Why Men Withdraw Emotionally.

Via on Feb 3, 2014

Basement Series: Sadness

In a relationship, having your partner withdraw at an emotional level can bring confusion, pain and frustration.

Women who relate to men that do this are often bewildered by why and how this happens.

Speaking as a man, and one who considers himself sensitive and emotionally available, there are particular situations and scenarios that cause me to withdraw. And I imagine that other men, regardless of how in-tune they are with their emotional nature, would respond in similar ways.

Just because a man withdraws does not mean he is withdrawing from you.

First, I just wanted to express that when a man seeks solace or withdraws from a conversation, it probably has nothing to do with the beloved. It has more to do with the emotional intensity and confusion around emotions than with any particular person. It just takes men more time to integrate and understand the watery realm of emotions. And understanding emotions isn’t something that happens for us spontaneously in the midst of a heated discussion.

We need space and time to figure out what is happening, both within our own self and with our beloved.

Men have been discouraged from feeling emotional. We have been mocked, attacked, and belittled when showing emotions. Big boys don’t cry, toughen up, and bite the bullet are all phrases men grow up with. So when we are faced with emotional situations, we are total novices.

don draper

The biggest harm that is not recognized or appreciated for the depth of damage that it causes at the emotional level to a man is that men are expected to be tough, to protect, and kill to defend their family. Violence, and the expectation of violence, mandates an absence of emotional sensitivity.

It is a double standard to expect a man to be emotionally available and to have him be able to harm another human being.

Have compassion and understand the kind of conundrum that a man faces when being emotional vulnerable and awakening to deeper sensitivities. It is rare enough to find a man who wants to delve within and unleash his inner passion. It doesn’t mean that he is going to be masterful at it. For men to be comfortable in their own skin and accept their feeling nature takes a growth curve.

A woman has a lifetime of experience navigating the oceanic tides of emotional states.

Women grow up with emotional states and are accepted as sensitive, feeling beings. She is able to observe, feel, recognize and better communicate her feelings than a man. Women are also adept at observing and recognizing the emotional states in other people. And when a woman finds a man who loves her, at some level, she feels a great deal of hope because she has found an emotional match, somebody who understands those hidden tides and influences.

Women will share all their heart and feelings, and not understand how this can impact a man. And when a man doesn’t respond as she needs, the feelings of being hurt or misunderstood arise. How those feelings are expressed matter a great deal.

The best men want an intimate connection with women, and often don’t know how to do that.

Men don’t fall short in the emotional realm because we are emotionally immature. We are emotionally inexperienced. Men face expectations and pressure about emotions that are confusing and contradictory. And when we find a woman who loves us and we love in return, it brings to life a living fire that had been suppressed for a lifetime. Yet fires burn, and the burgeoning sensitivities is akin to a child learning to walk. We fall down, we make blunders, and we are blind as to how to listen and communicate our emotions.

Men experience a learning curve when awakening to their deepest sensitivities.

And just as any beginner, they make mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes are colossal, and sometimes laughable. Men need an emotional example, how to be live with and operate with emotions in a healthy way. We also need to be accepted as we are, beginners with beautiful intention. To demand for a man to have the mastery over their emotions is an outrageous expectation. For most men, mastery over emotions means suppressing them, hiding feelings behind a mask of stoicism, or just turning off the emotions entirely. It takes time to even identify the subtle emotions, let alone to know how they function and their influence on our own self and those around us.

Any teacher knows that mocking a beginner or putting them down, criticizing them or their approach, will stunt the learning curve, if not completely stopping it.

The beloved woman becomes that guide into the mysterious realms of feeling emotions. When she expresses anger, puts down her man, belittles or mocks him, a man feels attacked. When she demands him to be sensitive, a man feels not good enough.

And when a man faces a womans wrath he will respond in the ways he has been taught to feel emotions since early childhood ; with anger. Anger is one of the few emotions accepted in men because it is a necessary emotion to be a soldier-killer. Anger is a natural defensive response for men. And once we become angry with our beloved, there is a host of problems that arise afterwards. Guilt, shame, inadequacy, failure, and fear. These siblings to anger are inevitable when fury shows its face, especially when we know that our loved one has been hurt as a result of our anger.

The words spoken in anger harm the recipient and the speaker.

It takes time for a man to feel comfortable feeling emotions. After all, such a man is challenging the tenets and pressure of an entire society and its deeply ingrained training.

A man’s natural response when hurt or confused is to withdraw. Almost everybody knows about the masculine need to retreat to the cave. And whether this is physical space, or mental space, or even silence, the cave is an essential healing tool for the manly mind. The cave allows integration of the experience, introspection to see what is happening within, and understanding to know how to better respond in the future.

Women set the example and emotional tone that allows their partner to feel safe.

When a man faces a woman who is emotionally stable, it allows him to understand his own emotions. The depth of understanding that the woman has with herself and her own emotional nature will give him the security to express and unveil his own strengths. The woman who is emotionally secure brings a presence of emotional security to the relationship. A well meaning man will appreciate this and do his best, and grow faster and reveal the depths of his spirit with increasing strength and confidence.

Granted, the ideal is that a man can figure out his emotional state and come into his own emotional maturity through his own self-generated willpower. Yet the reality is that teachers, guides and mentors accelerate this process and help a person navigate the confusing and mysterious realms of emotions. There are a great many pitfalls and bewildering mirages when it comes to the shifting sands of sensitivities. And as man learns his emotional state, he is also facing the additional challenges from his friends, family, and world that challenges that awakening at every step.

