Why do I push people away when I am sad? (5 reasons why)

When we are emotionally vulnerable or hurt, we tend to push people away- even the ones who tries to help us- because of the simple fact that we are afraid of getting hurt again. 

Our brain and our emotions, based on our previous experiences, tend to generalize our negative experiences to conclude that everyone could potentially hurt us. 

So instead of giving into the ones who try to help us, who love us, we withdraw from them or push them away.

This is a very common reaction if you have been hurt before, even more so if you have not taken the time to resolve the anguish and any lingering emotions from that experience. 

Let us take a moment to take a closer look at why this could be happening to you and how you can help yourself to cultivate healthy relationships. 

Reasons why we push people away

We all have, at some point, pushed people away. Perhaps it was during a time of great stress and you needed to be alone for sometime to think things through or perhaps you just needed some peace and quiet. 

It is normal to need space during times of emotional stress however, it is another thing if pushing people away becomes a pattern you stick to in every relationship- old or new.

Let us look at some of the reasons why you could be pushing people away.

You are overwhelmed emotionally

One of the reasons why you are pushing away a loved one could be because you are overwhelmed by the things that are happening in your life. You could be at a point where your emotions have been built up and stress has gotten the better of you.

Oftentimes when we are stressed we tend to withdraw as a means to protect ourselves. We seek solitude because we have no energy to deal with another person or to recuperate our energy from a stressful life. 

It could also be the fact that the stress of your life is spilling over onto the relationship and causing tension. To avoid this tension you withdraw so as to not hurt yourself or the other person. 

It is advisable that you take time to reflect on the stressors of your life and separate them from your relationships. Regulating your emotions and managing your stress can be a good place to start.

You fear intimacy

Fear of intimacy is another issue that many people face and often cause them to be emotionally avoidant or not present. This can also cause them to push their partners away when they feel vulnerable- for example, when they feel sad or stressed.

This fear of intimacy develops as a result of negative experiences in previous relationships where they may have experienced a betrayal of trust or even abuse. 

Here, i invite you to take a moment to consider your past relationships and if there has been a time where you have felt betrayed or hurt by the other person. 

Taking time to reflect on your past relationships- not just romantic ones but also family and friendships- can give you insight as to why this is happening now.

You have attachment issues

If your primary caregiver were unable or inconsistent in caring for you and meeting your emotional needs when you were much younger, this would have an impact on the way you relate to other people.

This inconsistent or unreliable patterns of caregiving during childhood can be related to attachment issues where the adult may experience anxiousness in relationships or be avoidant- withdrawing and pushing people away.

You might struggle with being overly anxious over the relationship, fearing betrayal or even negative evaluation from your partner when you find yourself emotionally vulnerable. 

To deal with this tension you might withdraw and push people away in an attempt to protect yourself or the image you present to your partner, the reason for which is quite simple- you are afraid of being judged, abandoned, or hurt. 

You have very low self esteem

People who struggle with low self esteem and think of themselves in a self deprecating way often reject support because they feel like they don’t deserve it. 

You might be fearful of letting them see you vulnerable especially when you are sad or emotionally stressed because you fear that you will let them down or that they might reject you. 

You might also be anxious over the fact that they might leave you or betray you if they see you as weak or vulnerable. It is important to remember here that these are only reflections of how you see yourself which leads to these irrational beliefs that you have internalized.

We often choose to withdraw and isolate ourselves from people because these irrational beliefs make us think we are undeserving of love and support or that we, with our sadness and hurt, might hold them back. 

You have trouble trusting others

Similar to your fear of intimacy, another reason why you push people away is because you have trouble trusting others. You are afraid that trusting and letting people in will eventually leave you disappointed and hurt. 

Mistrust of people can come from a deep rooted hurt. Your past experiences which have lingering and unresolved hurt could also affect your present relationships to the point that you are unable to open yourself up and communicate your needs and wants with other people. 

This particular predicament requires working through your pain and hurt in a way that involves letting go and moving forward- focusing on yourself and your present. 

You are uncomfortable with vulnerability

We live in a world where the strong are appreciated and the weak often disregarded. People are applauded for their courage and strength while the vulnerable are often looked down open. 

