: 07 August 2013

3 Things Women Need to Know About Men in Relationships

In this article, I’m going to talk about three ways men are different than women in relationships. Obviously there’re exceptions to what I’m about to say, but the truth is these experiences are quite typical and they often cause problems between us and the opposite sex.
My hope is that by understanding how we’re different (rather than loathing it), we can work towards feeling more bonded to each other in love.

1) Men pull away to feel autonomous // Women pull away because we feel negative emotions 

As women, it can be difficult for us to understand that men need space from us (even if they love us). When a guy starts to back away, we may worry or panic that we did something wrong. We may think that his love has come to an end!

But the truth is, we believe these things because when we take space, it means something is wrong. Men are different than us.

A man takes space away from his woman simply to come back to his sense of self. 

Women have a larger capacity for emotional intimacy than men. It’s what we’re made for! We thrive on deeply connected relationships, not only with our men, but with our girlfriends, too.

While, of course, men love feeling bonded with us, they also have a strong desire for autonomy and independence. This is part of what makes them men!

Therefore, it’s not uncommon for a man to back away after being deeply connected to a woman. It’s actually a good thing. The space allows him to come back to his sense of self, so he can reengage with you in a solid way.

A man is likely to approach you, ready for more love, if you can respect his space. Know that his distance does not necessarily mean something is wrong; it’s simply his way to feel like a man again (which makes him even more available for a deeper connection with you).

2) Men feel competent by making women happy // Women feel met by receiving from their men

We often don’t realize how important it is for a man to please his woman; a man derives great satisfaction by providing for and making his partner happy.

And women love receiving from their men!

But here’s the problem: women often over-function so much in relationships that we don’t allow space for a man to come forward to do things for us.

If we are the ones constantly making all the plans, cooking all the meals, controlling the schedule, and making sure everything is taken care of, there is not enough room for a man to be a man. This doesn’t feel good to him; providing is actually what he wants to do!

When women over-give, men take a back seat. 

This, of course, infuriates women! But anger is not the answer; sitting back and creating space for your man to come forward is.

Remember, a man feels competent by doing. A woman feels loved by being taken care of.

If you want your relationship run smoother, then give up some control and let a man start doing things for you. Everyone will be much happier as a result.

3) Men are more likely to orient to the world with their minds // Women are more likely to orient to the world with their hearts

We, as women, can often feel like men don’t get it. And we’re right. They truly don’t understand the world of emotions the way we do.

Problem-solving makes him feel good! Logic makes him feel good! Being mind-oriented makes him want to fix. It’s just how he understands to the world.

And emotions, well, they aren’t fixable. This is why our emotions can feel so frustrating and scary to a man.

The best thing we can do about this difference is respect it.

Women, embrace you feelings. Your emotions come and go, like waves of the ocean. They’re here one minute, and gone the next. This is normal; just let them move through you.

Feelings aren’t easily understood with the mind because they are an experience of the heart. You don’t have to explain your emotions to a man. Instead, the best way to communicate your feelings is simply feeling them.

He may not get it, but this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care. Nor does it mean that he doesn’t want to help! What it means is: he doesn’t know what to do when you are having a strong emotional reaction.

Remember, he wants to make you happy, so if there is something he can do, tell him what that is and he’ll probably be very willing to help. (Some examples might be: hold me, just be with me, listen and don’t say anything.)

And, this is important, continue to lean on your girlfriends to understand your emotional experience (because they get it in a way that’s hard for him to do). Don’t hold this against your man; just recognize that it’s one of the differences between us.

The next time you start to feel misunderstood by a man, remember, he is different than you, and this is why you love him so much. The more we can embrace our differences in the world, the more we can all live in peace, harmony and love.

Please leave a comment below about some differences you recognize between men and women. I look forward to hearing from you!


  1. elan on August 8, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    This is a perfect article for my 17yo daughter. Basic information that is so important as a foundation for the rest of her life and relationships. She is in her first true relationship and I can see her worrying and struggling with her boyfriends actions. As ‘dad’ I can’t really help her the way I would like because I’m just dad. This is wonderfully and simply expressed. Thank you

    • Mimi on August 13, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      How sweet it is to see a man take interest in his beautiful daughter’s emotional life!

  2. Edel on August 9, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Hi Shelly, thank you so much for your words of wisdom this is exactly what I needed to read to gain some insight on my boyfriend. Thank you thank you thank you, have a wonderful weekend,
    Edel from Dublin.

  3. Sara on August 10, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Thank you Shelly. This makes sense to me and I needed to hear this as that certain someone has withdrawn, distancing himself from me. I recognize he’s not ready and that is ok. I’d rather he approach me when he is ready and I want to give him the space he needs. The article rang true and a wake-up call for me to relax!Hope you’re well!

    • Freda on August 19, 2013 at 9:58 am

      Is a virtual relationship, one based on texting, giving too much space?Freda

  4. Andrea Dyson on August 12, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Shelly,You are UNBELIEVABLY helpful to me and my relationship. You are my go-to whenever I feel unsure of what to think or how to respond to uneasy emotions with my partner. After reading one of your posts, I always feel more grounded and able to connect in an authentic way. I am ever so grateful, please write a book!

    • Shelly Bullard on August 12, 2013 at 10:27 pm

      Thank you. And I will! (An eCourse first though…it will be out soon!)

  5. Ky on August 12, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    This came at the perfect time, as usual. Knowing and understanding the differences makes you feel much less anxious OR angry. I like being able to accept the differences and know that it isn’t a matter of them not caring, but just not seeing it the way I do!

  6. katherine on August 14, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    hi,your article is great,but i’m having a bit of trouble practising it with my boyfriend…if he buys me a gift,he expects one from me too,if he calls me today,he expects me to call him at least twice tomorrow,in other words he’s placing me more at the givin end than at the recieving end, instead of just the recieving.How do I deal with this?

  7. Dazed in Galway on August 23, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    If only I’d read this when I was dating my first boyfriend! I’d have worried a lot less. :)Nonetheless, I find it useful for married people like myself as well.

  8. maya on June 17, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Good one Shelley
    I agree with Points 1 and 3. You are exactly right about that. Although I will say that as a woman I need some space too to feel ‘autonomous’ because relationships can get very consuming. It might have to do with me being an introvert–I need solitude to recharge.

    As for Point 2:
    What if we make the space for men to come forward and do something for us but they never step up? If women stopped doing the housework, planning vacations etc. it would never get done. Asking a man to do it, however nicely, also backfires because it feels like nagging. Expressing that ABC will make us ‘happy’ also doesn’t work because they come up with excuses for not doing it and telling you to do it yourself.There is no way to make a man do something he doesn’t want to do even if it pleases you.
    I believe men only want to please women in ways that are convenient for them. Which means if planning a date, getting flowers or helping with housework feels like a lot of “work”, men don’t do it. And men like women who are very easy to please. They go for low maintenance.
    That said, I agree with you about women overgiving and then feeling depleted. I will always keep in mind to never over-give and check myself that I give in small doses and practice receiving more. Even if men don’t give us much, we can still be grateful for whatever they ARE giving and be appreciative. If what a man gives just doesn’t do it for us–we have the option to leave.

Before you dive any deeper...

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I’m a relationship coach, licensed marriage & family therapist, wife, girl mom, world traveler and… a damn good manifesting teacher.

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