The woman who is insecure with her own emotions will see a man who withdraws as a threat and denigrate him and go on the attack. This is the antithesis of supportive behavior.

She may not realize that he is a man who is brave beyond measure to face his own soul and bare his spirit with vulnerable trust. When a man doesn’t respond as she needs and demands at the emotional level, lashing out will only cause harm. Gentle understanding and compassionate acceptance brings healing and deepens the relationship. One of the best qualities women have is the ability to nurture.

Nurturing is not aggressive. And with a man, directing aggression at him will generate an aggressive response. He will either fight or run. The flight or fight response is deeply ingrained into every human being. In essence, attacking a man who is opening his heart will trigger a survival level instinct. Once that survival level power fully awakens in relationship, the dynamics in the relationship changes and may never come back to equilibrium.

Nurturing is not forceful, instead it is accepting and allows for a natural growth curve. Be patient.

Just as a tree takes time to come into its fullness and blossom, a man who is learning to embrace his deeper truths will need time to fully ripen into his potential.

Appreciate the men who take the time to stand up against society to discover, feel, live and unleash their sensitive side. It takes a lion’s heart full of courage to face down societal expectations and programmed beliefs. Give him gratitude, honor his spirit, thank him for being available with his sensitivity in ANY way that he is able.

Such a person is one of a kind, a warrior in the truest meaning of the word.


Relephant reads:

Men Need Touch Too. 

Men—Stop Going to Women for All of your Emotional Support.

Men Have Feelings, Too.

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: elephant archives

About Keith Artisan

Keith Artisan is merely a human being, not to different yet certainly not the same as anyone else. He found himself on this planet many years ago and enjoys exploring the mystery of life because it makes him laugh a lot. Keith loves earning a living with his talents as a musician, artist, writer, and yoga instructor. He is most frequently found at music jams and the rest of the time exploring nature, climbing boulders, playing video games, reading, and hanging out with family and friends. He is online at Facebook and his website, Living Artisan .


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73 Responses to “Why Men Withdraw Emotionally.”

  1. Carla Colwell Cook says:

    One of the best and enlightening articles I’ve ever read. Thank you for sharing. It helps me to remember this so that I can interact with compassion, acceptance and understanding.

  2. Eric says:

    Check out something called "Alkuajatus – The Original Thought", it helped me a lot. I was emotionally stuck and couldn't find my way out of it, but Alkuajatus is like a map to clarity. There is a free download eBook called "The True Self" at Alkuajatus website, I can warmly recommend it to everyone.

  3. bholdsworth7 says:

    This is a great article that defines the challenges men face in expressing feelings. By talking about this with other men you can get the support needed to expand your awareness and ability to express your inner self. Thank you for sharing – I hope this gets shared to let men (and women) know that it takes courage. My own experience has deepened based on on participating in a local men's group.

  4. Bonanza says:

    Thank you. Just thank you.

  5. Emily Alp emilyalp says:

    This is a good article and good perspective. However, I want to add something in the name of caution. Many women DO nurture, DO have patience, DO give and show compassion, DO feature stability. But before we do this, we deserve to know if the man is truly of good intentions with us. Some men are also weak in character. These men will find a way to be ambiguous in terms of expressing emotions and consciously or unconsciously use this posture to keep a woman in a 'giving, waiting, patient' mode.

    We may be emotionally stable before we meet men like this, but a relationship is a close dance in which energies can shift and security and stability are a bit more subject to that circumstance. I've been with men who inspire deep levels of security within me and those who gradually eat away at my sense of it and my self esteem with their own insecurities and a mastery of how to bring a woman down to their level just because she finds him attractive–feeding that attraction line and starving her of any sense of her own alluring qualities.

    I just finished 11 months with one such person. That person has trouble expressing himself and even feeling, in general, according to my (increasingly hindsight) observation. When he did show progress on these fronts, I was very supportive and compassionate. When he was slower or reticent, I was patient and understanding. But when I finally asked, please, can I know how you feel, he flipped it on me to express myself more and remained a locked vault. I walked away explaining that the scale was too off and I was feeling belittled. He reeled me back in months later and the same dynamic ensued. When I pulled away again and more certainly, he REALLY expressed how he felt: nothing in the first place. I had just been a tool and he was QUITE a good actor.

    I get what you are saying. But I caution women: we already are programmed to nurture quite a bit and sooner or later a man has to man up and say: I feel this way or I feel another way and either move forward or let you go. To not know and to drag someone along and directly or indirectly use this 'emotionally inexperienced' excuse, well, it's tricky, trickery, selfish and, at one point, abusive. In the end, I literally said my prayers, saw the writing on the wall and cut the guy all the way off (no yelling, no putting down, no blaming, no name calling–just block, block, erase, block, lock, gone).

    • Keith Artisan LivingArtisan says:

      Ah Emily, great feedback and I totally agree. Perhaps I'll write a follow-up on how this dynamic works.

      I would make the distinction between men who are emotionally inexperienced, and men who are emotionally immature.

      The inexperienced man wants to go deeper, work with their emotions, and makes strides and efforts to understand and master their emotions. This kind of relationship dynamic can improve and richen.

      The immature man couldn't care less ; will not listen, will not grow, and can cause a great deal of harm. Tolerating this kind of behavior only prolongs the agony.

      It comes down to personal responsibility, the first type of man will accept and embrace, taking action ; the second time will be blind and be neglectful.

