The #1 Sign A Man Has His Emotional Life Together

Emotionally put-together young men are more common than you realized.

Young couple having lunch together Logan Armstrong | Unsplash

Life in this complex and fast-moving society is challenging in different ways for everyone.

Single parents are fatigued. Doubt about finding a partner eclipses their minds, especially when they have a second job outside of their home demands.

There are gobs of complaints and advice about finding a suitable and trustworthy man, but how do you know when you have found one?

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Here's the #1 sign that a man has his emotional life together.

The emotionally “put together” man is more than merely not defensive or avoidant. He apologizes readily and without excuses but does not over-apologize. He also initiates conversation, inquiry, and “checking in”. He is attentive to the woman he is interested in and to his internal life. He self-regulates and actively manages stress. He takes time for himself while communicating what, when, and how he’s doing that.

An emotionally mature man is unafraid of not knowing something about himself, his female interest, or the world. He doesn’t think he knows everything and listens attentively and with interest. He’s adaptable, not rigid.


In a nutshell, one can know the man who has his emotional life together with one sentence:

He knows how he’s feeling, has the words to express it coherently, regulates and examines it, and takes responsibility for how it manifests.

2 men on a road trip smiling and cooperating

Photo: Dmytro Sheremeta via Shutterstock

Younger men have been given a bad rap

Millennial and GenX men are affected by self-help literature, which is often focused on their shortcomings as mates and income producers and by the scary visions of the future. What is missing in the cultural narrative is that there are lots of really great, emotionally put-together, and relational men.


In the 1980s, as Ronald Reagan was actively pursuing the neutralization of the “evil empire”, many adolescents and young adults despaired of the future, and I often heard in my office, “What’s the point? We’re all gonna die in a nuclear holocaust.”

Similar despair is overwhelming our Millennial generation, but we neglect these young people by not noticing and praising their capabilities and ability for action.

What young men need

Our society needs good strong, capable men to raise our children and raise the optimism that can power us into an unknown and perhaps exciting future.

Positive goals

When we retell young men of their shortcomings directly or through what is written and implied in the news and opinions, we do ourselves no favor. We fail to acknowledge a few simple facts that are not “juicy” enough to make for publication.


Young men are more self-aware and emotionally and psychologically courageous than ever before. These guys know when they are facing challenges and are seeking assistance.



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Helping professionals, such as myself, and young women are in similar positions to be a part of the acceleration of men’s self-esteem. Young women are affected by the direct and implied messages that young men are not their equals because they are emotionally immature.



A young woman quickly knows when a man she has met doesn’t have his emotional life together.

That recognition is not an invitation to change him or accept his current self. But marrying a man because of his” potential” more often than not leads to a woman becoming controlling, and the relationship is set up to fail eventually.

If a young woman likes a new guy despite his humanness, she will be well advised to be patient and uplifting while she sees him grow. If she pays more attention to his character than his words or lack thereof, she may find the man she “always hoped he could be.”

Seeing him grow is not guiding, making, or directing him to grow. If he likes her, he will be affected by her interests and beliefs, including what she knows about his interests and beliefs. The couple will then grow together and individually.


How men have changed

Professionally, I have become primarily a couples counselor/coach. As recently as ten years ago, men came to see me either because they were being dragged into couples therapy by their mates or they had been given an ultimatum to see a therapist or lose her.

Even though young men are often more afraid of relationships than young women, they are much less reluctant to find someone to advise them. It’s now about 50-50, which gender says, “I think we should see someone.” And when they sit down with me, he may say, “I’m not doing this well enough.”

Hallelujah! He’s got himself together emotionally despite the challenges of being the man she wants, which is also the man he wants to be.

This guy knows his mate or girlfriend isn’t perfect, and he knows that she’s right when he’s not manifesting his emotional excellence. But he doesn’t drop into tit-for-tat or sullen silence or angry defensiveness. He knows how to take a breath and ask what she’s getting at and what she wants more of.


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You cannot intentionally hurry this emergence of the emotionally mature man along. Men start adulthood at a disadvantage because the language and emotion regions of the brain mature later in males than in females.

We have to be intentional and active in learning our emotional selves. That takes time and, like a well-formed soufflé, patience, and a degree of quiet.


A message to young men:

She’s not going to tell you this, but you might overhear her saying to a girlfriend, “He’s putting himself together. I think I might love him.”

You cannot be intentional and complacent simultaneously! The woman you want will not wait forever. Yes, she can see your development. She still needs to be loved and cherished and wants you to know HOW to do that without being told. If you haven’t already, learn “The 5 Love Languages”. Identify and communicate in her languages and you will reap the benefits. 

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William "Bill" Meleney is a Washington state-licensed mental health counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, psychotherapist, and life coach. He has 30 years of experience and expertise in helping clients deal with relationships, parenting, and mental health.​