When you sense a woman is retreating from you, creating more distance from you, that could be her way of sending you a message. It could be a message about her fears or her desires, or it could be a way of saying she’s frustrated or finished with the relationship. People often distance themselves from others when they feel something is wrong or missing in the relationship. Effective interpersonal communication is all about finding out what the message means.
A Sign Something Is Wrong
In his landmark book, “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” author John Gray suggests that females have their own way of communicating their feelings and needs in a relationship. Gray believes that when a woman’s expectations in a relationship are disappointed or frustrated, they actually instinctively try to move closer to the person to work out the problem. It’s males, Gray says, who typically “retreat into their cave,” not women. Gray says that when a woman distances herself so uncharacteristically, that’s often a sign something is certainly either very wrong or the conflict is very important to her.
While Gray says women usually are comfortable communicating their feelings, women sometimes will sense the risks of being candid are too great, and decide that silence is the best defense. Not talking about “it,” whatever “it” is, could be a woman’s secret code for “I’m too afraid to bring this up because I’ll be hurt” as a result of the communication.
Silence and distance also can be a woman’s code for the message “I’m confused right now. I need time to sort this out before I can talk about it.” According to Dr. Herb Goldberg, professor emeritus in psychology at California State University Los Angeles, many women will place emotional and even physical distance between themselves and someone because they feel a need to check and double-check their feelings first. In this case, the symptom of “distance” may not be bad. It could be something temporary that leads eventually to a positive resolution.
Women are capable of hitting real roadblocks when it comes to venting deep anger, according to author John Gray. The “silent treatment,” or a profound distancing, can be a sign a woman is so angry that she can’t trust herself to communicate the anger. She may not want to be tempted to vent the anger by continuing communication. Professor Goldberg agrees that a woman will often wall up her anger, at least for a short period.
Failing to return calls or text messages for weeks, or failing to acknowledge someone in public, may be a sign a woman is simply no longer interested in continuing to pursue or develop the relationship. While Professor Goldberg says that women are more likely to formally end a relationship, they certainly can choose to walk away with no goodbye if this scene is difficult for them to handle.
“I’m Testing You”
Distance also can be a means of testing the relationship, author Gray says. Women will sometimes give the appearance of distance, even going so far as to feign anger, confusion or indifference to find out how much effort the person is willing to put into winning her back. The problem, Gray says, is that you can’t know for sure whether the woman’s problem is real or just an act to manipulate you into pursuing her with more vigor.
Some distancing isn’t negative, Professor Goldberg says. As women become increasingly more confident in themselves, and more appreciative of an independent lifestyle, they can be disinterested in what was a very involved relationship. They may want more “space” and time to “be” without your presence.
- “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex”; John Gray; 2004
- “What Men Still Don't Know About Women, Relationships, and Love”; Dr. Herb Goldberg; 2007 (Kindle)
- “The Anger Habit in Relationships: A Communication Workbook for Relationships, Marriages and Partnerships”; Carl Semmelroth; 2005