      The feelings of nothing are a numbness that happens in states of overwhelm ; and at that point there is a great deal of work for the man to do where he has to face himself and go within. No amount of love, nurturing or support from his beloved can help ; the disconnect is internal and can only be taken care of with deep introspection.

      Sorry to hear that you were hurt ; I hope that you feel better.

    • Sarah Najjar says:

      Thank you Emily. I completely agree. This really needed to be said !!!!

    • Yukiko says:


      Beautiful article and i read your response to the article. I can't express how i agree. I too was with an emotionally immature individual who expressed he loved me, but in essence his manly urges took the best of him and would rather see the goods than establish something concrete. When I refused he ran away, disappeared and became the macho alpha male that his friends look up to. I know his secrets, and his fears and i know how deeply rooted his issues go. For this reason i TRY not to think it is me.

    • Ac1 says:

      Emily brilliant !!! I spent 20 years of being patient with someone who is great with animals and relaxed but weak and selfish . Patience and nurturing was a daily challenge when they don't feed your soul!

    • Zzz says:

      I know women do something like this… it is not wrong at all assuming it is 100% the way u perceive it to be…. but sometimes it is not… in fact sometimes women become very emotional and overcommit when in fact they cannot handle some1 like that…
      Like this guy mentioned I was a very sensitive person who was trained to supress emotions. I had wanted a sister all my life but was without siblings or even female cousins… when I was doing my PhD I met a girl who I thought was a perfect little sister. She e1 called me a brother hugged me.. I made all the stuff I wanted to make in childhood….etc. etc. we risked a lot when time came…just for each other….. I never knew there was so much love inside me…. But as i discovered my sensitivity suddenly…. I also strated getting hurt easily…. and then she found it increasingly hard to deal with me…. I had no real friends at hand at that time(new to institute) so it became worse….

      when she failed deal with this….then she just cut me off … perfectly reasonable since she has her own life…. but this resulted in me almost commiting suicide…
      In our country sisters tie a thread on the wrists of brothers… when my sister-in-law did so and she somehow understood it…. she suddenly came back to me with a torrent of apologies…. I am always a nice guy and immediately forgave her….. next day she cut me off again….. I think if she had to cut me off she should have done so without coming back….. anyway I love her truly and deeply still and I feel like expressing it and now she is gone -_-…. nvm … sad for her (raspberry)
      But…. positive side… I am so close to my family now and I can respond to their love with love from my side…. and they are so happy now…so much better
      And I know the solution to my pain… I will give all the love that's bottled up for my little sister to a little daughter… i f i don't have one I will adopt a baby.
      There's no way I am entering into any friendship soon… but I know I got to be strong for my daughter's sake….
      Relations are real complicated!!

    • Sunnysky says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, I'm going through something similar and trying to find the best way to quit and I agree with so done below who says that it is better to delete delete delete. There is no words with which I can express to him how I feel because if he has not listened after almost 11 months he will not do it when I say goodbye. Thanks to the author and to everyone. I long to find that relationship when the man will appreciate my patience and my nurturing self. Cheers to everyone!

  6. Emily Alp emilyalp says:

    Thank you for hearing me out. Yeah, I was hurt but a full life embraces both hurt and pleasure as part of learning and growth. So I know, big picture, I've learned a lot and I was the one who gave, so what have I really lost? I have learned. Thank you for your addendum here–it's key I think … men and women are truly different and have SO much to teach each other. This whole conversation excites me more than anything and so I'm glad you see where I'm coming from: not to bash what you are saying at all but to clarify based on what you are already very aware of, judging by your response.

    I already do feel better–it's a ferris wheel and age grants us a chance to get closer and closer to the center of it so we can eventually just merrily run along ;)

    • Keith Artisan LivingArtisan says:

      Emily, I think that your type of response helps all of us men and women move forward to greater depths of comprehension.

      Its my opinion that you set a great example for how to dialogue and express your emotions and experiences.

      Some of the women who have responded in the comments on facebook have been derogatory and mean-spirited. And those kinds of comments do nothing to further the cause of improving relationship between the sexes.

      Its my opinion that this is a very important topic, and a very sensitive one. All the men who have responded have been grateful and appreciative for this article.

      It goes to show that men have a really difficult time identifying, and then expressing these subtle aspects. Even with the best of intentions we fall short and have a big learning curve to go through.

      And I am glad to hear that you feel better. :)

    • Larissa says:

      Thank you Emily for sharing your thoughts on this matter, I couldn’t agree more with you. And thank you Keith for this great article and for your responses.

      I’m living right now this kind of situation and although I try to be patient and supportive it’s been difficult. I’m really focused on being that supportive woman because I think this is the way it should be and I’m really willing to learn something from the situation.

      But the most difficult to me is to perceive when it is a matter of inexperiency or of immaturity. In my case I think it’s the first, but sometimes I think he just uses the inexperiency as an excuse and abuses of the situation. I’m trying to be supportive but he is passing over me and this is not fair.

      This is such a difficult issue! Thank you so much for the comments and Keith for the article.

  7. VickyJ says:

    I loved this article, but you left out one VERY important influence and THE teacher in a mans life, and if she was a good one then the mans emotional awakening may not be as traumatic, his mother. How he was raised can determine his out look on emotion and connection to others. Granted the relationship is very different, but still vitally important to how emotions are expressed later in life.

    • Maryin says:

      Agree Vicky – if a man's mother is not safe to talk to then how can he feel safe to talk to his partner? When a mother demands a young and sensitive boy to 'man up' all the time, then when will he even get a chance to express how he feels. If his mother did not do enough nurturing, how can he trust the nurturing of his female partner.

