WHY MEN FEAR RELATIONSHIPS
Have you ever seen a male friend push a really great woman away? Are men really afraid of relationships? If they are, why?
I’ve been working directly with men for many years, both as a personal fitness trainer, sales trainer and as a certified life coach. I’ve gained some insight and understanding about men and relationships that most women don’t know and most men don’t know or won’t admit.
Most men I talk with want a relationship. Usually they are happier when they are in one. They like to have someone to do things with, they like to have regular sex, they enjoy feeling sexy, they like the connection and they like the love. But here’s where it gets tricky. They like the love, but have you ever noticed they seem afraid of it too?
What makes so many men fear love? Well, in my experience, men that I coach, ultimately tell me the same thing – deep down, they fear rejection.
Men fear rejection in a way that most women don’t comprehend. After all, the man is used to being the pursuer. So he pursues and it looks like he gets what he wants and then he withdraws. Why does he pull back and withdraw just when things are starting to get really close?
He’s afraid of rejection. Deep down he thinks he’s not worthy, and so he makes sure he isn’t worthy so that he doesn’t have to deal with his fear of intimacy and rejection.
Let me tell you about one of my clients, who I’ll call Sam. Sam is a successful man in his early 40’s. He’s handsome, in great shape, incredibly smart, educated, had a successful business and yet when he came to me he was miserable because his girlfriend had just broken up with him and he knew he was part of the problem. He just didn’t know how to solve it. He could be cool, aloof, distant and sometimes critical. He didn’t like that about himself and yet that was how he projected himself. He just didn’t really know why.
He had, at times, been critical to and of this woman and other women in his life. He wanted to have a family and settle down and he really was broken-hearted about this last breakup.
Why did he always push the women away when they got too close? What I learned about Sam as I coached with him was that he was very sweet, fun, upbeat, loved to read and learn, understood concepts quickly and easily, and had lots of close friends. So why didn’t he have an exciting, loving relationship?
Sam did what a lot of men do to protect themselves – they will find a way to push a woman away.
(The story of Sam will continue to unfold through out this article.)
MEN PUSH WOMEN AWAY
Many men will often, unknowingly, make sure they push the women away. How do they do that? They will sabotage themselves and their relationships.
Men – and by the way women do this too, but let’s stick to men here – will sabotage themselves so they don’t have to deal with their fear of intimacy and rejection. I noticed they usually do it in three main areas: money, health and fitness, and career. If they have all those areas together then they will find other methods — acting aloof, like a victim or dramatic — things that make women crazy, and cause them to reject men.
Let’s look at the first three areas. Why those three areas? Men will usually say they have to have those areas together before they can be in a committed relationship. They truly believe they need to be the providers.
How do they sabotage themselves around money? They won’t save money, they’ll run up a lot of debt or they won’t ask for a raise. This way they can say that they have to get their money together before they can be a provider. The only thing is they don’t ever get it together. That way they are safe from facing their fear of rejection.
Health and fitness is another area where men will sabotage themselves. Maybe they are good at making and saving money but they will refuse to exercise and eat right. Then they gain weight and feel unattractive and therefore they won’t ask out the woman they really would like to ask out, until they get in shape. Or they use it as an excuse to not stay in a committed relationship. Either way, they won’t get in shape and that ensures they won’t get rejected.
David, another client, had these two parts mastered. He made a lot of money but he wouldn’t save money or lose weight. Of course, he refused to exercise and ate frequently at buffets, gorging himself. He also refused to even think about budgeting his money. He was sabotaging his health and his bank account.
Career is a great protective umbrella for men to hide underneath. “When I get my career figured out, then I’ll be a desirable man for the woman of my dreams.” Only the same thing applies here as in the two other scenarios – they don’t completely commit to figuring out their careers and that way they stay safe.
If a man is rejected for his body, money or career he knows it’s not a rejection of who he is – his “self.” He figures it’s tolerable to be rejected for his money, or his health. It’s a lot better than getting rejected for who he really is.
HOW I COACH MEN ON THIS TOPIC
When men come to coach with me they usually have figured out they need to make some changes and they just aren’t sure how to do it or what to do.
They usually come because their love life is a mess or their career isn’t satisfying. They don’t say they are afraid of intimacy. Not at first.
So I begin to have them really look at why they aren’t doing the things they say they want – like saving money, exercising and or eating right, or moving forward with their careers. And we handle the issues that are often real and need addressing and that are blocking them from moving forward.
For example, they may never have found an exercise program they liked, or they don’t know how to eat right. Maybe they never knew how to budget or knew that in order to save, they had to pay themselves first; or that in order to find their career they need to know their values and take small, healthy steps to move forward.
All those things are very relevant and necessary first steps in moving men toward the lives they want.
Remember Sam, well he was great at making money and not so good at saving it. He would tell me I have to get that part of my life together before I can be in a serious relationship.
So he put himself on a budget, stopped using his credit cards and kept working on his fear.
Once we handle the money, health and career, then the relationship issue comes back up again and here’s where the underlying sabotaging factor(s) can occur – if men are afraid of intimacy and fear rejection – they are more likely to sabotage themselves and stop saving, spend too much, quit exercising, etc.
Then as a coach what I do is pull apart the two issues. Separate them out so that the man can look at the money and the fear of rejection separately. That way he doesn’t have to sabotage his finances or his body or his career because of his fear of intimacy.
He’s free to move forward with that part of his life and address his big fear.
Remember Sam, that was his secret. He was truly afraid of rejection. We got him to stop spending, start saving and working on the real issue which was his fear.
