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24th of January 2018


Unmasking Men's Fear of Vulnerability -

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” — Margaret Atwood

Welcome to our online community. This is a space for men and women to write about men’s fear of vulnerability in intimate relationships (keep reading to find out more). To share your story, please continue to the red “Join our writers community” box at the end of the story. Open that link, and submit a story about your experience of being afraid of vulnerability, or your experience of being in relationship with a man you think might be afraid of you. Tell us about your fears and how they show up in your relationship Please share your experience so that others can learn from you, and you can also search this page to learn from the experience of others.

Men afraid of women?

It’s pretty clear that women are afraid of men, and often times with good reason. Men’s fears of women are less visible, more hidden, from women, from other men, and from themselves. Men have done such a good job of hiding their fears and vulnerabilities that even their mothers and lovers don’t know how scared they are.

Let me give you a few everyday scenarios; see how far down the list you get before the light comes on and you recognize yourself, your partner, and/or your relationship in these scenarios.

1. You are a man in a committed relationship with a woman. You come home from work and it seems clear to you that your partner/wife is upset. You ask if she is OK, and she insists that she is. You ask if she’s upset with you, and she assures you she is not. Despite all of her reassurances, you can’t quite shake the uneasy feeling that you’ve done something “wrong,” although you have no idea what that might be. The longer she stays upset, the more worried you get, until her being upset becomes your single preoccupation, as if nothing else can happen until that is resolved. You want to feel off the hook and back to the status quo.

2. You are a woman in a committed relationship with a man. You take responsibility for organizing most of what goes on in your family, and you are mostly OK with that. There are a few things you ask your partner/husband to do, which seem pretty insignificant to you, but no matter how many times you ask and remind him, his performance is spotty at best. God forbid that he takes some responsibility and notice something that needs doing and take care of it without having to be asked. You’re pretty sure he functions independently at work a lot better than he manages to do at home.

Somehow it ends up feeling like everything in the family is your responsibility, and your partner/husband is just one more person in the family for you to take care of and worry about. More than anything you yearn to feel like you have a true partner.

3. You are a man in a committed relationship with a woman. Friends ask you at the last minute to get together after work. You and your partner/wife don’t have any plans for the evening, and it bothers you that your first thought is not about whether you would like to see your friends, but about whether your partner/wife will be upset with you for asking. Your partner/wife has never objected to your getting together with friends—this is not a group of guys who go to strip clubs or chase women—and, yet, even after calling to check in with her, it’s still hard to shake the feeling that you’ve done something wrong. You long to feel free, unencumbered.

4. You are a man and a woman in a committed relationship, and you’re having an argument.

Woman: You are upset, hurt, and angry. The anger is hard to see, the hurt is more visible in your tears.

Man: It’s clear to you that your wife is upset, and it makes you very uncomfortable. You can feel your own emotions welling up inside of you in response. Her tears make you very uncomfortable, and the anger that you sense underneath frightens you. For some reason, you think it’s very important to remain calm, rational, and unemotional, and that requires being detached.

Woman: You can feel his detachment and withdrawal, and the more he withdraws, the stronger your feelings get. You hunger for some kind of real, emotional response from him, and the less you get, the more desperate you feel.

Man: The more emotional she gets, the more withdrawn and clamped down you get. Consciously, you are just thinking about how important it is that one of you remain calm and rational, but underneath that you’re really scared of the strong feelings you have in response to her emotions. What you want is for her to calm down so that you won’t feel so stirred up.

5. You are a man and woman in a long-term committed relationship. Your sexual relationship started out pretty hot and exciting. You had a lot of sex, both enjoyed it, and seemed to be in agreement about wanting to have sex as often as you could. Over the last few years, not only has the frequency fallen way off, but sex has started to feel more like just another thing to check off the list, like neither of you is really excited about it.

Sometimes it just feels like something you should do.

Man: Although you are less interested in sex with your wife/partner, you still feel very sexually alive. You are often turned on by other women and masturbate frequently, usually to images of women who don’t look like your partner and sexual activities that are different from the sex you have with your partner. You are particularly turned on to scenes in which the woman’s desire is very overt, but when your wife is open about her own sexual desire, you get turned off. Truth be told, it often seems more attractive to masturbate to fantasies you can control than to navigate the complex emotional territory that’s become necessary to have sex with your wife/partner.

Woman: Your husband is an attentive lover, generous in his attention to your pleasure, but there is no passion in the love making. What you crave is to feel desired.

These fears may be hidden, but men’s fears of women are one of the primary causes of many emotional problems for men and difficulties in intimate heterosexual relationships. Because men don’t talk about these fears, and women don’t know about them, there’s a lot we don’t understand, and we are hoping you will help us learn more by sharing your experience in this column.

Click here to submit your story about men’s fear of vulnerability so we can all learn from each other’s experience.

submit to Good Men Project

It’s OK to Be Vulnerable, Men

Why Men Fear Vulnerability

I’m OK if We are OK

Dr. Avrum Weiss has been a clinical psychologist, author, and teacher for over thirty years. His current focus is men’s fears of women in intimate relationships.

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