When a guy’s instinct is to shut it down and run, there is something women can do to help him slow down.
I just read She’s Amazing and I’m Paralyzed With Fear. I have a question for the men reading this: What can a woman do when she suspects that the guy really is into her but just running a little bit scared? It’s a shame to walk away from a great guy when you think he’s going through this. Is there a direct but supportive, kind, and understanding way to encourage a man to open himself up? Is there anything a woman can do to make it more comfortable?
I absolutely love this question! Sorry that I am not a guy who can answer it for you but I hope my experience working with men and my 3 years with The Good Men Project will do.
I know right off the bat that some people are going to tell you to run, that if a guy isn’t into you, he isn’t into you. If he’s not willing to commit, let it go. There are other fish in the sea, yada, yada, yada.
That very well may be true. Some people, men and women alike, are just not up for a commitment and it is best to move on. I think what you’re asking here is different. When a guy gets scared, starts to feel connected and vulnerable to someone, and his instinct is to shut it down and run, is there something she can do to make connecting less scary?
First, make sure that you’re right on this.
You have to check the theory. We can all fall prone to telling ourselves stories when we’re interested in someone but are getting the cold shoulder back. It is best to just flat out ask. If he can’t at least answer you, then there very well might not be anything you can do.
Try: Hey, listen, I have had a really good time with you lately. I felt like we really connected and I thought you were feeling it, too. It’s scary isn’t it? Kinda makes me want to run or throw up sometimes. I’ve been feeling you back off and it’s cool if you’re just not into me.
I was wondering, though, if it all just happened too fast and intensely. Did you get nervous?
- You’re starting off with the positive and acknowledging a mutual connection
- You’re acknowledging, too, that connecting can be hard
- You’re making it acceptable for him to just say he isn’t interested
- You’re offering an approachable way of having the conversation.
If he can’t answer directly and you continue, you’re running the risk of chasing someone who isn’t into you.
If he does indicate that he relates to what you said and that it might be true, I think you have a couple of options depending on your patience level and personal boundaries.
You’re going to have to, at some point, find out if working through this fear and uncertainty is something he wants to do.
Some people fear roller coasters so they never get on them. Some take the front seat at the first opportunity and push themselves through the fear.
You’re going to have to check in with yourself on where you stand and how long you feel comfortable keeping things undefined.
If you’re good with his simple agreement and acknowledgement for now, I would validate him; let him know that you get it and that being scared is ok. Backing off is ok and decreasing the frequency or intensity of your connection is fine with you.
DO NOT SAY THIS IF YOU DON’T MEAN IT!!!!
One of the main things that contribute to commitment phobia for people is having personal experience with people they’ve dated who’ve changed their tune once they commit.
They’ve felt tricked and misled after making commitments to people because behavior or lifestyle choices that were ok when dating suddenly become unacceptable when in a relationship.
Communicate your intent:
If you’re going to back off, slow down, or allow some space to settle between the two of you, let him know.
Tell him what you want him to think:
Hey, listen. I like what we have here and we don’t need to rush it. We’re not on anyone’s clock. I’m going to give you some space. I’ll get in touch in a few days or so. You’re welcome to call or text me in the meantime but I think we should just dial it back until we’re both comfortable.
Get to know him at a slower pace.
Listen. Learn about his previous relationship experiences. Don’t grill or pester him incessantly but ask questions and when he says something that sounds important or significant, ask follow up questions. Don’t rush to judgment or problem-solving. Just listen. Hold his experiences. Pay attention to the things he says and share the quiet, vulnerable parts of yourself, too.
Don’t go and profess your love for him but tell him the things you appreciate about him as they come up: You take really good care of your friends or I can’t believe you got me to laugh on such a miserable day.
This is going to be a risk for you: You will be getting closer to someone who, despite your best efforts, may choose not to connect back with you but if he’s worth the risk, share and connect.
Check back in.
At a time that feels comfortable to you (I recommend a minimum of a month from the last conversation about it), check back in. Say: Hey, last month, we both talked about feeling scared and gun shy. Are things easier for you now that we’ve slowed down the pace? Did it help make things less scary? I am not asking for a commitment now but I do need to know if making a commitment at some point is something you want to do or work on.
Again, don’t say this if you don’t mean it!!!
It’s perfectly ok if, after a period of time, you need a commitment before he is prepared to give one. You get to have your own needs and boundaries in a relationship. However, you have to say so. Be prepared to move on if he’s not ready.
You want to be clear about your relationship so you can decide what you need:
If he does acknowledge that he wants to work through his fears and get closer, the two of you can do that together, at a pace that feels right for both of you.
If he’s not there yet, then you have to decide your own limits and boundaries. If you’re invested and willing to keep getting closer with someone who may never get there, you’re taking a risk but it’s yours to choose.
If he is there, focus on the relating part of your relationship. Share. Continue to get to know one another. Tell him what you want him to think. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Be consistent and steady. Have your own boundaries and sense of self.
Know what you want and need in a relationship and be willing to communicate those needs before making a commitment. Make sure you know where he stands on these things, too, so you can be sure you are willing to meet his needs as the two of you get closer.
If you’re being open, honest, and transparent, you’re setting yourselves up for success and for a commitment that makes you both happy.