General Dating Questions/emotional distancing

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QUESTION: Hello,

I've begun to notice patterns in the behavior of men that I date but I don't understand and I'm not sure how to have a successful relationship if I can't cross this barrier. Wondering if you can help...?

I know men, relationships and break-ups are all different but the commonalities I see are: emotionally withdrawing when something happens/ I say something that can possibly hurt his ego (this usually is connected with dating other men, or feeling rejection in some sense); breaking up with me and using almost cookie-cutter reasons "we're too different"- yet never mentioning anything about hurt feelings; cutting off all contact soon after and acting as though I nor a connection never even existed.

I've recently become friends with some of my exes from years ago and it's only now that they've opened up and let me in on what they were actually feeling when we broke up. I take things at face value and am beginning to wonder what in the world is wrong with me that I have such drastic differences from most everyone I date.

Anyway, can you help me decipher any of this?

Thank you!
Kathy

ANSWER: Hello Kathy!

Let's begin here: despite all the media hype you constantly see and hear men really aren't allowed to express emotions in the same way women are. You're saying this is a problem with the men "you date" but in fact, it's a problem with "men" - generally.

There are men who actually do let themselves express emotions outwardly but they are usually ostracized by their local peer groups, families, friends and especially women. We learn from a very young age that expressing emotions (especially negative ones) is just not acceptable behavior for men. Thus, we usually don't.

What you're saying about men withdrawing emotionally is partially true but the underlying reasons behind it likely aren't what you think. You think these guys are being evasive and hiding their real intent when in fact, they are just working through their emotions with the only tools they have.

Add to this the fact that you're likely attracted to these guys. They are probably the only guys you date for that reason. While everyone is different you really can classify people in very specific ways. I teach these "ways" to my students as "communication models". Men have them and women have them. Those models dictate a great number of the ways we both interpret and react to our environments. Men who withdraw emotionally are absolutely one of these "types" (among a much broader list of attributes).

There's another thing you need to understand about men. Unlike women, we don't have the same interconnections in our brains that tie our emotions to our speech centers. Bear with me here - I'll keep the science to a minimum - promise.

Women have evolved with a very natural linkage between the ability to feel and the ability to express it via language. For you, it's easy (and actually, mandatory!) to use words to interpret and understand your emotions. Without language you'd actually become very frustrated and would feel emotionally dead.

Men aren't wired that way. In fact, most of us find it extremely difficult, cumbersome and tedious to explain our emotions - or even to react to them - in language. Our brains aren't wired that way and frankly, for very good reasons.

You say to your guy, "Just tell me what you're feeling" and you expect a simple, nonsensical answer. After all, that's a pretty easy question for you. In reality however, for us it's incredibly complicated and energy draining to give you this. What happens is that we have to stop our interaction with you, go "inside" and try to experience the feelings themselves while breaking them out separately (as there are usually a mixture of different emotions). Then, one-by-one, we have to remember the "state" (feeling of the emotion), leave the state, find one or more words to describe it and tell you. Then, we have to go back and pick it up again for the next one and the next one, etc.

Can you see just how emotionally draining that would be?

Again, you think men are being evasive or withholding when in fact, they are simply reacting to you and the situation with the only tools they have. When you constantly badger us to tell you what we're feeling or to have to deal with these complicated emotions and then to "let you in on them" all you're doing is creating frustration for us. We eventually get angry and believe that we just can't take all that pressure. That's when be begin to realize that we're "...just too different" - because you can't understand what we're going through. I'm not talking about the emotions themselves as much as your need for us to be something different for your own security and happiness.

Now, that doesn't mean you're hopelessly lost. There's actually quite a bit you can do to help you guy AND yourself with these things.

Knowing (now) how difficult this is for guys, you'll want to stop asking them such huge questions (to us) like "what are you feeling?". Instead, you can get answers by helping them through those emotions and better connect with them at the same time.

You do this by breaking it down into smaller "chunks". For instance, asking a guy, "Are you feeling angry or frustrated or both right now?" will get you an answer. Asking him how he feels will prevent any answer - at least any answer you can use.

You can continue this with "Are you feeling this way because of things going on outside like work or family?" Then, "How can I help relieve some of this stress?", etc.

Kathy, this may seem a little much to you, but trust me, it's a sure way to build the connection you want to have. Hopefully understanding this will make it easier.

Best regards...

Dr. Dennis W. Neder
CEO/Executive Producer
~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.
BAM! Productions
Remington Publications
323.638.4145
http://beingaman.com
Producers: "BAM! TV" and “Love and Sex”
Publishers: "Being a Man in a Woman's World I, II & III”

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: wow - that could be one of the most useful things I have ever read. seriously. Everything you wrote really clicked and made sense- I just hope I can effectively employ those tools in the future.

