Since the dawn of time, women have tried to figure out why men fight their feelings. They act one way and say something else entirely. Here’s an example of a classic male internal dialogue:
Emotionally Open Him: Oh God! She’s so wonderful. I love being around her…
Macho Him: Shut up! Don’t do it!
Emotionally Open Him: But I love her!
Macho Him: I don’t care. Just don’t do it! Run!
If you’re laughing right now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you’ve dated guys that seem to have this conversation going on in their heads.
It’s dumb, I know, but often, men fight their feelings. They just don’t know what they want or need…and so they make things for you a lot harder to interpret.
In today’s video and article, I’m going to outline some key reasons why men fight their feelings, and help you figure out what to do about it.
P.S. It’s hard to navigate men’s behavior without a map. Guess what I’ve created? The Male Mind Map, which does exactly that!
So why are men so terrified of their feelings?
It may be because they were raised to not talk about them. In a recent study, researchers found that nearly half of men are unable to talk about their feelings and that 23% feel they have to be the strong, silent type.
It’s not necessarily their faults that they were raised this way, but the challenge is in hoping they will overcome this block.
When a man seems to be stoic, it’s easy to feel like he’s not sensitive, but let me assure you: most men are. They may hide it under a layer of macho, but they get their feelings hurt just like you. They worry about being vulnerable in a relationship, just like you do.
So let’s take a closer look at why men fight their feelings so that you can understand their crazy behavior.
Why Men Fight Their Feelings #1: He’s Been Hurt
Who hasn’t had their heart stomped on in a past relationship? Most of us have. It’s a big reason why men fight their feelings in relationships.
Back when I was a dating coach for men, I would talk to them about past hurts. So many men struggled to meet new women and trust them because they had so much baggage, whether a past girlfriend had cheated, or emotionally abused them, or whatever. They had shit to deal with that maybe hadn’t entirely been dealt with at that point that I was working with them.
I know there’s a lot of focus on how women struggle to get past challenges like these in their love lives but don’t forget that men have to overcome these obstacles too.
If you’re with a man who is fighting his feelings for you, it’s likely because he doesn’t feel safe yet in the relationship. He doesn’t entirely trust you yet. While that may be because of you, it’s more likely because he was hurt in past relationships.
What to Do
If you’re struggling to get a new man in your life to open up to you, give it time. The more time you spend together, the easier it will be to build that trust necessary for a solid relationship. You need to earn his trust, and he needs to earn yours. So roll slow and focus on building a solid foundation of friendship before you move too deep into the romantic stuff.
Talk a little about your past relationships and how you’ve been hurt to show him that it is possible to move forward even with past pain. This could open the door to him talking about his own experiences.
Why Men Fight Their Feelings #2: He Converts Feelings into Action
Here’s an interesting phenomenon: men are capable of converting their more vulnerable, mushy feelings into completely irrational actions. Men are good at taking feelings they consider feminine (you know, love and stuff) and translating them into something they perceive to be more masculine.
If a man feels hurt, rather than embrace and deal with that hurt, he will just convert it into anger.
She rejected me…fuck her!
If he feels embarrassed by something he did, he may just convert that embarrassment into pride for who he is.
[After trying to kiss a friend that wasn’t into it] Score! Yet another woman has rejected me!
I can’t say that this behavior is emotionally healthy, but it’s a fact, so you need to know that it happens as you go out into the big bad world of dating. Just know that if a guy you’re with has a surprising reaction to something, he may be fighting his feelings in this way.
What to Do
Don’t take his actions at face value, especially if they’re out of the ordinary. Ask yourself what he might be converting into action. Have you had an awkward conversation? Could you have hurt his feelings? Give him some space and see if he gets back on track in how he behaves with you.
Why Men Fight Their Feelings #3: It’s Less Socially Acceptable For Men To Have Feelings
I touched on this in the introduction, but socially, men aren’t encouraged to express their feelings (unless they do it in a macho way, per #2).
Here’s what’s happening below the surface with a man:
Emotionally Open Him: I just feel like Jason is trying to steal the attention away from me on my birthday, and it really hurts.
Macho Him: DUDE! Shut up and stop being a bitch.
Now, that’s not what you’re going to hear him say. Here’s the reality of that internal dialogue.
Emotionally Open Him: Dude, Jason’s really pissing me off, man. I’mma effin’ kick his ass!
Macho Him: Hell yea! Do it!
