This is an excerpt from Conscious Men, written by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh.
When men are in pain, the first tendency is often to withdraw and pull away. It is the primitive reaction of fight or flight. If a man feels trapped, instinctively he moves into defense or even into attack. So if you have a fight with your man, or if you simply get upset and he wants to withdraw, let him do so and do not go after him. If you chase after him, he is going to have to continue running. The best thing you can do to encourage conscious masculinity in your partner is to ignore him when he takes space to feel and do something else to make yourself happy. For many women, this may mean talking about what you are feeling with another woman. But of course, you have found your own ways to feel good within yourself.
We have discovered that because women are instinctively more relational than men, they often want to pursue a man when he withdraws. You may want to ask, “What’s the matter…? What’s going on…? What did I do wrong…? Let’s talk about this…” All of these may be good questions once he has come out of the cave again. Anything that you do or say with the intention of bringing him out of the cave before he is ready will easily cause him to pull further away. If your partner knows how to take space when he is upset but also knows how to come back when he is balanced and ready to connect with you again, please be grateful that you have found yourself a Conscious Man.
Don’t Punish Him
After a man withdraws to allow feelings to dissipate through stillness and he comes back to his partner, she sometimes gets mad at him and tells him that he has hurt her. Her hope is to change him from ever pulling away from her in that way again. Of course, a good man does not want to hurt you, and at the same time we are all learning how to be the best men we can be in a rapidly changing environment. So if brief periods of withdrawal for centering are met with anger or even feelings of hurt, it will discourage him from taking space again, which in the long run may simply lead to more fighting for longer periods of time.
Don’t Push Him to Talk about Feelings
A man can get easily confused when you want him to share what he is feeling. Remember, our biology is different. Talking about feelings releases stress for you, but it may not be the same way for him. If you tell him he is emotionally withdrawn, he may believe you. If you do manage to get him to engage with you to frequently share feelings, particularly feelings of vulnerability or sadness or despair, and if you do successfully engage him in talking about difficult things from his past, you may feel closer to him. But you may also come to view him as a weak man and lose respect for him. John and I have both seen this happen so often. If you feel that your partner is carrying a lot of painful feelings within himself, you can request him or encourage him to take action to deal with that. This might even involve going to see a psychotherapist. If he can logically see that this will improve the quality of his life, he may be willing to take that action on his own. Be careful about becoming the soft shoulder for him to cry on; you may end up with another girlfriend instead of an attractive man.
Acknowledge When He Does Not Act on Upset Feelings
As we are all changing so much in the way that we relate with each other, we are in a kind of a school together. Most of the men we know are in an active and noble process of learning how to be conscious and giving men. If you have a fight, and he has the opportunity to be angry and hurtful with you or to slam the door and leave or to act out his pain in all kinds of ways, and he does not do any of that, find a way to acknowledge him.
For both of us, it is been a long process to learn how to back away when it is time to calm down, how to be present with feelings so they dissipate, and then how to come back to our partners with something new to give. If your man learns how to do this, or is even taking the first steps in learning how to do this so that arguments and fights get less frequent and shorter in duration, please tell him that you appreciate it. Honor him for his successes, and he will rapidly grow in his ability to show up as a conscious and present man for you: “I appreciate that you backed off and took some space when you were upset.”
If you are single, a man who acknowledges feelings but does not dwell on them will be a man you can trust. As you get to know him better, if he tells you about challenging situations where he felt humiliated, attacked, or criticized, and he tells you that his response was to back off, breathe, and feel, then you can trust that he will do the same later with you if you get closer to him. A man who angers quickly, who gets confrontational when challenged, and who feels insulted or gets moody, will almost without doubt also do that with a partner he is close to.
A man who talks a lot about his feelings, cries with you, or wants to process his feelings with you, may feel really good to you: intimate, close, and safe. But we want to tell you that in our experience, such a man quickly becomes less attractive to a woman once she gets to know him. Equally, a man who has no emotional reaction at all to powerful events in his life, especially a man who claims to have transcended his feelings through some kind of spiritual practice, is likely to be cold and not empathetic with you as you get closer to him. A Conscious Man worthy of your heart’s opening can feel his own feelings, feel with another as well, and still Do the Right Thing anyway.
From Conscious Men by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh. You can order a paperback copy or Kindle edition on Amazon here.
Visit consciousmen.com to learn more.