      We are told that men are the protectors and so cannot feel. How can he protect me if he cannot feel? For a women it is as though he does not feel but he feels in a totally different way. I have seen women being fiercely protected because of the feelings men have about her safety – a man's natural and anthropological hard wiring is to ensure his partner and children's safety. It's set up that way and though in this modern day and age the whole thing looks archaic, it is to ensure continuance of the species.

      When a woman wants a man to understand her and she wants to know what he is feeling then she needs perhaps to look at what is going on for her. This is her requirement because her closest ally was in all probability her mother who would spend time talking about feelings. That, or she has never been given the opportunity to be heard and understood or given the life lesson to hear and understand herself without needing validation. Sure it would be nice to have a man tell you what his true emotions are but to tell you the honest truth I don't want a wimp around full time. When a man cries it is the most alarming experience for a woman if you are not prepared for it. I sense also that if he does cry, it's a betrayal to his sense of being male – he must be tough. And not necessarily because he is 'a man' but because his very essence is about being strong and courageous.

      I would say that when you allow a man to be who he is, he will appreciate it and walk into a woman's heart knowing he is acceptable and appreciated for his way of being. When I have attracted men who cannot say they how they feel it is because I had stuff I wanted to impart and it was about me, not them. Truly, we bring to ourselves that which we most need to learn. My father was passive and withdrawn and when I knew why, it was understandable. His Mother died when he was 10 years of age and he had no true parental models as his father had to leave him with resentful aunts and women who were assigned the task of caring for a young boy when they could hardly take care of themselves. My handsome 6 foot 6 father had feelings. Deep feelings. Unknowingly my mother would want him to express his innermost which only created more withdrawal.It made her frantic and arguments ensued. I learned this pattern, and until I unlearned it, I kept attracting passive and withdrawn male partners.

  8. Emily Alp emilyalp says:

    For the record, I realize (and encourage other women asap to realize for their own good) that, as a woman, I have a long learning curve, too! Learning how to temper emotions and use the more powerful aspects of my femininity in a way that you describe (minus immediate gratification and plus a much deeper satisfaction in knowing I am helping someone else, loving someone else in a way that goes beyond codependency). Thank you for an article that forwards this idea. Lots of shifts in gender roles can complicate this, but it's really great you are bringing this fundamental notion of emotions and expression to light. Okay, I'll let you get on with your life now!! :D

  9. jennifer says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I do wonder if it is more of a societal human issue rather than just a male issue; as a woman I have felt that society also tells me not to show emotion because it makes me appear weak and vulnerable. And in fact it seems to me that strong men are given permission to express their vulnerability more. Of course the key there is that they have to have already proven themselves to be "strong" to get to that point, and that is another paradox.

    At any rate; a thought-provoking and appreciated piece. Thank you.

    • Keith Artisan LivingArtisan says:

      Jennifer, I agree with you ; and do think it is more of a societal issue. Yet there does seem to be the idea that women are more emotional than men, and for women to express there emotions is more permissible. And the paradox of strong men and strong women is another valid point ; thank you.

  10. Shea says:

    Great writing, but please please stop propagating myths about women. Your assertions that women tap into emotions more so than men is false, as women are perceived and trained this way. We can pat you on the back for being graceful about the topic, but you are doing the same thing. Please don't be one more man who makes assumptions about women and their emotional state!!!! Think about that, please, no matter how nice you are in perpetuating it. As a woman, I'm so tired of that.

    • Keith Artisan LivingArtisan says:

      Every woman I know has explained their emotional nature and how they work with it and express it. Perhaps its just common in the circle of people with whom I communicate ; artists, musicians, writers, spiritually minded, nature loving, dance and adventurous types. That could definitely give me a skewed perception.

      Yet I do hold that there is a societal portrayal of women as being more emotional, sensitive people in general … though, I completely agree that women are also shut-down emotionally in our modern world and that we all have a lot to remember about being authentic.

    • John H says:

      Shea, while it is true we are socialized into traditional male/female roles, if you watch young children you will observe there are intrinsic differences between female and male childrens' behaviors beyond our social training. We naturally embody yin/yang energy (receptive/assertive) and, yes, male children tend to be more assertive and females more internalized and receptive. These innate tendencies have been incorporated into our social fabric and heightened to ensure survival in harsher times. Keith has brought up the very valid point that men, both due to biology and psychology have a handicap to overcome when dealing with emotional issues. Keith's call for compassion and patience is realistic and sincere in bridging the gap between natural gender energetic differences and vive la différence!

      • Maryin says:

        Yes, let's celebrate the difference as it is a way to learn Who We Are within a relationship situation and we get there faster when we acknowledge what our requirement is of ourselves rather than what we wish for from our partner.

  11. Kim says:

    This is a really interesting perspective. The fight or flight is universal to both sexes. I spent a lot of time wondering what I could have done differently, how I could have nurtured more. Lots of therapy etc both couples and singular. When there's narcissistic tendencies and lies, I don't know if you can really tip the balance. I'm working on forgiving myself and opening my heart to the future. Violence is never ok.

  12. Monika Wittig says:

    Amazingly insightful… thanks!

