Hibernating Men

Dear Karen,

I have trouble when men go “into their caves.” I don’t know how to balance hanging in there with nagging. Any ideas? — Jennifer”

Dear Jennifer,

You bring up an issue that, in some ways, is at the heart of the “Mars” and “Venus” conversation. For women who don’t believe (or want to believe) that differences between men and women exist, I suggest reading John Gray’s book, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. It’s quite illuminating.  And understanding is key to experiencing peace, love and partnership in our relationships.

Generally speaking, us gals have more resources available to us than men do. We have our ability to be emotional; we have friends and family who we can turn to when we need to cry, whine and commiserate.

We have “permission” to do that. Men, for the most part, do not.

Men, on the whole, tend to “suck it up”, go it alone, and tough it out. Their cave is their sanctuary. They feel safe there, they can regroup there, and they can prepare themselves for the next battle – especially if they just lost one.

Their Cave is Good for You, Too!

Although many women perceive these cave retreats as distancing, and wonder how to maintain closeness, or “hang in there”, during the hibernation periods – in the long term, men’s caves help them be more available to us.
We should be grateful that our men have these safe places (wherever they are: garage, attic, basement, a man’s own place, or car, at work, or the woods, etc.).

They give men a way to be able to handle being in a close, intimate relationship with us (pretty scary and demanding turf for most men).

Now, In addition to answering your question, I want to work with the words you used in your question.  I hope you don’t mind that I will use this to help other women learn something about one of the many reasons men go into their caves.

Are You Pushing Him Into the Cave More Often than Not?

You ask how to balance “hanging in there” with “nagging”.

Nagging is one of the many reasons men go into their caves (work, finances, health, family, etc. are some others).  I urge you to stop doing it – NOW!

It doesn’t work. In fact, it will never work.

You may get immediate, short-term results, because your man will do practically anything to stop you from being upset, and nagging him certainly lets him know you’re upset.

There is a cost, however, that you may not notice – until it’s too late; he will protect himself more and more over time, retreating to his cave, until you are no longer able to reach him.

Eventually, that leads to a lifeless relationship, where one or both of you will want to leave.

To be in an intimate relationship with a man requires, above all else, a strong sense of yourself – and an ability to be with yourself and sustain yourself, no matter what is going on around you.

Being Responsible for Yourself is Important

If you find that you’re depending on your man’s presence to make you feel good, you are probably too dependent on him for your sense of well-being. Of course, when it’s going well, no problem.

But when he’s having a bad time (no matter what the reason, he’ll still want to go into his cave), and your sense of balance is hinging on his being there with/for you, you are going to come unglued.

Now you’ve got two people who feel pretty tapped-out, perhaps looking to each other for help, and feeling disappointed.

I encourage you to respect the differences between men and women, and to give your man the space he needs.

Just one caution: If you find yourself more and more drawn to a man that needs 22 hours out of every 24 in his cave, you might not have enough time together to build the relationship you desire. Then, the question to ask yourself is: “Why am I so attracted to a man that has so little of himself to give to me?”