Why Do Men Pull Away? (13 Physiological & Scientific Reasons!)

Why do men pull away after intimacy? Because they’re jerks, of course!

No, wait! I am definitely joking. Men are just as misunderstood as women are. But if you’re interested in figuring them out, that’s possible. 

You’ve come to the right place if you want to learn about the biological and psychological reasons behind men’s post-intimacy behavior. 

Let’s get started!

13 Reason Why Men Pull Away (After Sex):

1. Men Experience Oxytocin Differently than Women

Oxy… what? You’ve probably heard of oxytocin before but under a prettier name, such as “the love hormone” or “the cuddle hormone.”

According to medically reviewed information, the human brain produces this hormone when a person engages in positive physical contact, participates in social bonding activities, has sex, and even pets an animal.

The effects?

Oxytocin is key in establishing and maintaining relationships. It also plays an important role in regulating a person’s emotional responses related to trust, empathy, positive communication, and positive memories.

But here’s the thing: Men Experience Oxytocin Differently than Women. How?

  1. A man’s oxytocin levels drop more rapidly after sex than a woman’s. This means he might not experience the same feelings of attachment and bonding compared to a woman. 
  2. High oxytocin levels trigger the fight or flight response in men, but not women. This means a man might feel an immediate urge to run away after intimacy.

2. Post-Intimacy Withdrawal is Rooted in Men’s Evolutionary Past

Evolutionary psychologists found another explanation for a man’s post-intimacy withdrawal. What they’re saying is that when men pull away after sex, it’s because their brain is wired differently.

You see, in ancient times, men didn’t focus on finding a partner for life. They wanted something else, namely to pass on their genes to the next generation.

This could only be achieved by mating with multiple partners as it increased their chances of reaching their goal. So, as soon as they finished having sex with one woman, they would move on to the next.

But are men still characterized by this instinctual behavior? Not all of them!

However, some men still exhibit this behavior. Their brain is hardwired that way, so they simply can’t help it. 

There’s one exception: When they are disrespectful or hurtful. That cannot be traced back to their primal instincts. It does say a lot about them as people, though.

3. Their Attachment Styles Are Part of The Insecure Category

According to attachment theory, there are 3 types of insecure attachment styles. They affect both men and women throughout their lives.

In case your man started distancing himself from you after you got intimate, it could be because he has an anxious-preoccupied, avoidant-dismissive, or fearful-avoidant attachment style. 

Usually, attachment styles are formed during childhood. However, a man can become avoidant or emotionally unavailable as a result of one or more very bad heartbreaks.

Men with insecure attachment styles tend to be emotionally unavailable and highly independent. They are unable to trust or rely on others. 

But why, you might ask. It’s because their parents didn’t pay enough attention to them when they were little. They didn’t meet their needs and their behavior was inconsistent.

Moreover, their parents were most likely ignoring them when crying, or shaming them for being afraid or scared, pushing them to self-sufficiency from an early age.

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That’s why they act this way as adults – they expect the same behavior from everyone. 

Take Attachment Style Quiz. 

4. The So-Called Halo Effect Wears Off Completely

Another reason men pull away after intimacy is the Halo Effect. Pay attention to this one because it may happen to you as well!

By definition, the Halo Effect occurs when we think that someone or something is better than they actually are.

This is based on the first impression we have about a person or a product, which makes us prone to overlook the negative aspects.

For example, when a man sees a woman dressed provocatively, wearing high heels, fishnet stockings, and leather items, he probably thinks she’s kinky in bed. 

Until he learns the truth about her love-making style, the man will continue to be under the Halo Effect. However, if she turns out to have vanilla tastes in bed, the effect will wear off.

On top of that, he will start noticing other things about her that he might not like to which he was oblivious before.

5. They Are Afraid of Making a Serious Commitment

Now this one is a classic! A guy might distance himself from you because he is afraid of commitment.

Even if you didn’t have a conversation about your relationship status or say anything related to that, a man could still think of intimacy as the beginning of a relationship.

In general, intimacy does bring up some questions…

  • Where is this going?
  • Are we together now?
  • I want to see you again!

A guy who pulls away after sex probably doesn’t have an answer to all these questions. That’s why he prefers to avoid them altogether.

This doesn’t mean he is not interested in getting to know you better or being in a relationship at some point. 

It does mean he is not prepared to take any steps in that direction yet. But why?

Men’s fear of commitment is based on numerous reasons such as trust issues, fear of abandonment, attachment issues, and more.

6. They Don’t Feel the Thrill of The Chase Anymore

The thrill of the chase… It makes men see the woman they’re interested in as a challenge. They feel curious, intrigued, and a little bit aroused. 

The game of cat and mouse makes things more interesting between two people. Not to mention that men are considered predators.

They watch and study their prey carefully and wait for the right moment to make a move. If they get rejected, they don’t give up. They try again until they succeed or lose interest.

It’s the challenge that keeps them going. Here’s the confirmation: “When we put more effort into trying to get someone to be attracted to us, once we get over that challenge, there’s a big reward.” – Xianchi Dai et al. (2013).

So what happens next? If the woman gives in and makes things too easy for the man, he might lose interest in her. 

7. Their Past Experiences Influence Them

To understand why else a guy might pull away after being intimate with you, try to switch places with him. Put yourself in his shoes and think how you’d react if you had a history with…

  • … people who rejected you after opening up to them
  • … one or more partners who have cheated on you
  • … untrustworthy people who abandoned you (including parents)
  • … getting gaslighted or even ghosted
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You’d be more cautious with the people in your life, right?

