Sometimes, the burden of life, and of our own heavy emotions makes us want to push people away. Pushing them away ensures that they won’t be able to judge us for what we are going through.
It also ensures that they won’t be able to judge us in our vulnerable act of feeling.
Other times, it’s not even our own emotions that make us want to push people away.
It’s simply a pattern of behaviour that we picked up from our mother or father. An extremely damaging behaviour, if you will.
At the heart of our desire to push people away is a fear of intimacy.
The difference between pushing people away and cutting people off
I want to distinguish between pushing people away and cutting people off.
I know they can go hand-in-hand, but in my view, the core reasons as to why we do these two things is very different.
When you cut someone off, as long as you’re not being an ass, it means you’re making a conscious decision to say ‘no’ to what they bring into your life.
You are drawing a clear boundary, with no intention of connecting with them in the foreseeable future.
Maybe your gut feeling is screaming at you to walk away. And fair enough, right?
Pushing people away, however, is more about you rejecting intimacy, and replacing it was the illusion of safety.
When you push people away, you don’t draw a boundary with no intent of connecting with them in the foreseeable future.
You’re just acting out whilst risking damaging your relationship with them, due to your own fears.
Pushing people away is pre-emptive self protection. It is self protection that comes with huge costs.
Like the cost of damaging your good relationships, and hurting the other person.
(Ask me how I know).
Why Do I Push People Away?
You push people away because an old pattern or voice within you tells you that it is not safe to take the risk of getting emotionally closer to that person.
You create the distance rather than closeness because distance feels “safe”.
Why else do you push people away? You push people away, because your own sense of emotional comfort or inertia is easier than going deeper in the relationship.
In general, if we prefer distance over intimacy, it’s because that’s what we learned from our emotionally unavailable mother or father.
Here’s an article to help you understand emotional unavailability in yourself and in men.
Cancer patients, people who are considered depressed, or sick and injured people are sometimes known for pushing people away.
But that does not always have to be the case.
In fact, sometimes, even severely depressed people or terminally ill patients would never push anyone away.
For some sick people, their actions will show that they are doing everything they can to keep people close, even at their most vulnerable point.
So, it is not the situation you are in that causes you to push people away.
It is not your diagnosis that causes you to push people away.
It is your patterns. It’s who you are. It’s also your attachment style.
Your situation only magnifies your predominant behavioural patterns.
Here’s another perspective for you to consider...
Think about this for a moment: your parents’ actions (and treatment of you) came with a certain emotional quality.
That quality could be warmth, coldness, or perhaps indifference.
Either way, the emotional quality is felt by you and your soul as a child, long before you ever realised that you have a habit of pushing people away.
You as a child trust your parent(s), because they were the authority in your life (along with teachers etc).
So, as a child, you resonate with, and trust the emotional quality behind your parents’ actions.
And here’s the real kicker:
Then you adopt that same emotional quality, as well as the actions themselves!
Stressful situations magnify your need to push people away…
Here’s the deal:
Horrible, stressful situations will magnify your inherent desire to keep people you love at arm’s length; OR…
They will magnify your bias towards emotional intimacy with the people you love.
It’s not the situation you’re in, it’s your patterns.
Here’s an article I wrote on how to open up in relationships: 5 Questions To Help You Open Up in Relationships.
A lot of people want to justify pushing friends and family away because they are “having a bad time”.
“I just don’t want to burden my family and friends”, they say.
They say it’s because they didn’t want to bring down the people around them with their so called bad behaviour and emotions.
It’s kind of a way to try to protect the people you love from the intense anger or depression that you feel.
You feel the darkness of your life and of your own patterns. So you want to run away from the people you love, in order to “keep them safe”.
You run away by pushing people away.
But remember above, where I said that pushing people away comes with the cost of hurting them?
When someone is invested in you, the last thing they want is to see you create this huge distance.
When someone is invested in you, the last thing they want is to feel you pulling away connection.
It feels like a threat to the relationship. Wouldn’t you agree?
You see, an emotionally absent friend, lover or even parent is not usually a good thing.
Even if you think it is! Even if you think you’re protecting them from your darkness!