  13. Owl says:

    I am reticent to give this article carte blanche on the architecture of men's emotional world. I do echo some of Emily's sentiments but also think there is a pointed emphasis on men getting a free pass on accountability. Certainly there is some socialization at play in American society that teaches boys or men not to emote. However, girls and young women are not particularly trained or socialized to be in touch with their emotions or how to express them effectively. There is an assumption made that we almost have a kind of psychic ability to detect others emotions and our own that is simply unfair and inaccurate. Further, the statement "The depth of understanding that the woman has with herself and her own emotional nature will give him the security to express and unveil his own strengths." is like the female emotional Unicorn. As a result, an unfair expectation is established that women will shoulder the burden of communication as it relates to sharing and expressing emotions. The only persons behavior you can control is your own. Men and women need to take responsibility for their emotional development and desire to connect with the opposite sex. Assuming a woman is going to provide a virtual emotional womb for which you can grow etc. is placing an unfair responsibility on another person for your emotions and perhaps outsourcing blame and accountability. I think perhaps a follow up article about how men can open up emotionally or test the waters might be prudent. As a side note, I think that in order to echo Emliy's sentiment (if I am interpreting correctly) we do have to take into account what men or a particular man wants. Overall, I think men and women have been socialized to treat each other like transactions. Due to social media and online dating we find the quickest way possible to get the product that we desire, ergo sex, financial support etc. I think this overarching theme impacts the sexes desire or pursuit of intimacy. Why make the effort to be emotionally vulnerable and perhaps feel pain and take risk when you can get all the other "stuff" by simply logging on throwing out some compliments and voila! I think children growing up today are being socialized to not even have a solid understanding or feeling of intimacy. Without a frame of reference or knowledge that intimacy is possible nobody can get what they want or need.

    • Keith Artisan LivingArtisan says:

      No ; it isn't a carte blanche pass for men and their emotions ; it is a call for understanding.

    • Larissa says:

      Owl I agree with you specially when you say “Men and women need to take responsibility for their emotional development and desire to connect with the opposite sex.”.

      In the situation I’m living right now I perceive that sometimes he seeks his development but sometimes he just assumes that’s the way he is and accountability is done. And I carry the burdens.

      I’m really trying to be supportive and to understand his reasons but when the situations is passing over us it is difficult.

  14. Penelope Sell says:

    Loved the dialogue between Emily and Living Artisan – very important and real – thank you guys and a great article to get talking about this.

  15. Lisa says:

    I am just now coming into this knowledge. In my relationship, I try to maintain stable support for him. He has a very stressful occupation and everyone in his life before I came alone saw him as the rock, so he was depended on to handle every situation. He assumed this toll with me in the beginning because it was what he knew.

    But life has a way of throwing curve balls, so he was taken out of his element by circumstances beyond his control and I had to assume his role with his family and colleagues. He was injured in an accident and in a coma for almost a month. When he awakened and found that things weren’t as far out of place as he expected, he realized that I was someone he could share his weakness with and feel safe doing so.

    Our relationship has grown to such depth now that we weathered that storm. There is a calm now that we never knew before. He is comfortable showing his emotions to me and I am completely relaxed and sure that we have a true and solid connection. In a way, that tragedy made us grow into what each of us needed from the other. Now neither of us can see our lives without the other in it. We have what each of us dreamed of as a true and solid relationship and we are each thankful for our blessings.

  16. Interesting article, but yet again the woman is being made responsible for a man's behavior. While I appreciate that we can have an effect on a man's ability to open up, this isn't a one-way street. It isn't up to a woman to create an environment for the man to come into his own emotions! It is up to the couple, together, to create this. Women have their own societal pressures to live up to, one being the idea that we must always be "nurturers" and never express anger, frustration, or anything deemed "negative". How often do women get labeled as "too emotional" when we do? Men and women alike fair better when they are patient and understanding with each other, including during those times when are patience is tested, we've had a bad day, or upset with our partner.

    • Keith Artisan LivingArtisan says:

      No, the woman is not being made responsible for the man's emotions ; she is being asked to be present and honor and own her own emotional state.

  17. Victoria says:

    So insightful, honest, and realistic! Thank you and please keep writing and sharing things on how the male brain works.

  18. Thank you for this perspective. I have a very sensitive, soulful brother and even after being raised with him, I still forget how tender men can be. It is valuable to consider this in my communications with men, especially when it's time to deliver feedback.

    However, like many others, I am troubled by the initial impression I gleaned from this piece- that the onus is on the female partner to provide the male partner's emotional education and container. That is a great burden to put on one person. Maturing into an emotionally stable, intelligent human being did not come naturally by virtue of my gender. I had to do a lot of conscious work, seeking out the professional guidance of healers and teachers of all kinds. Yes, it is more socially acceptable for me to display emotion, but there is no inherent emotional education. We each have to seek that out on our own. We teach each other so much in partnership, but our role is not teacher, our roles are equally supportive, loving partners. We ought to come together to offer our richness to one another, not to have one person fill the deep, fundamental need of another while being offered little in return. This is codependency.

    But I get it. In an *ideal* world, the man is sincerely working towards his own emotionally intelligent excellence and this is good insight for his female partner to support him in that. The trouble is, far too many women stick around in unfulfilling relationships because they've been programmed to believe that it's their role to nurture and heal. Some men do lack good character, some relationships are codependent, and while this article isn't about them, you run the risk of fanning the flame in the minds of women who already think, "If I can only find the right thing to do or say, it will make everything right." It's not anyone else's job to heal our minds and hearts except the people we pay to help us in this endeavor. And sometimes the only "right" thing to do in a relationship is to leave.

