When our SO suddenly changes their behavior, it can be unnerving and confusing. We wonder what it is we did wrong, analyzing our past interactions for clues that might explain this unexpected shift. Maybe he acts distant, or maybe he’s lashing out. Perhaps he’s quicker to anger or sulks in corners. Before, he had been vocal about his issues, and found it easy to communicate what was bothering him. Now, however, he’s completely shut down – and is shutting us out in the process.
Feeling unmoored or like we don’t have a leg to stand on in our own relationship is not a good feeling, and if our guy isn’t willing to tell us what’s wrong, we’re left to figure it out based on a myriad of things that could be bothering him. Is this a temporary behavior, or something that will have long-lasting effects?
Below are 20 reasons he may give for acting out of line – some of which we definitely shouldn’t accept, and some that are a bit more understandable.
Communication is vital and key in any healthy relationship, but if he’s not talking, these 20 reasons might help us understand his behavior better, and determine when it’s okay to let it slide and when we definitely shouldn’t ignore it.
20 He Feels Rushed
There are a lot of major milestones a relationship goes through: the first time we say, “I love you;” going on vacation for the first time; moving in together; getting engaged. If we’re cruising through all these big moments, we might find that our SO is acting a little distant, or even lashing out unexpectedly. It could be that our guy is feeling a little rushed, and that he wasn’t ready for all these changes, but we steamrolled over him because it was what we wanted.
It doesn’t give him an excuse for his behavior, though, especially if he’s becoming hostile or volatile, but it can explain his sudden change in demeanor.
19 He Needs His Own Identity
When we get seriously involved with someone, we mesh our lives with them. It can be a great thing but, occasionally, it can leave one person in the relationship feeling as though they have given up their identity. He’s no longer feeling like his own person – he just feels like our boyfriend. Our friends are his friends, our schedule is his schedule, and he does everything that we suggest.
It could leave him feeling a little lost, now that his own hobbies and interests have taken a backseat to our relationship, which could explain why he’s acting out and suddenly seeming distant.
18 His Feelings Are Hurt
Contrary to what macho man movies might have us believe, guys have feelings too, and they can be hurt just like ours. We could have said or done something that caused him pain in the past and we’ve completely forgotten about it, but he hasn’t. His passive-aggressive behavior is because he’s still sore over whatever it is we did, but he may not be ready or willing to talk about it.
It’s frustrating on both sides when this happens, which is why we need to ask him if something is bothering him to get him to open up, otherwise we’ll never know the reason for his behavior.
17 He Feels Smothered
Once upon a time, our guy was a single dude, living his life, in a bachelor pad or a house with the boys, abiding by his own schedule and having a great time. Now, however, as he’s become one half of a relationship, he’s living with us, amongst our stuff, and maybe he’s feeling a little nostalgic for his days of singlehood.
Our guy could be feeling smothered, which is why he’s acting out. Obviously, that’s not okay, because our guy can either just tell us why he’s missing some aspects of his single life and move on, or he can go be single – for real this time.
16 He’s Not Into Us Anymore
Look, it sucks, but it’s true. When our BF isn’t into us anymore, he’s not concerned about behaving nicely or respectfully, because why would he have to impress us? It’s a crummy move on his part, but a valid reason – although not an excuse.
When our man isn’t into us anymore, he could be crude, rude, boorish, or even mean, depending in the situation at hand. He might even be acting out to get us to end things with him! He’s not interested in being spontaneous or romantic or even respectful, because he’s already checked out of our relationship, he just hasn’t built up the courage to actually pull the plug.
15 He Has Self-Esteem Issues
Self-esteem issues are a very real reason for a man to act out in a relationship. He could be thinking that he’s not good enough for us, and so he’s essentially given up any pretense of being a good boyfriend. He thinks it’s inevitable that we’ll leave him for someone “better,” so he’s acting out to beat us to the finish line.
It’s a way for him to feel as though he has some sort of control of the situation, when really he’s the one orchestrating the problems. We should support our SOs, but when they refuse to acknowledge and understand that we really do care about them, it can feel pointless.
14 He’s Depressed
One major reason why our guy could be acting out or pulling away is that he’s depressed. He may not have a history of depression or even be clinically diagnosed, but there are a lot of indications that our man is in a slump from which he’s finding it difficult to get out. Is he sleeping a lot more, or getting exhausted for no obvious reason? Is he unwilling or unable to do much outside of the house? Has his appetite changed?
He could be dealing with depression, which could explain his changed behavior. In this instance, we should let him know that we’re there for him and encourage him to seek help.
13 He’s Stepping Out On Us
A sudden change in our guy’s behavior could be explained by the simple fact that we’re no longer the only woman in his life, and his attention has wandered elsewhere. This could explain any distance we’re feeling from him, or if he’s suddenly acting out. He may feel that, for some reason, we’re preventing him from finding happiness with this other person, but he won’t make the move to end things himself.
It could be a skewed sense of resentment that’s causing him to behave this way. But, no matter what the reason or excuse, if our SO is stepping out on us, we shouldn’t tolerate any of that behavior!
12 He Feels Judged
We might mean well, but sometimes the things we say can come across as condescending or judgmental. He could shut himself down or act out of line because he figures that he can’t do anything right around us, so why bother?
In this case, we need to look at what we’re saying around our SO to determine if we are being unfair or judgmental, and if his emotions are valid. He might be feeling like he can’t be himself around us without risking criticism, in which case we need to re-evaluate our own behavior. Then, hopefully we can work something out so that he doesn’t feel as though he’s being put on trial.