An emotionally and physically absent lover, mother, or friend, does NOT mean a better lover, mother or friend.
In the past, I have been an expert at pushing the most important people away (my husband being one of them).
So I know exactly what it is like to be this kind of person, and why it is that we engage in such self sabotaging behaviour.
How Embarrassing…I Told Him F You!
…(And seriously thought I was trying to bring him closer…)
I was sitting on the lounge room floor, crying.
From the outside, it would’ve looked like my husband and I were arguing, but we weren’t. It was just me having an emotional moment.
“Well F you then!”
I said, through tears.
His response was to look a little drained, and quiet.
By saying “F you then!” I genuinely thought I was trying to get him to come closer to me and comfort me.
“Why can’t you just comfort me?” I asked him.
He proceeded to say…“You’re pushing me away.”
“I’m not.” I said.
“So you are saying that you just said “F you” in that way, because you want me to comfort you?”
“Yes.” I said, through tears.
I couldn’t believe he said that. I mean, I was obviously emotional. So why couldn’t he see that I needed him?
It’s so obvious to me now that I’m writing this out, that I was pushing him away. But at the time, I was adamant that my intent was to bring him closer, or to get him to comfort me.
I then tried to explain my actions to him…
“Sometimes I get emotional….” I started.
Then I told him: “You know how sometimes you ask a woman “are you ok?” and she says…..”I’m fine”?
Inside I felt like that’s what I was doing when I said “well F you then!.”
“No, that wasn’t what you were doing.” He said calmly.
Then he continued by saying…
“When women say “I’m fine” in response to a guy asking if she’s ok, it’s an invitation.
…But, what you were doing was pushing me away.”
Then there was silence as I suddenly saw my own behaviour from his perspective.
The penny dropped.
So, that typical scenario where a guy asks a woman if she’s ok, and she says, “I’m fine”, is an invitation?
Most people know that when a woman says “I’m fine”, that almost never means she’s fine….
There’s always more feeling beneath that.
So – somehow, that is not pushing a man away, but rather, an invitation? I wondered to myself in silence.
Contrast that with my extremely emotional “well F you then!”.
I could finally see the difference. I was actually pushing him away, but I didn’t even realise it.
This is why I often teach the art of high value vulnerability.
What I was displaying in that moment was not high value vulnerability. It was emotional, but it was expressed in a hostile way.
I was crying on the outside, but my body language and words came out in a way that pushed him away.
It wasn’t the most beautiful, artistic way to invite a man to take care of you, is what I am saying!
If you’d like to learn more about how high value vulnerability can help you gain the commitment that you want from a man, visit this page.
The action I took is what we call a pattern of pushing people away.
It’s a pattern because it’s extremely hard to be aware of in yourself (you just do it because it’s familiar). Yet it’s extremely easy to try to justify.
We’ve been ‘doing’ the pattern for so long, so how could it be wrong, or ineffective?
In that moment of realisation, I was stumped.
Should I now apologise for hurting him?
Or should I continue to argue my point? (lol).
Instead of doing either of those things, I thought the best thing to do would be to hug him.
Yet when I thought about doing that, I actually then began to feel the massive resistance in my body to melting into closeness and intimacy with him.
I began to feel and realise viscerally in my body that the whole time, I had actually been pushing him away through my words and actions.
It didn’t matter that I was crying while saying what I said to him.
It didn’t matter that I thought I was trying to ask for comfort from him.
What mattered was that my body language communicated that I was more hostile than I was inviting.
Hostility and warmth are very different things. Right?
And it didn’t matter that inside, I was personally feeling vulnerable.
What did it matter how I felt inside, if my resulting actions couldn’t be perceived by my husband as inviting?
What mattered was how my behaviour and actions appeared to my husband, and how it made him feel.
I mean, if we went with my own logic in the heat of the moment, I could’ve punched him in the face while crying! And just described my behaviour as “I was looking for you to comfort me.”
The thought is ridiculous.
David and I then moved to the kitchen table and sat opposite from each other.
As I forced myself to look him in the eyes, both of us had tears streaming down our faces.
I said to him….
”I’m sorry. You don’t deserve this.”