    My favorite article from last week, If I Can't Accept You at Your Worst, Then Maybe You Should Stop Being So Horrible: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matt-walsh/if-i-can

    We could all stand to gain a better emotional education and mastery of healthy communication. We all have work to do, and we're each responsible for our own personal development. Do your own work and offer your partner your richness, not your need.

    • Keith Artisan LivingArtisan says:

      I am sorry for giving the impression that the burden of responsibility is on the woman ; that is not at all what I was trying to communicate.

  19. Mitch says:

    "It takes a lion’s heart full of courage to face down societal expectations and programmed beliefs."

    -hear, hear! for anyone!

  20. DomesticGoddess says:

    Your article seems to be written with the best intentions, but these are generalizations (which, as stereotypes, hold some truth, but have too many contradictions to be taken objectively). Growing up in the care of my [pissed-off-to-hell] hard-working and stressed out single mother, I was certainly not encouraged to show weakness or femininity. It took years of growing into my own person and plenty of hard work to come to grips with my own emotionality (as well as that of others) and to embrace my feminine side. If you would have omitted the sexist stuff, I could probably agree with you entirely.

  21. @RYIlovelife says:

    This is a very interesting article and while I agree (and applaud) much of it, there are a few things I would like to suggest.

    First, I don't believe this is just a “man's issue.” I am a woman who was raised to be strong, fearless, and independent. Life on a farm meant you ignored both physical and emotional pain and did whatever you had to do to get the work done. While this creates a strong work ethic, responsibility, determination and other desired characteristics, it also has a detrimental affect on our ability to quickly process those emotions that we have spent a lifetime learning to ignore. I believe this is the same message that men receive from our society throughout their lives. My point is I believe this is a learned behavior that is completely non-gender based.

    Second, I believe everyone wants an intimate connection, not just the “best men,” but all men… and all women. If sex were only about orgasm, no one would have sex with another person. We seek intimacy (emotional and physical) because what we really want is to experience that human connection. It is an inherent part of the human condition, to be loved and accepted. It lies as the core of all our behavior.

    Which brings me to my third point. Love is the foundation on which all human behavior is built. Every behavior we engage in, if microscopically explored, can be traced back to love; a desire to be loved and accepted, a fear of losing love or being rejected. We are social creatures and our survival depends on it. Once we realize this, it becomes much easier to see a previously hurtful or threatening behavior as a cry to be loved and accepted. The same holds true for “The woman who is insecure with her own emotions will see a man who withdraws as a threat and denigrate him and go on the attack.” (except for the “woman” part). Experience has shown me that anyone who is insecure and fearful of rejection can turn their fear into rage, anger, and even violence.

    If I were to read this without a gender reference, I would say you hit the nail right on the head! Thanks for a great article!

  22. Kim says:

    Sometimes men…..and women……withdraw emotionally because they are preparing to leave and end a relationship. Relationships do end, usually because one partner or another wants it to end. And emotional withdrawal is always a precursor.

  23. ellen says:

    this article brings out feelings of anger in me… interesting when that is exactly what a vulnerable author writing about nurturing emotion would not want (or avoid) ! I

    Let me approve: I liked this: " The reality is that teachers, guides and mentors accelerate this process and helps a person navigate the confusing and mysterious realms of emotions." Seems about true in my experience.

    It is my opinion that an end/ed/ing relationship can be a good/painful/wrenching teacher – reactions of withdrawl and anger at that withdrawl – if they are what that person is feeling can be welcomed! Held in loving kindness. If a woman is insecure – like most people are – its legit! You unveil that men learning about their emotions are insecure. that makes me feel happy. It is likely my own lens of judgement that sorts the words 'insecure' and 'unsupportive' into the 'bad' category and 'secure' and 'nurturing' as 'good.' Thats the part that twists my insides. Perhaps because this was the cultural imprint left on me 'cus of my lady parts. Culturally I would like some maitri balm for this conundrum. it'sok to feel what you feel even if its angry and you are of woman type or angry + anything other than angry if you are of man type. Thanks for sparking the discussion in me!

    • Keith Artisan LivingArtisan says:

      I can face anger, and have faced some amazing rage in my life ; I think that women have been mistreated by men for generations and anger is to be expected.

      It's my belief that the man who is awakening on an emotional level will accept, embrace and likewise nurture a woman emotionally … the self-healing happens through allowing and being present as the other heals.

      Forgive me for not communicating that very well.

  24. David says:

    Thank You :)

  25. Thanks for writing this! I didn't always understand it, but now I really respect and value the fact that the men I know do this for themselves. I think it also is true not just in the male/female realm of things, but also introverts/extroverts. I know I often need to withdraw for a bit to process things that are intense. Maybe that's why I don't take it personally when others do it.

    • Keith Artisan LivingArtisan says:

      Thanks Kate, I really appreciate the perspective that it also occurs with introverts / extroverts. That is very true. It also causes me to think that people of various depths of sensitivity will respond differently. Always appreciate your insights.

  26. falconbrother says:

    "It is a double standard to expect a man to be emotionally available and to have him be able to harm another human being."
    So frikkin true. Thanks.
    Although I feel like there is no "one size fits all" I do think you got the crux of the issue. I was much worse when I was young. As I get older I withdraw less. I think it's because I believe more in the now and less in the yesterday or tomorrow. My identity is less attached to outside influence and more to what I experience every morning in meditation.

  27. Elie C. says:

    ". . . men are expected to be tough, to protect, and kill to defend their family. Violence, and the expectation of violence, mandates an absence of emotional sensitivity. It is a double standard to expect a man to be emotionally available and to have him be able to harm another human being."