WHY ARE MEN AFRAID OF INTIMACY AND REJECTION
Some men grow up without love and are afraid. They may not have had a good model for how to be in a loving, committed, intimate relationship.
And the big thing I uncovered is they feel unworthy at their core. They feel unlovable. And if they feel unlovable do you think they want a woman that they really like to see that? No way! So when things get too close they will pull back or sabotage.
And often the reason the men I coach feel unworthy and unlovable has to do with one big unspoken thing. Shame.
John Bradshaw, in his book “Healing the Shame that Binds You,” defines shame as “feeling defective and flawed.” And if you think you are defective and flawed there is no possibility for repair.
Some of the men I’ve coached have been through therapy and handled the issues and circumstances in their lives that made them feel like they were defective and flawed. However, they still have some residual piece left that makes them afraid of revealing themselves to a fabulous woman of their dreams.
What are some typical circumstances that cause a man to feel shame? I don’t deal with the big abuse issues, those need to be handled by a trained therapist. Let’s look at a few issues that are part of many people’s lives.
Maybe your father or mother criticized you at a crucial age; maybe you were told you were stupid or ugly; maybe your father was very successful and you never felt you could measure up; maybe you were spanked in front of other kids when you misbehaved, or you had a learning disability. Most of us have experiences in our past that caused us to feel ashamed.
And once that ball gets rolling it’s hard to stop. Men and women hide that they feel ashamed and often isolate themselves or choose other behaviors that will guarantee that they don’t get involved in intimate relationships.
Shame is a secret. We don’t talk about feeling ashamed. We just carry it with us, secretly.
And here’s another piece of information that John Bradshaw shared in his book “Healing the Shame that Binds You” – rejection, to people with shame, feels like annihilation. Annihilate means “to destroy completely.” Men can feel like they will be annihilated, completely destroyed if they get rejected. So there is no way, with that feeling that they are going to risk rejection and get annihilated.
So again, often a man would rather create a situation he knows he can control, to keep from being rejected, before he even gets going with the relationship.
Better for a man to say: “when I get my finances in order then I’ll be ready for a committed relationship.” That way he doesn’t have to risk being annihilated. Remember, he thinks he is unlovable and unworthy at his core.
And men, most women don’t know you feel that way – if that applies to you. They’ve never been taught to deal with their own shame so they certainly don’t understand yours. And since the male has traditionally been the pursuer, women have always gotten confused and then felt rejected when the man got close and then pulled away. But not taking things personally is a whole different topic.
So what have we learned so far is that men can sabotage themselves in certain areas so they don’t have to face rejection. They feel that rejection is guaranteed because they feel unworthy and have shame and they know that rejection is too painful to risk because they think they will be annihilated, not just rejected.
HOW TO MOVE BEYOND FEAR
So what can men do to get beyond this fear so they can have the love and intimacy that they really do desire?
I’ve found three things to be crucial: boundaries, self-love and forgiveness.
Let’s look at why these three things are important.
BOUNDARIES: Men need to know what boundaries to put in place and then hold them in place. Maybe they really don’t want to rush into sex because that is their pattern and then they realize they don’t really know the woman and are not sure they can trust her or themselves. Boundaries come from looking at your individual circumstances and help to protect you and allow you to proceed at a safe pace, in small steps, toward intimacy and love.
SELF-LOVE: Men will laugh when I mention this but secretly they want to love themselves. They don’t want to tell anyone they are working on it, but they do want it. And it’s a process that is filled with joy, discovery, understanding and ultimately freedom. Who doesn’t want to be able to accept and love themselves?
FORGIVENESS: This is a huge piece because usually there is someone from the past that, often unintentionally, hurt you; or because you were hurt, you did something for which you now need to forgive yourself.
Men will often say to me, “oh, I’ve done work on forgiveness” or “I don’t have anyone to forgive” and then when we dig a little deeper, there is someone, maybe themselves. And people get confused and think that forgiveness means you are supposed to condone someone’s bad behavior. That’s not the case.
Forgiveness is “for giving love” to yourself and someone else. It’s a process that comes with intention, work and understanding. It’s a choice.
So when men set boundaries, start to learn to love themselves and begin to forgive, then they are better prepared for intimate, loving relationships. It’s a process and it takes time to recreate trust.
Sam learned to set boundaries, understand and forgive himself for being critical, which he realized was just a defense to keep women from rejecting him. He began to save money. He apologized to his ex-girlfriend. He faced his biggest fear and he is still standing and feeling good about himself and his life. Now he’s ready for a truly exciting, fun, intimate relationship.
There are so many ways to take this life journey. If you’ve had some serious abuse I strongly recommend seeing a good therapist. If you’ve done therapy and now you are ready to do some other type of exploration, there are many avenues. Coaching, hypnotherapy, spiritual work, reading, homeopathy, group work like Diamond Heart, yoga and meditation. Any or all of things can work if you have the intention of changing your life to have more love in it.
I’ve had the incredible opportunity of coaching and observing men create love and intimacy in their lives and I feel lucky to be doing the kind of work I’m doing.
Men, I know you want to have love in your lives. If you get started now, you’ll transform your life. Don’t wait.
It’s a rewarding and freeing journey. And the rewards far outweigh any fears!
Carol Chanel is a certified life coach who coaches by phone with clients from all over the world. One of her specialties is helping single, successful men who are stuck in the area of their love life. She has a BA in sociology and a minor in psychology and has spent 23 years in the personal development field helping people have more fulfilling and joyful lives.
Please go to the CONTACT page to find out how to reach me.
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