On behalf of all men, let me just say that we are not encouraged by society to engage with our feelings when we are hurt by someone. From the age of four onward, feelings are not something we share. Throughout our lives, were are programmed to not engage in the deeper reasoning behind what we do. So it’s not as natural for us to explore the feelings that we have.
What to Do
Being a communicative, expressive woman, this may be hard for you to handle. You have to decide if you’re willing to work with this guy who may be a little emotionally shut down or not. There are strategies you can use to open up the dialogue, starting with not pushing too hard. I know, the more he pulls away, the more you pursue one of those “talks” that we men loathe. But realize that he needs to feel safe to open up.
Let him know that you understand his feelings (even if you have to guess what they are) and that you’re here if he wants to talk about it.
Why Men Fight Their Feelings #4: He Doesn’t Understand Your Feelings and You Don’t Understand His
Men and women are so different. It’s incredible that we are ever compatible!
It was a big transition for me, moving from coaching men on their relationships to working with women because what they need from me is completely different.
When it comes to communication and feelings, women tend to want to process their emotions while talking, whereas men will retreat into their mental caves to process things before they’re ready to talk about them (if they ever are).
So one reason why men fight their feelings is that they seem to be at odds with yours. You may show all signs of wanting to dive into a long-term relationship, and he may not be there, so instead of talking it out with you, he simply buries his head in the sand, dreading the day when that “where is this going” conversation comes up.
What to Do
You’re going to be at odds with how you approach communication and feelings with many men, so that’s pretty normal. But ask yourself whether the two of you are just so different that things can’t possibly work out. If you have “good communicator” at the top of your must-have qualities in a man list, and this guy completely shuts down whenever you try to talk to him, that fact isn’t going to change.
If you’re stressing about the vast difference between how you both process feelings, realize that it’s not your job to change how he is. Nor can you. Cut your losses and move on. A man who can deal with actual feelings is out there.
Why Men Fight Their Feelings #5. He Doesn’t Know How To Express His Feelings
The problem may not be that he’s fighting his feelings but rather that he doesn’t know how to communicate them. Maybe he thinks he’s being super clear about how much he digs you. After all, he changed your car’s oil. Nothing says love better than a smooth-running vehicle…am I right?
There’s a popular book that you might know called The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. Just about every woman I’ve worked with — and a surprising number of men, too — have devoured this book. And for good reason.
The premise is that each of us speaks a different love language:
- Words of affirmation (saying I like/love you)
- Acts of service (changing that oil)
- Receiving gifts (candy! flowers!)
- Quality time (Netflix and chill)
- Physical touch (massage, anyone?)
Each expresses love. However, if one person values one language and her partner another, things can get lost in translation. Let’s make a little scenario to understand this better.
Judy’s love language is words of affirmation. She’s been with Blake for three months and knows she loves him. She’s getting frustrated because he hasn’t professed his undying love for her…at least not in three little words. She’s constantly hinting around by saying things like, I just love spending time with you! but he’s not getting the hint.
Blake, on the other hand, values gifts. He’s constantly giving Judy tokens of his love…flowers, jewelry, clothing…and yet she never reciprocates. He’s about ready to throw in the towel.
These two people love each other…and yet they are speaking different languages, and so aren’t able to properly communicate their feelings.
What to Do
If you want to know how to get a guy to express his feelings, start by assessing what seems to be his love language (or better yet: ask if he’s read the book and ask him, point blank, what his language is). If he’s constantly giving you backrubs and holding your hand, it’s likely physical touch. He may have trouble with the words, but if he’s expressing his feelings in other ways, be reassured.
Men are, by nature, problem solvers. Your guy may need some space to process what he’s feeling. Give it to him. Crowding him and trying to force him to express his feelings or share what he’s mentally struggling with will almost never get you the results you want.
That being said, you do need to make your own needs about communication and emotional expression known. If it’s driving you batty that you can’t have an emotionally-centered conversation without him shutting down, express that. Ask how he would be more comfortable talking about these things. Maybe he’d rather write you a letter or email than have a conversation face-to-face. Maybe he needs a few days to process before opening up.
Honor his request. Solid relationships are about “give and take”, so realize that talking about feelings can’t be your way or the highway. He gets input into how you approach certain subjects, too.
So have you had experience with a man fighting his feelings and not opening up to you? Dish! Share your story with other Sexy Confident women in the comments below.
And if you want to dive deeper into the male mind, download my Male Mind Map to learn the seven things men deeply desire from women.