These social pressures are often internalised and often stop us from getting intouch with our emotions which make us seem vulnerable. This can threaten the way we see ourselves and make us fearful of how others judge us in times when we find ourselves threatened and vulnerable. 

If you find yourself struggling with sadness or even depression where you are unable to meet the demands of your daily life, you might find yourself ashamed. You are unable to ask for help or accept help from others.

This shame comes from your own discomfort with being vulnerable, you are afraid and push people away- especially people you care about- because you do not want them to see you as flawed but what you don’t realize is that to be human is to be less than perfect.

How do we stop pushing people away?

Letting people in, especially when you are emotionally vulnerable, can seem daunting. It is scary to let people come close and see us for who we are when we are not at our best. 

Here are some ways you can make it easier:

  • Acceptance

The first thing you can do for yourself is accept what is happening to you and why. This might take some reflection and some time to connect the dots. 

If you have been hurt before or if your childhood relationships were unhealthy, it will take time to understand and accept that your present does not have to be dictated by your past. 

Take it a step further and try to understand that what happened in the past is not guaranteed to occur again and even if it does, it is not your fault nor is it in your control. 

However, what you can do for yourself and what you are in control of yourself is building resilience in relationships by setting healthy boundaries which allow you to remain an independent entity within the relationship. 

  • Communicate

Take a moment to communicate what is happening to you to the person or people in the relationship. 

If this relationship is extremely important to you, you can send them a quick message to tell them that you are uncomfortable and you need time to think things over but reassure them that when you are ready, you will rope them in.

Taking the time to communicate what is happening to you- why you are sad or why you are pushing them away- to someone who is present and ready to support you with unconditional positive regard can help the relationship strengthen and grow. 

You can communicate through a medium most comfortable to you, be it a message or a phone call, or even face to face- it doesn’t matter how it is done but that you are able to communicate in a way that expresses how you feel and why.

  • Strive for interdependence

Setting up healthy boundaries can be one of the best ways to be independent within the relationship while supporting each other in your individual growth. This means communicating your needs and your comfort zones to the other person and consider the same of theirs.

Once the needs of both parties are clearly discussed, you can work together to come up with plans to meet these needs in a way that does not cost the other. 

It will require acceptance that neither are perfect and that there are some needs that neither can meet for the other person. This will allow both parties to set realistic expectations and boundaries.

  • Talk to a professional

If you are still finding it difficult to regulate your relationships to the extent that you find that it is affecting you emotionally or mentally, it is time to talk to a professional who can help you get a clearer idea of what is happening. 

You can also seek help to learn new skills and techniques to regulate your emotions and your relationships. You can even seek out couples counselling if needed. 


In this article we have explored some of the reasons why we push people away and how we can stop doing so. We have also looked into building healthier relationships with others by striving for interdependence and setting healthy boundaries.

Frequently asked questions related to “Why do I push people away when I am sad? (5 reasons why and how to stop it)”

Why do we push people away when we are sad?

Sometimes when we are emotionally stressed, we feel sad or anxious, we tend to push people away because we feel like we do not deserve support. We may also feel threatened and vulnerable which makes us withdraw for fear of revealing ourselves as less than perfect.

What does it mean when you’re pushing someone away?

Pushing people away could mean that we are having trouble letting them into our lives. However, context does matter. 

If they are hurting us, it could be a way of us protecting ourselves. However, if that is not the case, it could simply be our fear of intimacy.

Why do I push someone I love away?

We often tend to push people we care about because we fear hurting them or we fear being rejected by them. 

Oftentimes these fears are irrational and require communication to overcome these defense with which we try to protect ourselves.

How do I know when someone is pushing me away?

Here are some key points to identity when someone is pushing you away.

  • They seem withdrawn and quiet.
  • They are not enthusiastic about spending time with you
  • They ignore your calls and messages
  • They spend more time alone 
  • They are physically distant
  • There is tension caused by the distance
  • They seem stressed and irritable with you.
  • They are uninterested in things you care about

What do i do when someone pushes me away?

Give them time and space but make it clear that you are present to hear them out when they are ready to. 

People push others away when they feel threatened or vulnerable, giving them the space and time to deal with their fears and challenges is the best thing you can do for them.

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