What are common distancing behavior patterns?
Sometimes it's very obvious, someone who won't talk about the way he or she feels or won't open up sexually, but then there are a lot of other ways people do it.
There's that kind of busy, distracted lifestyle. The classic is the man (or, now, the woman) who's always at work, or the mother who devotes all her time and energy to the children and is always putting the relationship with her husband or partner on hold because they are afraid of being really open and vulnerable and intimate with their partners. One person may even seem like the "super partner," taking care of so much that they don't actually make the time to connect with their partner.
So there's the couple that looks really good on the surface but there's something really missing, then the other extreme is the person who wants a relationship, but can't let themselves get near to having one. They might find something wrong with everybody they date, or find ways to avoid meeting people, or avoid dating or exploring relationships.
Then there's the middle category. These are people who get into relationships and do great in the courtship stage. They're into it, they're very excited and may even be very apparently open sexually and emotionally, but when it starts to move into a more committed and vulnerable stage, they start to distance. That can look like simple fear of commitment, but if you look below the surface, it comes back to ways people learn to distrust closeness and vulnerability in an intimate relationship.
How can people recognize distancing behavior in themselves?
The first thing is deepening awareness. Most people know on some level that things are not working in the love department, but they don't know why. They don't know really how to make sense of it. So it's about looking at "Why do I feel the way I feel, why do I think the way I think?" It's going from, "I'm just a guy who won't commit," to going below the surface.