And as I felt into my own body, I felt all the tension, the “push” against intimacy, trust and connection.
I felt the resistance loud and clear.
Moreover, suddenly his gentle insistence that I was pushing him away felt like love to me, rather than some kind of falsity.
But the resistance I was feeling to being intimate also came out in my actions. I unlocked my eyes from his for a moment as I began getting up from the table to go and give him a hug.
I got halfway up, and then I sat back down again, still with tears streaming.
Something so seemingly simple was so hard. A hug! A hug, for goodness sake.
And all my body could do was resist it.
I wondered to myself: what was so wrong with me in that particular moment, that a warm hug felt worse than the safety of withholding the hug?
He saw my hesitation and let out a small laugh. Then, I laughed too.
“I’m coming.” I said.
I was literally sat across the table, one metre away. But my resistance made it all feel like a marathon.
I tried to get up again, and this time I stayed standing.
Except I still couldn’t move and walk toward him to reach out for a hug. I then looked at him and took tiny geisha-like steps as I felt my whole body filling with fear.
Fear over embracing my own husband in connection.
Eventually, I got round to the other side of the table, and gave him a hug.
Something so simple. Something I did every day. But it felt like pulling teeth.
Why is it so hard to bring people closer?
Why was I more comfortable pushing him away than I was bringing him close, in that moment?
In all honesty, it’s because I felt like I was failing.
Reaching out in vulnerability to connect made me feel like a failure.
In other words, pushing him away felt successful. “Giving in” to intimacy felt like failure.
This incident was a long time ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday, because I remember the hurt it caused my husband.
This pattern of not wanting to give in to emotional intimacy is typical of those people with avoidant or anxious-avoidant attachment.
Not to mention, this pattern is common among adults with abandonment issues. I wrote an article on abandonment issues: see if you have adult abandonment issues in this article.
My actions of pushing him away made me feel falsely strong and separate. It made me feel alone, but safe.
The thing is, like every other woman who has ever pushed a man away, I don’t really want to push him away.
It’s just that at that particular moment in time, I felt as though I physically and emotionally couldn’t do any better.
And it’s a hard pill to swallow to realise that it’s my own responsibility to ‘fix’ whatever damage was done to me.
Damage done that gave me the pattern where I would actually feel like a failure while reaching out (at least in that moment).
But this is the work of any person who has grown up with an insecure attachment style.
This is the work of anyone who has patterns that lead them towards loneliness, which is many of us.
This is the honest work of any woman who has anxious attachment, and who grew up in a family where closeness wasn’t a thing.
I’ve said before, that I don’t even remember seeing my parents hug each other. And if ever I did see it, it looked more like the rigid embrace of two awkward humans than anything else.
Thank goodness I’ve recognised this pattern over the years and have been able to salvage my authentic desire for intimacy.
But it hasn’t been easy. And I’m probably at least 70% of the way there. 30% of the way to go.
I’m blessed, because I have a securely attached husband and securely attached sons that remind me every day exactly how important it is to maintain emotional closeness.
Am I Pushing People Away?
It’s hard to know if we are pushing people away sometimes. This is because it’s not always easy to perceive the effects of our actions on other people.
But think about it this way. We’ve all had people pushing us away; friends or a lover.
How does it make you feel?
It makes you feel bad. Like they don’t care. Like they don’t think you’re worthy of their time and investment.
“I’m a much better mother when I’m away at work” she said…
An old acquaintance of mine once said this to me.
She had two young children, and she wanted to still work full time, so she sent both children to daycare from 6 weeks of age.
She told me her story, and she said:
“Yeah, I’m a much better mother when I’m away at work”…
It wasn’t until I shared this story with a friend of mine that I fully realised just how damaging that attitude was on this woman’s children.
My friend was horrified. “Wow…” she said. That’s shocking.
My friend’s reaction to this made me think further about it.
Personally, I felt like I at least understood what this mother meant when she said she made a better mother when she was working full time.
So I didn’t make her wrong, I just acknowledged where she was at. I mean, I ‘get’ it.
As I understood her mantra, she was just protecting her children from who she showed up to be when she was stuck with her young children 24/7.
