Find ways to remind him he can be vulnerable with you.
Every relationship has ebbs and flows. After the honeymoon period, you’re settling into a routine with each other. The process of getting to know each other thereafter is more probing as you’re peeling back layers. There may be things you find out about your partner that aren’t exactly easy to accept. Once you fall in love, though, you’ve made the decision to take a journey together.
The commitment seems to be going well until one day, you realize that conversations are less engaging. He seems withdrawn and distant. When you do talk, it’s a series of one word responses and mumbles.
You may think he’s distracted. Sometimes, it could be a bout of depression. But for many men, it’s hard to maintain vulnerability. It takes a long time to get to a point where we feel completely comfortable sharing the inner parts of who we are. Culturally, men aren’t encouraged to express different emotions. Although, when you meet someone who you connect with, there’s a natural inclination to share personal stories and experiences.
When a man stops sharing in a relationship, it’s because he has lost a sense of security with his partner.
Here are four reasons that explain the possible scenarios for a relationship breakdown and prevent a man from being open about his feelings:
1. Women don’t believe that they do things that can hurt men.
I wrote previously about a few ways that women hurt men in relationships. Men take the blame for a lot of what’s wrong with relationships and marriage while women take credit for making men’s’ lives better.
Statistically, marriage is beneficial for men in terms of health and career performance. However, guys are just as capable of picking bad partners who aren’t very good people. Women can say and do things to damage a man’s self-esteem and how he values himself. They need to admit that and know that it’s okay.
2. The reaction he received wasn’t worth it.
One thing I’ve struggled with is knowing when to protect my feelings and when to let something slide. I’ve found that the things that really bothered me weren’t a big deal to my partner. So in the end, talking about my hurt feelings was ineffective.
If your reaction isn’t one that’s supportive or compassionate, you have to expect that a man will retreat to what’s “natural”, which is either lashing out or some other destructive form of verbal abuse.
3. Suppressing is a hard habit to break.
For the longest time, I didn’t cry. I’d channel negative emotions into other things. Or I’d go to sleep. But then I met someone who made me feel okay to start to open up. The problem is I was so used to hiding my real feelings and emotions. It didn’t matter that my partner was doing the right things to provide a safe space, I’d still sometimes back-slide. I’d bury my feelings and detach from situations without ever addressing them.
Sometimes, you have to get to the root of the suppression if you’re going to overcome it.
4. You’re not his soulmate.
I know this is hard to accept, but a man can be with a woman for years and not feel secure enough to fully open up. Vulnerability, for some people, isn’t a requirement for being happy in a relationship.
That being said, without it, a relationship is certain to have more lows than highs. If the love that you have is enough, you have to accept that the relationship will never truly reach its full potential because he’ll always be holding back. If you can’t be your total, flawed self with someone and grow with them, that’s not your soulmate.
Relationship breakdowns are normal. It’s prudent to be aware of the responsibility that both parties play in the fall out of emotional disconnect. Men are human and we are becoming more sensitive to the emotions that we have. It takes time to divorce from the ego and process the confusion we experience as we try to articulate feelings. If that’s going to be a successful journey, it’s important to have a partner who cares enough to invest in understanding why the “wall” is there.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Projoect. Reprinted with permission from the author.