WHY HE COMPARTMENTALIZES HIS FEELINGS (UNDERSTANDING MEN)

When a woman complains that her man is distant — he seems emotionally unavailable and closed off, or isn’t making a move toward commitment — it’s usually because he is compartmentalizing his relationship with her.

There’s a mental box inside his brain with her name on it. When he feels like opening the box and enjoying the contents, he does. But when he’s done, he puts the lid on the box and places it back onto its shelf. The emotions he associates with this particular woman — angry, aroused, loving, calm, sad, etc. — also get packed away into the mental container. Over time, if a true emotional bond forms, her presence in his life won’t be so neatly walled off. But in the beginning stages, limiting her influence prevents him from being overwhelmed by a new romance.

it drives me crazy when my boyfriend compartmentalizes his feelings Robyn Wahlgast

If you’ve read many self-help articles aimed at women, you may have the idea that the male tendency to compartmentalize feelings and experiences is unhealthy. While it’s true that narcissism and emotional detachment can look a lot like compartmentalization, these are extreme and clinically rare examples. For most men, some compartmentalization is part of a normal coping strategy.

To better understand these masculine boundaries — which women often mistake for emotional unavailability — I invite you to examine compartmentalization from both male and female perspectives.

Consider these 3 observations:

1. For men, compartmentalization can be a useful approach to managing the complexities of life.

It is reflexive — he’s often not aware that he’s doing it.

2. To a woman on the receiving end, it can feel cold and mechanical, as if we’re being rejected.

Because it feels uncomfortable for us, we have a hard time accepting that it can be part of a healthy strategy for managing strong emotions.

3. Instead of automatically limiting a new man’s influence on her life, a woman is more likely to let him range freely across her heart and mind.

If she's not careful, she can quickly lose herself in the emotional rush. In fact, women who never learn to compartmentalize feelings at ALL are at risk of letting others free-range over them like a doormat; or wasting time on fantasy relationships; or becoming consumed with romantic obsessions.

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Zales

Men automatically sort women into categories, all day long. Here are some boxes you might already occupy without even knowing it:

  • Cute girl in his Instagram feed
  • Mystery woman on the A train
  • Work crush
  • Girl he'd love to have sex with on a regular basis until he meets The One
  • Future wife

From a man’s perspective, it’s reasonable to keep you in that box, peeking inside only when he feels like it. You exist for him at work, but not when he’s at home. You intrigue him on Saturdays at the dog park, but not on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. You don’t permeate his brain and keep him up at night. As most women have learned — often painfully — a man can avoid emotional intimacy through compartmentalization. For example, he might place you in the “attractive enough to flirt with (or sleep with)” category but NOT “future girlfriend or wife.” 

IGXO Cosmetics

If you’ve experienced the pain of a man holding you at arm’s length, and you never want to go there again, what can you do? Now that you understand a man’s highly compartmentalized psyche, use this expert tip in your next relationship:

Work with his need to compartmentalize, instead of fighting against it.

You aren’t threatened by his boundaries, because you understand this is how he copes with new emotions and experiences. At the beginning of a relationship, he’s not ready to let you free-range across his thoughts. So in between dates, you are going to disappear. Your actions will speak to him on a deep level, in a way that insisting on connection can’t.

You will continue to date others, because your time is valuable and what if he waits a long time before resurfacing? If he is okay with leaving you alone for days in between dates...

Like a ghost, you'll be gone. 

Getting closer — if it's going to happen — has to be HIS idea. Remember, he has already placed you into some category, based on his instinctive assessment. It's not your job to prove to him that you deserve better than the "good enough for now" label. Read the signs and re-calibrate your level of interest and investment. If you want commitment and he's not feeling it, move on and date a man who sees right away that you're The One

In the early stages of dating, try putting your own feelings toward a new man in the “just getting to know you” box. Don’t let any new relationship completely take over your thoughts or seep into other areas of your life. Follow The Rules and you'll create just the right amount of distance to observe clearly which box he has placed you in. (It's his loss, if he coded you wrong.)

An emotional bond — which is what women usually mean by "being in love" — takes time to develop. When you proceed slowly and let him set the pace, he won't want to maintain distance. Getting closer will be his idea, and it will feel natural to him to put your relationship at the center of all he does.

Robyn Wahlgast is a Rules Certified Dating and Relationship Coach for Women. Need advice about your own dating situation? Consider booking a private consultation with Robyn. Never miss a new blog post: subscribe to our FREE newsletter

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN MICHAEL FIORE'S DIGITAL ROMANCE.