Here’s Chrystal Dunkers’ take on this, as an anxiety and relationship therapist: “Abandonment issues can largely be created based on childhood trauma and schemas developed as a result.”

In other words, he could be afraid that if he shows vulnerability (like he did in the past) he will get hurt.

8. They Don’t Want to Come Off as Clingy or Desperate

Let’s move on to men who pull away on purpose. You see, some guys simply distance themselves after intimacy to seem cool. 

They don’t want to come off as clingy or desperate and that’s why they maintain a casual attitude. However, this attitude could mask real interest.

No one likes clingy or desperate people and most men know that. That’s why they do what they think it’s best.

They portray themselves as independent individuals who are anything but needy and might keep up with the appearances for a while. 

They also make it obvious how confident they are and don’t admit needing to cuddle or stay with their female partners longer after sex.

The “I don’t care attitude” is usually present during the first times when they have sex with a woman, but it doesn’t linger for too long if they catch feelings.

9. They Are Not Ready For A Serious Relationship

Post-intimacy withdrawal is also characteristic of men who are not ready for a serious relationship. 

It’s not that they’re afraid to commit… it’s not that. They are simply unprepared for the real deal. 

A serious relationship may entail the following things:

  • Counting on each other and being there for each other
  • Building trust and working towards common goals
  • Spending time with each other’s friends and family
  • Working on achieving relationship goals

The list could go on, but you get the point. Few people have the emotional maturity to be in a serious romantic relationship. 

On top of that, men who are not prepared for a serious thing usually have other things going on in their lives and they wish to focus on that, such as school, work, or a time-consuming hobby.

Having a serious relationship also means prioritizing your partner and being selfless sometimes. 

So, if a man pulls away after sex, he might not be ready for more.

10. They Want To Protect Their Freedom

Let’s face it: Intimacy makes most men feel tied down. This feeling alone is enough for them to want to protect their freedom. 

In their eyes, if they don’t pull away after intimacy, it means they want to build something with you, something that could take up a lot of their time.

For a man, being independent and self-sufficient are among the most important things. He likes it when he can do whatever he wants without having to explain himself to anyone.

I can agree that’s a good feeling. But it doesn’t beat the love, security, trust, safety, and intimacy that a romantic relationship comes with.

Even so, guys who value the single life are also aware of the duties they will have as boyfriends/husbands and if they are not prepared for that, they’ll always flee.

If they think a woman will want to control them or ask to spend all of their free time together, they’ll not only flee, they’ll run.

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11. They Have Different Sexual Fantasies

Why else would men pull away after sex?

Another possible reason is they concluded they have different sexual preferences and/or fantasies.

Besides the biological chemistry between two people, there’s also something called sexual compatibility. This includes:

  • Having sexual fantasies in common
  • Enjoying similar sexual activities
  • Having the same levels of sexual desire
  • Being as open or not to try new things
  • Having the same view on monogamy

In a relationship, sexual compatibility is just as important as, let’s say effective communication. Without it, your relationship is impaired right from the start.

While it’s true that people can compromise when it comes to sex and sexual activities, if a man’s fantasies are obviously dissimilar to yours, he may not want to put in the work to get what he wants.

Look at it this way: Why would you ease someone into roleplaying when you can meet someone who already masters it?

12. They Are Playing Power Games

Men who withdraw after sex could be playing power games. This could be the motivation behind their actions.

You see, most men want to feel powerful. They love being in control. On top of that, they found a way to take less responsibility for their actions. 

How? By playing mind games with the woman/women they’re dating.

Examples of power games in a relationship:

  • Playing hard to get
  • Leading someone on
  • Having a controlling attitude
  • Manipulating someone
  • Using gaslighting 

So, instead of staying after sex and bonding with his partner, such a guy prefers to subtract himself. In this way, he feels in control of the situation. 

Because he leaves first, he secures his illusion of power over his partner. 

13. Their Cultural and Societal Expectations

What is culturally and socially acceptable for a man to do after intimacy? Well, this depends on where that particular man grew up. 

In this situation, things such as views on masculinity, emotional expression, and sexual conduct matter. 

And you know what? They could lead to intimacy withdrawal. 

So, to understand why a certain guy chose to flee after having sex with you, don’t forget to consider what he thinks is expected of him. 

Where I come from, having sex with someone usually marks the beginning of a relationship with them. 

However, things have changed a lot during the last decade. That’s why communication is highly important. 

In this regard, I encourage you to talk about your expectations, as well as your partner’s expectations before you have sex with him.

Summary:

If a man starts distancing himself from you after intimacy, you might think it’s your fault. 

But as you’ve learned in this article, he might have numerous other reasons for doing that, such as a rapid decrease in his oxytocin levels, his primal instinct, and his attachment style.

Of course, there are also the men who put their freedom on a high pedestal, like power plays and are often under the Halo Effect.

Last but not least, guys with horrible past experiences and fear of commitment will also flee after having a sexual encounter.

There is a good part to all of these, though! You are now more knowledgeable and, therefore more prepared to manage a situation like this.

Daniela Duca Damian
About Daniela Duca Damian

A journalist by profession, Daniela has been sharing her knowledge and personal experience in the psychology of love and relationships for the past 5 years. Her work is based on facts, practical advice and is meant to help everyone achieve their romantic goals. When she isn’t writing, she challenges her friends with meaningful questions about life.

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