Therefor, I feel that I don’t deserve him. I don’t deserve him and he deserves better than me. But he loves me and I love him. So I don’t want to push him away. I need help and advise on how to stop this habit.

  3. Hi, my name is Josephine and I’m 27 yrs old, I’ve been going out wiv my boyfriend Martin for 6months, he is a really good guy, and every thing I wanted in a man, but I keep pushing him away when we get serious, I’m wondering if it’s coz of my past and being hurt so much, my ex was controlling, a bully, violent physically and emotionally and I lost my two children because of it all, I was also abused as a child sexually and physically, so it takes me a lot to trust people and it’s hard for me to sleep with people unless I love them, the thing is Martin is everything I want and need in a man, put keep pushing him away, the other week some told me he was cheating on me so I just went made didn’t ask him and left, he then proved to me that he couldn’t of as the day he was ment to be with this women he was with me. But I can’t talk to him and try and fix it and I don’t knw why, please help me. The thing is my spilt personality isn’t helping, Martin means the world to me and I don’t wanna lose him, but don’t know how to act any more. Ps sorry for my spelling I have dyslexia

  4. iv been in a relationshipe for over a year now,and all he keep saying to me is why do you push me away all the time.I didnt relize i was doing that until he confronted me with thatand i relize im doing just that,its like i try to push him away before he leaves me. i have done this in all my relationships leave before i get hurt or make him leave not getting any younger and i found the man i want to spend my life with and i dont want to lose him i know its my own insecureities but i would like some advice so i can stop.

    • I’ve been with my boyfriend for 7 months now and he has been trying to win me back and get the same girl he knew before, before he broke my heart 5 times because I created a mistake 1st and so he messed with my feelings everytime I came back to him and then he started coming back to me and right now we are fighting and I’m pushing him away but I got this advice on what to do and I think it will help out a lot whenever you come off on him let him know you need reassurance to tell you he won’t ever leave you he will stay by your side no matter what that you need to hear he wants you and how much he cares about you

  5. I also am going through the same trouble with my boyfriend of six months. Seems like we’re always fighting and sometimes I am actually physical towards him (never hit, just push). We’ve lived together the whole time we’ve been together, and I love him more than anything in the world. I just wish I knew if he was better off without me and what choice I should choose for his benefit.

  6. My boyfriend and I have been together for a year now, and for the last 4 months it’s been rough, we hardly have any friends to hang out with, we usually just chill together, and it’s been getting so bad, we’ve been very picky towards eachother. And the thing is I don’t like being away from him and I don’t have many friends to hang out with.. All I would be doing is wondering what he’s doing. I have a lot of trust issues. And I have caught him looking at others girls pictures but he says it’s a old habit but to me it seems like mentally cheating, like I also HATE when he watches porn. Makes me feel worthless. I guess our problem is we need more friends and we need to reassure eachother that we won’t leave… I don’t know. I’m just weird I guess

    • If he truely loved you than he wouldn’t be looking at other girls pictures. You don’t just accidentally look because it’s an old habit, that is such a cop out!!!!! And watching porn is cheating in my opinion although it is considered normal these days, it isn’t and its disrespectful to you. I definitely would not be continuing a relationship with someone like that.

  7. The reason I keep pushing my so away is because of him, we’ve been together off and on for 3 years now but now I finally feel that we have reached the point of no return. He doesn’t understand that I need reassurance from him in order to heal because of the rejection and abandonment he caused in the past. Things have changed for the better and we are fine now but I’m still healing and all he can say to me is I need to move on from the past or its not going to work and I need to trust him, I’m trying so hard but I’m scared he’s going to do what he did in the past…its my mind telling me this and it’s hard because he’s the only person that can understand this but at the same time doesn’t want constantly reassure me about it either. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    • My boyfriend and I had trust issues. I didn’t trust him because of things he did (not cheating or anything like that, that is unforgivable to me) anyway we broke up and had a year apart and it really helped me to heal and he did a lot of changing and now we are back together and I was able to let go and move on from the past. If we didn’t have that time apart then it would of just continued to be dysfunctional. I don’t know what you partner did in the past but unless you can see a change in him and genuine remorse then I would imagine he will continue to lose your trust.

  8. I’m currently going through this my boyfriend/child’s father for the past 6 years on and off and I think we finally reached the point of no return. He left and hasn’t been home in 2 weeks, refuses to talk to me, and claims he still love me but he wants something new cause he can’t deal. He says I cause majority of our problems. I just feel he doesn’t feel the same way about me and always accusing him of doing something he isn’t doing. I feel so bad for the things I have said to him cause it’s a lot worst than that. I know now that he really does love me and wants better for our family. Idk what to do, I just been stuck in this depressed stage cause my home isn’t a home no more.

  9. I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I have a huge fear of abandonment. My partner has an attachment disorder. At the beginning of the relationship he mostly pushed me away verbally / physically and through his behaviour. Recently it’s been more me pushing him away. I feel like he’s going to leave me anyway so I might as well brake up with him first. I know this isn’t true as I’ve been told it’s my fear of abandonment but I still keep doing it!

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