Love, Heartbreak

How To Know If You Love A Man Who's A Cactus

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When You Love A Man Who's A Cactus

Once you’ve been head over heels long enough for a man who can’t show affection, you’re besties with the term Avoidant. 

You’ve researched the attachment styles late at night on all the depressing forums and you’ve quietly entered the self-help section of your local Barnes & Noble to pluck out all the even more depressing books.

And you now know, for the most part, what you’re dealing with.

You understand that he has a certain prickly way of attaching to others in relationships, that he just can’t do snuggly, lovey, mushy, or romantic on a consistent basis, or at all.

An avoidant man may say he loves you, come home every night, and act like a decent and caring partner, but at the end of the day, he treats intimacy with you like it’s the plague.

So what do you do when you love a man who can only get so close?

Therapists, in books or in person, will offer advice on how to approach a man with intimacy issues, the right words to use to engage him, to keep things non-threatening. The books you bought will show you how to stay ‘just close enough’ without pushing him back. They’ll explain how to empower yourself to be more independent, as not to suffer too much in the loneliness and frigidness that has become the auto temperature of your relational bed.

But none of this will work. 

You want what you want in a relationship and if you’re spending the time reading this article, your need for more intimacy is too great to trick yourself into thinking that more time focused on you is going to drown out your aching needs.

Changing the way you talk with him in an attempt to get your needs met proves futile too. He’s avoidant. He will take any attempt you make at trying to get closer to him and to get him to act the way you want him to, as a manipulation.  

At first, certain words or behaviors will work and feel less threatening and he’ll feel invited to speak and open up. But the next conversation you have with him, where you use certain words or phrases to control his actions, will be seen by him as tactical and trapping, and he will blame you and retreat.

Even if all you want is to hold his hand more often. To him, it’s a demand. It’s pressure. It’s a form of control. You might as well bury him alive  And that’s the hardest part — your needs are seen as a device to suffocate him into obliteration.

When you love a man, you want him to be happy. You want to give him, within reason, the things he needs to flourish, to smile, to come closer and closer. But not all people feel this way.

Avoidant men (and women) struggle with this. They aren’t motivated by this need to please the other person. They want to feel safe in the relationship first and foremost. They want to be loved for who they are, no matter what. 

It’s important that they know that if they are going to try and get close to you, that you aren’t going to invade their space, impose yourself, in a harmful way, on their autonomy.  That you aren’t going to be… needy! YIKES!!

This doesn’t mean he doesn't care. He cares about the relationship a lot. In fact, he tries to protect the relationship at all costs.  He retreats and avoids, withdraws and shuts down, as an attempt to not hurt the relationship.  

But it’s not the REAL relationship he's protecting. It’s the relationship that exists in his head.

In the same way that love addicts create a fantasy around a person and fall ‘in love’ with that fantasy, without accepting the reality of the true relationship they have with that person, avoidants love in their minds. 

They try to protect the relationship they have, just enough so that it compliments the relationship they’ve cultivated in their mind and in their heart.

This is happening right now, with you! 

You tell him constantly how much you’re starving for intimacy in the relationship. At this point, you’ve probably cried, begged, screamed, and finally withdrawn, too, just out of desperation, to get him to hear your needs. 

But all he does is shut down. In his mind, he is protecting the relationship from blame and conflict. 

He needs the relationship to stay intact, in the way it is, where his needs are met and he feels safe and happy, and as long as you’re still there, your needs are secondary to interrupting this security:

"I’m happy. My only issue with you is your issues with me. I love you and would die for you. I do this and this and this to show you I care. I don’t cheat or do anything bad. You should accept me as I am and be happy. Stop making something of nothing and stop getting dramatic and emotional. We have it better than most."

Sounds familiar? And where are you, the TRUE you who needs the touching and the talking and the laughter and the passion, in all this talk of his? Nowhere to be found. 

You’re just trying to get your needs met (and they aren’t much — maybe a few minutes a night to chat about your day and a couple snuggles on the couch during the week) so that you can stay with him and be happy together, and he just calls you dramatic and ungrateful.

When you love someone who avoids affection and intimacy and shames you for your need to have it, there’s only one thing you can do. You have to ask yourself one question: Is he able to see things from a higher spiritual plane or not?

Is he able to see that you exist in a flesh form that is not the form that he controls and imagines in his mind? Is he able to honor what is within this real you?

Many avoidants change. They can see past what drives their fears. They can act as a witness to the part of themselves that wants to control the relationship and keep it just so close. They can step into an uncomfortable and almost yucky place where they literally force themselves to tolerate you more.

When you love a man who needs more than you can give, you give it (within reason, of course). 

If it’s a make-or-break for him, you tolerate it. Maybe it’s more blow jobs or sharing interests. It’s not always easy to give. It takes time. It’s still a compromise. It’s work and it’s not fun or kismet-like. But you do it.

Same goes for him. It may terrify and anger him and most men are uncomfortable with feeling vulnerable and are very uncomfortable with facing their rage. But he can do it.  It may be better than being without you.

Has he shown any interest in changing to please you? Most won’t. Or they will, and then, as soon as the relationship feels comfy and safe again, they fall away.

But some will. And many have before.  nd I think a lot more would if they knew that pushing through to the other side would change things in the relationship. It would make you softer, happier, sexier, lighter, and calmer. 

You would feel loved again and there’s no limit to what a woman would give if she felt loved. Maybe even… more space! What?!

Right now, he doesn’t realize that when you’re screaming at him about his wet towel on the bed, what you’re really saying is: "I’m hurting from loneliness. I feel unattractive and aching for touch, and it’s completely in your power to take that pain away."

If he knew that and really understood it, he would be brave and push through the uncomfortable stuff. With time, and perhaps therapy, he might actually start to like intimacy.

He’s a man after all. They live to please and to feel validated for their efforts to make you happy. He would tolerate a lot if he knew it would validate him in the relationship. Right now, his fears stop him from hearing you and lie to him about why you are unreasonable to be unhappy.

But whatever you do, when you love a man who’s an avoidant, don’t try to tell him all this and convince him to try for you. It has to come from him. 

For now, all you can do is suggest therapy (or threaten him with it, if you're truly are ready to leave), pray on it, be honest with yourself about what you need and whether he can offer it, and, of course, make him sleep on the wet spot.

Visit Kristina' Marchant's blog, Connect With His Heart and explore more of my articles on emotionally distant men. Even sign up for her Goddess Advice Newsletter and learn some tips to stop giving into the power his avoidance has over your life and your feminine nature.