BOYS BEHAVING BADLY (AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT)

Romantic situationships are a hot topic.

Many men and women believe that a non-committal, permanently casual situation is simply the modern version of a relationship — as if this is what passes for courtship in 2017. I’ve written about situationships before, using the term entanglement to describe a relationship that goes around and around in circles — for months or even years — but never leads to lasting commitment. That’s the kind of go-nowhere romance we’re talking about in this post.

Strategic texting — rather than emotional investment — is what holds situationships together.  (From the web series  Situationships )

Strategic texting — rather than emotional investment — is what holds situationships together. (From the web series Situationships)

Popular music, movies, and TV shows glorify situationships and contribute to the idea that "everyone is doing it." But what if your values don't align with hookup culture? And is everyone really so happy with no-strings affection?

Today I want to share with you my latest guilty pleasure, the web series Situationships, featuring the nicest of Nice Girls, Melody (played by show creator, Cylla Senii). Just coming into her own as a woman, she is on the brink of being fed up with non-relationships . . . but not quite ready to make the hard changes necessary to move on to something real.

I suggested to Cylla that it's time I gave Melody and the other female Situationships characters some sisterly "Rules" advice (from the book The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider). If these lovely ladies would just #DoTheRules and say no to the nonsense, they could take control of their dating lives and enjoy the lasting love they deserve.

Melody in Episode 4: The agony of waiting and wondering about a man.

Melody in Episode 4: The agony of waiting and wondering about a man.

Here are quotes from Melody and her friends, on accepting less than they deserve from the men in their lives. When a girlfriend shares any of these thoughts, you know she is in a situationship rather than a relationship:

  • “We have really great chemistry. He loves me . . . when we’re together.”
  • “There’s no need for us to be formal, like, I’m your girlfriend and you’re my boyfriend. We’re . . . together.”
  • “I hate him so much.”
  • “He’s been ignoring my texts all day. I know he’s not dead because he’s on Instagram and Twitter.”
  • “I’m not going to fall for his b-s this time.”
  • “I don’t really trust guys. No one likes to commit anymore.”

It's hard to break away from the pack and set your own standards. Female friends and relatives don't always set the best example. And they can feel silently judged when you start living by The Rules. It's a lonely path, sometimes. But, ladies, if you are tired of living in limbo, wondering where he is and whether he really loves you, please know this:

There is another way.

Following are relationship tips for Melody and any woman who is tired of situationships . . . .

Ladies, don’t give away all your power.

Men will be lazy if women allow it. That doesn’t mean guys are all players and commitment-phobes, but just that it’s human nature to take if the other person is willing to give. You can control the give-and-take game. YOU can re-set the rules any time you want.

Some women think, But if I don’t give him what he wants, he will just move on to the next girl. Well, he might. Listen, you will eventually meet a great guy who shares your values. Mr. Right won’t treat the game of love like it’s one-sided — all about getting HIS needs met. Your Mr. Right will look at everything from a “we” perspective — he’ll see you as part of his team and he’ll make decisions around YOUR needs, too. Until then, don’t hand over all your power to a man who is gaming against you.

When you've been "together" for 2 years and he does  what ?!

When you've been "together" for 2 years and he does what?!

Admit that some part of your in-love feeling is chemical addiction.

I know this isn’t a very romantic spin. But be aware that the “infatuation chemical” called dopamine can affect the brains of men and women very differently. When you daydream about your crush, the anticipation of being together produces lots of dopamine, which further increases your feeling of infatuation. When two people feel a connection, this buzz can be amplified through non-sexual contact such as locking eyes, touching hands, and even simple physical nearness. Make no mistake: This feeling is NOT love. Though pleasurable, it is NOT a foundation for anything lasting.

The reason I advise women to wait as long as possible before getting intimate with a man is because having sex can temporarily shut off your man's seemingly obsessive interest in you by shutting down his dopamine production. If he is not already emotionally bonded, then this sugar crash will leave him empty and ready to move on to someone new.

Tommy Hilfiger

No, casual isn't comfortable.

It’s okay to be uncomfortable about “hanging out” indefinitely. You should feel angry and indignant and hurt. Don’t say things like “I’m not looking for anything serious right now” or “but the sex is so hot” or “I can handle it.” Those opinions sound brave and empowered, but all you’re doing is allowing the Players to frame things their way.

Of course there are women who enjoy a no-strings adventure. But when a situationship goes on for weeks and months, it is very likely that YOU will become more attached, while he becomes a little more distant. When Steve Harvey advised ladies to “think like a man” he didn’t mean that we should stuff down our naturally feminine emotions and needs. Listen to your inner voice — she’ll never steer you wrong.