    I agree that expecting and valuing certain emotions and not others is harmful—people should be able to express all of their emotions freely. (Yes, in an ideal world.)
    But I don't agree that violence and emotional sensitivity can't both exist in a person. Violence is a necessary part of us—we need to be able to defend ourselves. I'm a very sensitive, emotion-based person. But if someone were to threaten me, my family or my friends, I would be prepared to clonk them if need be. (Thank you, boxing classes.) The two qualities—emotional sensitivity and the ability to become violent if need be—can and do exist in people. In fact, I think that the more emotionally aware people are, the more judiciously they employ violence. Let's not allow emotions to fall into the either/or trap.

  28. Amy says:

    I completely agree with @RYilovelife. There are some women who have worked in a traditionally male profession where expressing emotion is suppressed and discouraged. Anger is an acceptable emotion, which is immediately forgotten. No one carries a grudge. Many self assured, confident, successful women get turned upside down and confused when dealing with an emotional man. I agree that, if this article was gender neutral, it would be more reflective of the human response to complicated emotional situations.

    • Keith Artisan LivingArtisan says:

      Thank you for sharing, and I agree with you on all points.

      However, it was about men and masculine emotions. There is no way to be gender neutral about that.

    • gigi says:

      I am sent this article from the man I am seperated from with only the comment that it was true for him, which part I am not sure. My challenge is that he has complexPTSD after 20+yrs with a Boarder Line Personality Disorder wife, a mom who lacked nuture and a demanding religious father. While I am an encouraging nurturing person by nature, the emotional cost to support this man through his challenges proved too costly. I appreciate the article and ensuing comments, many thought provoking ideas/insights. My heart bleeds for the damage to his heart and soul yet I felt he needs more than I can ever give for him to heal. I am curious LivingArtisan what your take on this type of situation would be.

  29. Nathan says:

    Or, maybe women are emotional wrecks who need a strong stable man to be a shoulder to cry on when their hormones get the better of them. Please… stop with the generalizations. Men aren't emotional beginners, we've had them just as long as women have, and just because we tend to deal with them in different ways doesn't mean we're doing it wrong. We're not trained to be "soldier-killers" from youth. We don't need a strong woman to guide us through our confusing emotional journey. I have been on the receiving end of emotionally over-wrought women just as often as I've withdrawn to sort out my own feelings or blurted out something hurtful in an argument. Your advice implies a condescension that is not helpful.

    • Keith Artisan LivingArtisan says:

      Nathan, then you are fortunate to have grown up in a completely different way than a great deal of men in our culture. You do watch television, see the news, observe the violence and rape culture that happens, right ? Emotionally awakened men don't do those types of things.

      And yes, I have also been on the receiving end of emotionally distraught women ; what I present is an ideal.

      I'd ask you to consider why the concepts and ideal presented here triggers you to such a depth.

    • Tyler says:

      Word! Exactly my feeling, and I'm a woman. Men aren't hopeless emotional wrecks needing a woman to be a guiding beacon. Terrible generalizations going on in this article. "Women set the emotional tone," wow, way to dump all the pressure on chicks, cuz dudes are so emotionally helpless? Ugh. Men should hate tis article!

  30. Owen Marcus says:

    It's true the average man is behind the emotional curve compared to the typical woman. It's more than we are emotionally inexperienced–we were never trained in Masculine Emotional Intelligence.

    And it is also true women teach us much about emotions starting with our mothers… but if we are to be truly empowered around emotions we need to learn the last pieces from other men. Since we left the tribe 10,000 years ago women have stepped up to teach boys and men about emotions.

    We now need men teaching each other. There is no better or cheaper way than a good men's group.

  31. Rick S______ says:

    Emilyalp writes: "Some men are also weak in character." Yes! As a gay man, let me share a story: Last year I sent a long email to my older, macho-hetero brother, broaching the subject of his constant bullying during my childhood, which was not only verbal and physical, but borderline sexual. I finally got a response three days later, but not from him. Rather, it was from his wife, whom he turned my email over to for her to read, before asking her to respond on his behalf. As for the response, she angrily denied my claims, speaking with authority about stuff that happened between my brother and me that she was never privy to. Even though my brother had severely hurt and disappointed me before in my life, nothing prepared me for this abject bottom-feeder level of emotional cowardice on his part, not to mention his wife's perverted presumption. Hey, if Keith can help heterosexual men and women get their act together, more power to him.

  32. ValterV says:

    This is THE most beautiful and profound article I've read on this site! :-)
    (maybe it's because I'm a man, too ;-)
    Thank you very much, and kudos for expressing our emotional complexity and turmoils so clearly.

    BTW, I get that you aren't putting the burden onto the woman (as someone got), but you underline her responsibility / potential in helping this process – in a "It takes two to tango" point of view.

  33. @rotirion says:

    I appreciate this article, however, like some others in this thread, I do not believe these roles are always so gender specific. Being a woman I understand it is hard to see the male perspective and vice-versa. However, there are many other factors at play here besides male vs female – family dynamic, for example. My sister and I were raised by our mother with no help from any male at any point in our childhood. Our mother was very bitter about this so we grew up around constant male-bashing, misplaced and volatile emotions, and the constant reminder that we as women have to be "strong". Only after growing into an adult have I been able to separate what real strength is (trust in oneself and emotional security) vs false strength (or putting up walls to protect oneself). I still have a difficult time feeling through my emotions and trying to process my feelings, so I can understand where the male side is coming from. I agree with a lot of what you wrote about intrinsic differences between men and women, but there needs to be patience on BOTH sides. Not everything is so black and white.