11 He’s Having Doubts
We all have doubts in a relationship from time to time. Even the most seemingly perfect, Jim-and-Pam scenarios have moments of uncertainty. He could be having doubts about the relationship – and about us – which is causing him to act out in certain ways. Is he pulling away from us, or shaking off our touch while out in public? Does he appear withdrawn when he’s around our family, or when we talk about the future?
He might just not know what he’s feeling or what he wants. Rather than keep this all inside, though, we should encourage him to talk about it so we can soothe each others’ mutual worries.
10 He’s Jealous
When we were at a party together, our man saw us chatting to some other guy, and all of a sudden he got angry. He’s not normally the type to act out like that, which is why it can feel like his lashing out came from nowhere.
Jealousy is a weird feeling and, while our dude knows in his head that every guy that talks to us isn’t trying to break up our relationship, his caveman brain tells him something else entirely. He gets mad at the guy and maybe he even gets mad at us. This is definitely not okay, and is a serious issue if it happens frequently, which points to controlling and toxic behavior.
9 He’s Busy
Look, sometimes, in spite of our best intentions, our busy schedules can get the best of us. If we’re under a lot of pressure to nail down a final project or make a deadline, we can be glued to our phone or computer. If we’re living together, chances are we’ve already seen the effects of this busy schedule, but if not, it can feel like we’re being put on the back-burner or shut out altogether.
A busy schedule isn’t a great excuse for shutting someone down or ignoring them, but if it’s something that’s bothering us – or causing him to act out – we should talk to him and explain how it’s making us feel without blaming him entirely.
8 He’s Mad
A guy acting out of line could be doing so just because he’s angry. We don’t necessarily know what made him mad, but we do know that he’s seeing red. However, this guy is an adult, and not a toddler or spoiled child, and so tantrums are not an okay outlet for his feelings.
In a relationship – or any interaction in civilized society, for that matter – neither party should be acting out from anger in a way that makes the other person feel unsafe. If that’s what’s happening here, we need to re-evaluate the relationship in its entirety.
7 The Fire Is Gone
In the honeymoon phase of a relationship, it’s all kisses and bliss. We see everything through rose-tinted glasses, and hopefully the spark that’s ignited carries through to the later stages of our relationship.
Sometimes, though, that spark simply dies out. We’re no longer passionate with one another or doing anything spontaneous or romantic. The physical aspect of our relationship has completely evaporated and we’re left wondering what went wrong. Our man could be acting distant simply because the fire is gone in our relationship, and there’s not much left worth salvaging. It’s a painful thing to experience, but it might explain why he’s acting as though he’s already checked out.
6 He’s Afraid Of Commitment
One minute, our relationship seems to be going along swimmingly, and the next, our guy is acting distant or acting out, and we’re not sure why. It could be that he’s afraid of commitment, and now that things have gotten serious before he was ready, he’s getting cold feet.
A fear of commitment can be a normal feeling, but it’s not okay for him to totally clam up and keep everything to himself. Even though discussing it can be uncomfortable or awkward, in order to get any closure or clarity on the situation a conversation needs to happen where he can tell us what’s really on his mind.
5 He’s Stressed Out
Stress can have a major effect on a relationship, and can cause our man to act out. Perhaps he’s dealing with some major issues at work or he’s handling family drama, but whatever it is that’s going on behind the scenes, he’s taking it out on us.
We all get stressed, but if he’s lashing out at us or behaving unfairly, we have a serious issue. He may need our support, but instead of seeking it out, he’s acting as though we’re to blame for whatever problems he’s dealing with. It may be hard for him to be vulnerable, but it’s a much better option than acting out of line.
4 He Needs Space
The saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is a cliché for a reason: it’s true. Our guy may be feeling a little swamped with life right now and he needs to take a break to catch his breath, and that break means he has no responsibility to anyone but himself – including us.
Instead of letting things reach a point where they boil over, our guy may just need a day or two to be alone and chill out before he comes back to us.
“Me-time” is an invaluable part of our lives and necessary for good mental health, so we shouldn’t take it as a personal slight. In fact, in his admission of this need, we should appreciate the honesty!
3 Something About The Relationship Is Bugging Him
Relationships aren’t perfect, and they often require work to be able to function properly. However, something about our relationship doesn’t seem to be working for our SO, and it’s causing him to grow distant or act out. It could be anything, and it could be his perception of things rather than anything we’re doing.
It’s not really anyone’s fault, and it may just be something he needs to work through on his own. Perhaps he feels as though we have different goals or values, or perhaps our relationship isn’t following the timeline he had imagined. Giving him a bit of space while letting him know we’re there if he wants to talk is best.
2 We’re Being Too Needy
It’s nice to feel needed and wanted by our SO, but what if we’re needing and wanting him too much? Are we texting and calling him all the time? Are we keeping tabs on his daily schedule? Are we demanding attention and affection from him 24/7? It could be that our guy is acting out because we’re wanting too much from him and being too needy.
We might find him pulling away, but it’s because he feels as though we’re in his space too much. Instead of always running to him, we need to let him come to us to show him that we can operate perfectly well on our own.
1 He Wants To Break Up
The big reason a guy may be acting out? He wants to break up. Instead of having the courage to actually tell us that he wants to end the relationship, though, our man may start acting out. He could do this for one of two reasons.
First, he might be finding it hard to pull the plug and doesn’t want to hurt us. Or, second, it's more likely that he’s decided to be crummy in order to get us to make the final decision so that he can walk away feeling like the bigger person and not the guilty party. Making us dump him is preferable to being the bad guy himself. So wrong!