A Man’s View

You can’t change your relationship status by crying, nagging, or complaining about the one-sidedness. That’s because a man is generally okay with the situation as it is. As The Rules say, you need to shake things up with your actions. Author and Life Coach Sylvester McNutt III sums it up this way: “Why would I elevate this person to relationship status when I’m already receiving all the benefits that they’re willing to give?” He goes on to advise that if you’re currently in a situationship and dissatisfied, “maybe you need to consider removing those benefits.”

The cast of   Situationships  . 

The cast of Situationships

What’s Next for Melody?

In Episode 5, when a gorgeous stranger (Tarion Taylor) bumps into Melody on the street and attempts to ask her out, her skeptical response is “Really. Are we doing this?” In that moment we know: Melody has what it takes to become a Rules Girl. But will she?

Before too much time passes, I would like to see Melody wearing something sparkly on her left hand. Marriage is a man’s ultimate expression of love and respect for a woman. Somewhere there is a king without a queen, and I KNOW he will snap Melody up quickly if he can find her. Is she tired enough of situationships and ready for the real thing?

Be sure to subscribe and comment at the Situationships Channel and let the writers know YOUR thoughts. Should somebody give Melody a copy of The Rules?

xoxo
Robyn

Robyn Wahlgast is a Rules Certified Dating and Relationship Coach for Women. Need advice about your own dating situation? Consider booking a private consultation with Robyn. Never miss a new blog post: subscribe to our FREE newsletter

NO, DON'T ASK FOR HIS HELP OR INVITE HIM FOR COFFEE

Last month we talked about the difference between a Relationship (which has the potential to progress toward commitment) and an Entanglement (a permanently “casual” situation that can only lead around and down, never forward).

Past the age of 25, most women view entanglements as a painful waste of time and prefer to avoid them. You want to invest in a future with a man who cherishes you, not just "hang out" with a man who doesn't think you're worth locking down. If that’s where you’re at, I’ve got 2 practical steps you can follow to avoid ever getting involved in an entanglement. In this post we’ll talk about Step #1:

Step #1: A beautiful, desirable woman — that’s you —should never approach a man first, whether in real life or online.

Why you should never approach a man first

This is advice that feels right to many women. Yet, we allow ourselves to get talked out of what we know, intuitively, is natural and feminine. Modern culture doesn't always value authentic femininity. It is popular for friends, family, and dating experts to encourage you to take the initiative with men because those folks only listen half-way to what you say you want: more men, more dates, more attractive options.

It’s true: Making the first move with guys will DEFINITELY get you more action than passively waiting. It will get you out of that dry spell and into the arms of... men who just aren’t that into you. That’s why “you’ve got nothing to lose” advice doesn’t satisfy your deepest needs. Because no matter how lonely you may feel today, you don’t just want “more” experiences—more unreturned texts, more non-date hangouts leading to sex—you want quality experiences. That’s what you mean when you say you are tired of being single. You want to be loved by a man who sees you as his Forever And Always goddess, not just a Good Enough For Now girl.

So let’s dig into some truths about cool women — like you — making the first move with men:

FROM BCBG

#TRUTH 1 — Yes, asking for help is an approach.

Any action that gets you and him talking or texting is initiating contact. Just recognize it for what it is. If he didn’t walk over, call, or text first, then you made the first move.

#TRUTH 2 — No, approaching men first doesn’t convey confidence.

Instead, it suggests you don’t believe you are WORTH approaching. You lack confidence in your desirability. It’s the equivalent of sending yourself a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day. As if you think passionate male attention is for other, more beautiful/perfect/skinny/whatever women. In the end, taking on the guy’s role can actually make you feel worse about yourself as a woman. Not very empowering.

Zales

#TRUTH 3 — Yes, certain men will enjoy it when you make things easy for them.

Men who aren’t truly available — married or otherwise taken — prefer to take a passive approach to finding fun on the side. Aggressive chasing is too risky for a cheater, and he feels less guilty if you are the one to initiate pursuit. Likewise, you may be successful with bored single men looking for a distraction, or lonely guys who appreciate your effort but who will never be starry-eyed over you.

#TRUTH 4 — No, you won’t miss out on legit, nice, shy guys if you stop pursuing men.

I think shy, awkward, nerdy men are totally hot — so much so that I married one. So believe me when I tell you that you never have to make the first move with a shy guy. Approaching a pretty woman is like a really hard math puzzle — smart men thrive on the challenge and keep trying until the problem is solved. If he wants you badly enough, even the most clueless dude will eventually figure out how to get you one-on-one.