  34. Deborah Davis says:

    Beauty and the Beast myth continues.
    His emotional goodness is still up to her.

  35. CLBlues says:

    I won't be holding my breath for when Mr. Unavailable decides to stop withdrawing. I decided that it is a very unhealthy thing for me to do as a codependent. I use to give people a second, third and fourth chance. I don't go chasing people anymore. If someone wants to be friends, great! If they want to do a disappearing act, then I don't need to be around someone who is that much in their own head. I really have zero patience anymore. I have been the supportive spiritual healing woman for all my life, and all it gets me is down. As an empath, I know better now that I have to shield myself from these brooding types..

  36. Tyler says:

    Barf! Women aren't responsible for men's emotional growth. Adults are responsible for themselves. Using a woman to make you feel safe is treating her like a mommy. We're not your mothers. Get whole on your own, then come into a relationship as an equal partner, not a scared, pouty little boy.

  37. Julie says:

    I needed this, just what I was looking for, thank you. And so thankful for Emily’s comment too!

  38. Marc Van Steenkiste says:

    I just don’t recognize it. Being a man my experience is that, although women like to see themselves as the more sensitive kind, when it really comes to talking about their OWN feelings and anxieties, a lot of women become avoidant and turn the tables. Of course, every overgeneralizing is too simple to be true.

  39. guest says:

    So well said, I had to re-post:
    "Interesting article, but yet again the woman is being made responsible for a man's behavior. While I appreciate that we can have an effect on a man's ability to open up, this isn't a one-way street. It isn't up to a woman to create an environment for the man to come into his own emotions! It is up to the couple, together, to create this. Women have their own societal pressures to live up to, one being the idea that we must always be "nurturers" and never express anger, frustration, or anything deemed "negative". How often do women get labeled as "too emotional" when we do? Men and women alike fair better when they are patient and understanding with each other, including during those times when are patience is tested, we've had a bad day, or upset with our partner."

  40. JohnH says:

    Keith, I am surprised at the blow back from women on your article. OK, the fact of the matter is that we are yangy guys that biologically and sociologically have different skill sets. Yes, we won't be your best girlfriend, but that is not what we naturally do. Sure, we need some nurturing and training on broadening our emotional scope, but we are combating a couple thousand (at least) years of conditioning otherwise. If women, who biologically embody yin, receptive energy, do not want to assist in men's emergence, then the question is "why"? This should be a "win – win" proposition, but there seems to be a power struggle emerging. There has to be a balance of forces and I sense a struggle for yang (assertiveness). I have no problem with sharing, but I balk at total surrender. If you find men confused, it is because the situation is confusing. Blame us if you must, but we are only half the problem.

  41. Steve says:

    I just want to share my experience with the world on how i got my love back and saved my marriage. I really love DENISE so much that i can not even do without. I was married for 7years with 2kids and we lived happily until things started getting ugly and we had fights and arguments almost every time… it got worse at a point that she filed for divorce… I tried my best to make her change her mind & stay with me cause i loved her with all my heart and didn't want to loose her but everything just didn't work out… she moved out of the house and still went ahead to file for divorce… I pleaded and tried everything but still nothing worked. The breakthrough came when someone introduced me to this wonderful man who eventually helped me out with spell… I have never been a fan of things like this but just decided to try reluctantly cause I was desperate and left with no choice… He did special prayers and used herbs… Within 2 days she called me and was sorry for all the emotional trauma she had cost me

  42. Guest says:

    I've read literally hundreds of articles here, and this is the one that first made me run for the tip jar. What you said about the double-standard our society imposes on men – expecting them to be killers AND emotionally available simultaneously – absolutely floored me.
    I feel like I've spent most of my life being the rope in a tug-of-war between these two opposing forces, and I never really understood why.
    You stated it perfectly, brother. Well done indeed.

  43. Julia says:

    Thank you. Really, thank you. Ultimately, we're all just beings doing our best (I hope!) and flailing at times. And I do mean flailing, NOT failing xo

  44. Julia says:

    Just read what KateBartolotta wrote, and I agree! There were bits in the article where I found myself thinking, 'But…*I* do that!" I definitely need time to process words and emotions. I'm a 'caver'. It will sometimes take me days to figure out how I actually feel about something, be that an event or things that were said. Still…a great article, thank you :)

  45. tantra expert says:

    po wittle baby's! baby need's a pacifier and a blankie!!! ladies, don't be like i was, nurturing and coddling along a "sensitive" man for 10 years. they are EMOTIONAL VAMPIRES and will attempt destroy you from their overarching hate for their mommies and insane repressed jealousy for not being women themselves. leave them in their playpen where they deserve to be.

  46. nancy says:

    Hello there,

    Let me first congratulate you for this brilliant piece. Trust me, my comments would come out as too ordinary, but this is the only time I am posting my comments/personal views on an article. I had to, this time. It was refreshing and an Eye-opener. Turns out that I’ve been a woman with insecure emotions looking for that evasive emotional stability from my man of months. After reading your article, a newfound confidence in me tells me that I’ll not only survive in this relationship, but that I DO have the power to steer the relationship as I like it. My man tends to withdraw emotionally quite often, and though I had a hint of his phobia towards emotions, your article confirms it solo beautifully. I can’t thank you enough for giving me a new hope in my relationship. Best, Nancy.

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