I can definitely say that I make the mistake of pushing for more explanation and contact which tends to push them further away after the "too different" conversation. I have my own issues around losing people and it makes me somewhat panic. I have, thankfully, evolved as I've gotten older and am able to better handle those feelings and dont attempt to reach out every time I think of the person- but I still manage to push people away. I'm curious- is there anything I can do at that stage to salvage a relationship or friendship? The only thing I know to do is the leave him alone- and a lot of the time, eventually, he will come around- not necessarily to date again, but simply open the lines of communication. -Or, is that, typically, the point of no return where i should just accept i f***ed up?

Thanks again!

ANSWER: Hello again Kathy!

You're very welcome.

You know when you're feeling sad or angry or insecure? You don't want your guy to jump in and try to solve whatever caused the feelings, right? Guys don't either. What we DO want however is support and consideration. We want to know that the feelings are valid. That's particularly difficult when we've grown up being told that whether they are or are not doesn't matter. We aren't supposed to react to them regardless.

I'm not saying that you try to get these guys to react. Don't do that. It'll backfire on you. Instead, being the one person in their lives telling them that it's ok to feel however they do - and to choose to react however they will - really makes you stand out.

If a guy seems to be withdrawn from you, the point isn't to try to needle your way in. It's very likely not to be all about you! Instead, you want to be supportive of him wherever he is. Sometimes just saying "I care how you feel and support you" can be enough. If he really gets the sense that you do he's far more likely to want to open up to you and get your feedback.

Now, here's a huge caution: DO NOT turn around and use that against him! I've seen many women do this only to find out that yes; the guy really DOES have feelings and then to see him as weak, joke about it or "out him" to friends and family. You'll lose that guy permanently.

It's better to be connected and caring but to realize it's a sacred trust to him.

To do that however you have to start that way. He's not going to buy that you're supportive "all of a sudden". Using a combination of understanding (how men think) and the consideration of value in it from the very beginning will get you what you want. Trying to clean up the mess later is going to get you nothing but a brick wall.

Best regards...

Dr. Dennis W. Neder
CEO/Executive Producer
~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.
BAM! Productions
Remington Publications
323.638.4145
http://beingaman.com
Producers: "BAM! TV" and “Love and Sex”
Publishers: "Being a Man in a Woman's World I, II & III”


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: You're going to think I'm completely crazy (I am, but...)- do you do any kind of coaching (yes, I'm that lacking that I need it) or consultations or...? I don't want to take advantage of you or allexperts and feel like at this point I should be paying and there's so much more I want to know... Something about what you're saying resonates with me- like I've had a lot of the pieces but you're giving me the missing ones so that things make sense now.


Thank you again, Kathy.

Answer
Hey Kathy!

Absolutely - coaching/counseling is the core of my practice. I appreciate that you want this directly level of help. Too many people try to do "progressives" where they come rushing back here saying, "Oh, he said [...] What do I do now?"

Obviously, there's very little I can do for that person at this level.

You can get telephone coaching help via my website here: http://www.beingaman.com/Products.aspx?type=5

For the first session I recommend you get two hours. That way we can cover your background, goals, general information and layout a specific plan to get you to where you want to go.

Best regards...

Dr. Dennis W. Neder
CEO/Executive Producer
~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.
BAM! Productions
Remington Publications
323.638.4145
http://beingaman.com
Producers: "BAM! TV" and “Love and Sex”
Publishers: "Being a Man in a Woman's World I, II & III”

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Dr. Dennis W. Neder

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I'm able to answer any sort of question related to the approach, meeting people, dating, sex, relationships, break-ups, non-legal marriage and divorce questions, and anything in between. I've helped over 30,000 people with their individual issues. IMPORTANT: Please, PLEASE don't ask me, "what was he thinking..." or "why did he say..." types of questions! I DO NOT READ MINDS! There are 1,001 reasons why someone does what they do, says what they say or thinks what they think. If you *REALLY* want to know what they were thinking, saying or why they were acting that way - go ask them! Be sure to check out my FAQ's on my website at: http://beingaman.com. You can email me directly at: dwneder@beingaman.com.

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I am the author of the books "Being a Man in a Woman`s World I & II" and "1001 Places and Techniques to Meet Great Women" and 11 others. I`ve spent the last 20 years studying the art and science of every aspect of relationships, and have answered over 30,000 letters from readers all over the world. My main focus is men`s relationships with women, but I also have many female readers and answer questions for them regularly as well.

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Doctor of Philosophy

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