And when she didn’t have her sanity as a working mother.
A lot of mothers feel like they regain sanity when they go back to work, because staying home with an infant or two is very difficult.
I get it.
But then I thought about it some more, and I realised…
This is how her actions actually transpired…
What she was actually saying was that she would deprive her infants of their own mother, because she felt like her absence was better than her presence.
What that meant was that instead of gathering all the resources she could in order to give her children their mother’s nurturing as best she could, she would remove herself from their day entirely.
What that meant was, she was pushing them away by making herself scarce.
On one hand, to some people, her actions might seem admirable.
But in truth, her actions caused emotional damage to her infant children.
You may be wondering:
What has this got to do with pushing people away?
It’s because she’s creating distance for her own feeling illusion of safety.
Safety from feeling like a bad mom. Safety from feeling incapable.
Children, but especially infants, need their own mother. Not the care of strangers, who have 5 other infants to watch at the same time.
This doesn’t mean she was wrong for making her decision! This just means that all decisions and actions have consequences.
And pushing people away – whether it’s a friend, a lover or a child, leads to nowhere but complete and utter loneliness.
“Safe”. But agonisingly lonely.
(Safe because we don’t have to invest emotionally.)
But agonisingly lonely because without investing fully in someone, we can never develop any kind of lasting and trusting relationship with them!
How Do You Know If You’re Pushing Someone Away?
You know you’re pushing someone away when don’t care how hostile or ugly your behaviour is towards them. And you just can’t seem to make yourself want to get emotionally close to them.
There are some signs you are pushing people away, and we’re going to get into the signs that you are pushing people away in the next section.
Am I Pushing People Away In Relationships?
…Here are 7 surefire signs you may be pushing people away…
Sign you are pushing people away number 1:
The look on their face.
One of the clear signs that you’re pushing people away is in the look on their faces.
It’s a drooping face of disappointment, or it’s a drained look in their eyes.
Drained because they want to bring you closer, but your patterns ensure that their attempts always go to waste.
A lot of people who are used to pushing people away won’t notice this look in other people’s faces at all, because they are not attuned to others.
But that’s part of the practice.
You need to start noticing the effect of your actions on others.
Sign you are pushing people away number 2:
YOU feel deeply alone and isolated in that moment.
Often when we feel alone and abandoned, we look outward at others. We blame others. But remember, in relationships, we always attract our reciprocal.
So if you feel isolated, ask yourself if there is any chance that you are also contributing to that feeling by acting and speaking in a way that pushes that person away?
In other words, are you self sabotaging?
Are you unconsciously sabotaging your own chances at having close relationships?
Sign you are pushing people away number 3:
People describe you and your communication as resentful, combative or defensive.
If you are a person who consistently acts in a way that pushes people away, then no matter how nice you try to seem on the outside, your body will communicate an underlying hostility.
It is this very hostility in various doses that will send the message to others that they should “stay away” from you.
Sign you are pushing people away number 4:
You always see faults in others and can hardly ever see anything to appreciate in others.
You know this kind of person. They are always so “negative”.
No matter who they date or make friends with, there’s always something terribly bad or wrong with that partner or friend.
There’s always something to complain about behind their backs.
Seeing the good in people is harder than seeing the bad in people. Especially for people who always push people away in relationships.
And plus, if you see where everyone else is always going wrong, you can always remain separate from them and superior to them, right?
Does this bring people closer or further away emotionally?
I’ll let you answer that one.
Sign you are pushing people away number 5:
You always guilt trip.
Some parents are very good at doing this to their kids…especially grown kids.
These parents never had a close relationship with their kids, so the only “tool” they have to try to extract value from their children is a guilt trip.
This is called a weapon, and it’s one of the surefire signs that you’re not in a healthy relationship.
If you guilt trip people a lot, you’re engaging in ugly behaviour that makes people want to run the other way, rather than stay connected with you. It’s toxic to say the least.
To help you understand what exactly makes a relationship healthy, here’s my article on the 10 Ultimate Signs Of A Healthy Relationship.
And here’s the video I made on the ultimate signs of a healthy relationship.
Sign you are pushing people away number 6:
You play the victim.
