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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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.” 

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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.

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.

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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.

IN LOVE WITH A MARRIED MAN? 5 TRUTHS YOU NEED RIGHT NOW

“I know what you’re going to say, but my situation is different. He is truly my soulmate.” 
Megan (age 31), on being in love with a married man

In almost 15 years of coaching women, I have seen that the experience of falling in love with a married man cuts across almost all cultures, age groups, ethnicity, religions, and education levels. Despite the knowledge that this scenario is unethical, immoral, and guaranteed to bring pain to everyone involved, many otherwise smart, single women get their hearts tangled up this way.

in love with a married man

You already know this is a story that does not end well. But I’m not here to shame anyone. Maybe today you are only fantasizing about getting involved with an unavailable man, and this article is the universe’s way of warning you to stop, take a deep breath, and just walk away. Or maybe you did get involved and HE has been the one to pull back.

Experience tells me that at least one of these 5 truths applies to your situation. While it can be hard to get control of your emotions when you feel so connected to another person, you can control how you frame the situation for yourself. If you’re only willing to use a romantic “soulmate” frame, you’ll just stay stuck. So try these on and see if any fit. Pray, meditate, and do your best to be open to a new perspective, because…

This is YOUR chance to write yourself a happier ending.

TRUTH #1: There is nothing special about breaking up a marriage that is already broken.

It can be tempting to think you are more “special” than his wife; more beautiful, sexier, nicer—everything he says. But if he already had one foot out the door—and that’s the case for most men who actually end up leaving their wives—you are mainly this: the nearest exit. This man may end up remarrying, but hardly ever to the first woman who provides him with a convenient way out.

TRUTH #2: You will become "The Guy" in the relationship.

If you’re in the early stages of an affair, this part may be hard to believe. After all, he is chasing you hard, right? You weren’t even all that interested in him at first. That dynamic can’t last, though. You are available. He is not. He is the one who is hard to get. Eventually, you’ll feel less confident, less sure of his feelings, and you may start to feel like it’s you who is chasing him.

FROM BCBG

TRUTH #3: You are putting your life on hold for a fantasy.

Even if your infatuation never progresses to a physical affair, it can still be damaging. Don’t be the “work wife” who takes trips with her married boss or crushes on a married co-worker. You deserve to be at the center of someone’s life, not lurking around the edges.

TRUTH #4: It takes two people to create a bad marriage.

He played a role in his “bad” marriage and you’ll never really know the whole truth. If his wife is “crazy”, “possessive,” or “controlling,” it may be because he has a pattern of behaving improperly with female friends and co-workers. Or maybe he has other issues that are easy to hide from a mistress, but that would destroy your relationship, too, if your lives were truly intertwined.

TRUTH #5: He is O.K. with his life just the way it is.

Some men choose a wife who is like a domestic worker bee; she makes him look good by keeping his home life humming. He feels entitled to stray, usually with more exciting women who have zero kitchen skills. While his attitude is shady, understand that that is who he is. You will not change him. He likes his compartmentalized life. He doesn’t want to marry a sexy siren, and as long as his wife is doing her job (raising the kids and keeping a low profile) he will be content to share good times with you—but not much more.

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