#TRUTH 5 – Yes, you may end up going on fewer dates than your friends.

You know that co-worker who messages every cute guy she sees on POF? Maybe she enjoys the drama and anxiety of never knowing where she stands with those men—but probably she doesn’t. Maybe she’s just afraid that if she doesn’t make an effort she’ll “miss out” on some Prince Charming. Instead, value quality over quantity.

Look, sometimes you just have to be a rebel: stop doing what everyone else is doing. Well-meaning people think they are helping you when they say you should just "get closure" with that cute guy you've been crushing on for months. Instead, stick to The Rules of dating. Let men approach you first. This is the first and most important way to make sure you never, ever, find yourself wasting time with someone who doesn't truly value and appreciate all that you are. 

Robyn Wahlgast is a Rules Certified Dating and Relationship Coach for Women, and a happily married mother of three. Need advice about your own relationship? Consider booking a private consultation with Robyn. Never miss a new blog post: subscribe to our FREE newsletter.

ROBYN ORIGINALLY CREATED THIS ARTICLE, WITH LOVE, FOR MICHAEL FIORE'S DIGITAL ROMANCE

RELATIONSHIP OR "ENTANGLEMENT" — DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE?

This is a big-sister PSA for all the savvy and desirable women searching for advice on this site: The greatest relationship advice on the planet will NOT help you, if what you’re really in is an “entanglement.”

Don't settle for an Entanglement when what you want is a Relationship.

If you apply well-meaning, coming-from-a-happy-place type of advice to an entanglement, it will come back to bite you. Big time. Because you may end up giving more of yourself—your time, your love, your commitment—to a situation that is not ever going to improve. Not ever. In a relationship, both partners are equally committed to moving forward together; it’s an even exchange of energy. In an entanglement, one partner stands still while the other attempts to push and pull him toward the finish line; the energy is so unbalanced that it topples everything in its path.

What Is an Entanglement?

Just like it sounds, this is the experience of getting all tangled up with a man. You think about him all the time, to the point where you’ve lost focus on other important areas of your life. The sex is amazing, but you’re not exactly sure where you stand emotionally. Each time he leaves, you wonder when you’ll hear from him next. Maybe you’ve moved in together or are raising children together; even so, the uncertainty is there. He’s not exactly a bad boy—you think he could be “The One”—but you have a sneaking suspicion that he could be seeing other women behind your back.

You wish you could monitor his texts (his phone is always locked) and you do absolutely check out every new woman he friends on Facebook. You tell people you are in a relationship, and that you are committed to “making it work,” but the effort is yours alone. Your man appears to be content with things just as they are. Is he all tangled up with you? Probably not—an entanglement is mostly one-sided.

Tommy Hilfiger

Bottom line: An entanglement can last months or years, but it goes nowhere.Drama may give the illusion of movement—you fight, make up, and appear to move forward—but you’re really just going around in a circle.

What Is a Relationship?

When a man makes an emotional commitment to you, and clearly makes you a priority in his life, this is a relationship. Relationships are like a dance. Your partner carefully observes your wants and needs, and adjusts his moves to fit yours. You know he loves you because he considers your desires with every step he takes. Your opinions matter to him. He may not always agree with you or do exactly what you want—it would be unreasonable and unhealthy to expect him to—but you are always in his thoughts. His plans for the future include you, and he puts effort and action into making those plans real. Tap into your intuition: If you feel secure and protected with your guy, you are probably in a true relationship.

FROM BCBG

Bottom line: A relationship moves forward, toward commitment. Your man is certain that you make his life better and he can’t imagine a future without you in it.

Expert advice can’t help you fix an entanglement. If a man has decided that you are not his Forever Girl, you can’t love and “understand” him into changing his mind, no matter how good the sex is or how enmeshed your lives are. Your best bet is to recognize the situation for what it is and move on. There are wonderful single men out there who would be thrilled to wrap you in their arms and give you the safe and secure feeling you crave.

NEXT: Find out how to avoid getting into an entanglement in the first place…

ROBYN ORIGINALLY CREATED THIS ARTICLE, WITH LOVE, FOR MICHAEL FIORE'S DIGITAL ROMANCE.

Robyn Wahlgast is a Rules Certified Dating and Relationship Coach for Women, and a happily married mother of three. Need advice about your own relationship? Consider booking a private consultation with Robyn. Never miss a new blog post: subscribe to our FREE newsletter.