Victimising yourself is a way of opting out of taking responsibility for connecting to someone.
When you play the victim, you are disengaging from connection.
Playing the victim is behaviour that is as ugly and tasteless as guilt tripping people is.
But this is what we do when we push people away: we engage in ugly behaviour.
Just like I did when I said in hostility: “well F you then!” to my man.
I might have felt vulnerable inside, but on the outside, I just looked like a resentful fool.
Sign you are pushing people away number 7:
You only communicate to people when you feel successful, happy and things are going well in your life.
This is the ultimate sign that you push people away in relationships:
You choose distance whenever you start to feel any kind of difficult emotion.
Rather than being ‘at one’ with the moment and with intimacy, you pull away and only let people see the glowing side of you.
Unfortunately, no strong intimate relationships are built on only showing your “successful” side.
This is just about you being image focused, rather than being relationship focused.
How to stop pushing people away?
How do I stop pushing people away? You engage in high value vulnerability. High value vulnerability allows you to just be, without causing unnecessary damage to your relationships.
High value vulnerability is an art and a concept my husband and I have been teaching since about 2010. And we teach it in the most depth in our program commitment control 2.0.
Here’s an article I wrote on 4 Secret Ways To Access Your High Value Vulnerability.
And here’s my article on How To Be Vulnerable Without Being NEEDY.
I want to commend you for asking the question of how you can stop pushing people away! What a great question, and I am glad you are asking it.
Most people would never have the self awareness to ask this question.
Here Is How You Stop Pushing People Away:
Feel the depth of the loneliness you will inevitably create for the rest of your life, when you engage in behaviour that pushes people away.
See, people who push people away can’t see past the immediate benefits of their patterns.
By patterns I mean, the patterns that make them push people away rather than bring people closer to them.
For people who have learned not to trust in the connection in human relationships, they really believe they are doing the best thing by pushing people away.
But all they’re doing is self sabotaging.
So, consider that for a moment. Make yourself associate your “pushing away” actions with the depths of hell.
Because that’s where you will end up, emotionally. The depths of hell.
Especially if you’re a woman!
Women need the security and comfort of a committed lover and loving friends.
If you keep engaging in pushing people away, you’re destined to be alone.
And I can tell you that after helping thousands of women, no one wants to be that lonely resentful old woman living in the depths of emotional hell at 50.
If she’s single just because she is, that’s fine. But we are talking about the habit of pushing people away here.
Watch movies that depict women (or men) who have the opposite tendency to pushing people away.
Feel into these characters and deeply engage with the characters who are warm and connection oriented.
Cut out the scenes where they are showcasing their habits of high value vulnerability.
Absorb their honest behaviour that tends to bring people close. And keep these movie scene handy on your ipad or phone to repeatedly refer back to.
Make these scenes a part of you. Watch them over and over until you deeply feel on an emotional level that this character is now a part of you!
Here Are Some Examples Of Movie Characters That Did Exactly This:
Ginnifer Goodwin in ‘He’s Not That Into You’. In particular, this scene:
Tea Leoni in The Family Man. In particular, this scene:
Kate Walsh in Honest Thief.
Check out this scene where she is being really endearing, and in fact, they use role playing and high value banter naturally and effectively to fall in love:
If you would like to learn more about high value banter and use it to make men fall in love with you, check out our free class on the dark feminine art of high value banter here.
Also, Rosamund Pike in Hostiles.
Her character inspires intimacy the entire length of the movie, so it’s not just one particular scene as such.
She is a great example partly due to the situation she found herself in, but mostly because of how she showed up despite her circumstances.
Watch the movie to find out more about her character. Meanwhile, here are two clips of her being her in Hostiles.
Watch how her complete surrender to vulnerability (she didn’t push anyone away) not only inspired a whole tribe of men to take care of her, but inevitably lead to Christian Bale not leaving her side at the end of the movie.
If you want to be supported by a warm community of high value feminine women, then join our Facebook Group. (It’s free and so incredibly valuable!) CLICK HERE TO join thousands of other women in our “High Value Feminine Women” Community.
By the way, while you’re at it, connect with me on social media.