by John Gray, Ph.D., best-selling author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus
A man is sometimes capable of making a woman feel as though she’s lost his love when, in reality, his love for her is still as strong as it ever was. In Mars Venus language, the male behaviors that can prompt feelings of rejection in a woman are referred to as the “Cave” and the “Rubber Band.” This article delves into the symptoms of these “afflictions,” how they affect men, and how a woman can better understand why the man she loves has suddenly put her on the back burner … and what can be done to cope with it.
Going into Hiding
In the simplest terms, a man goes into the cave when he wants to be alone to think, or rather not think, about a problem that’s currently weighing on his mind. Any number of reasons – from work to finances to health – could send him heading for his cave and, subsequently, leave a woman in the dust feeling confused and wronged.
When a man is in the cave, he tends to lose all awareness of a woman’s needs. He’s focused on occupying himself with activities that distract him from his stress. So you might find him doing anything but working to solve the issue he’s dealing with, which can be baffling. Unfortunately, a man usually doesn’t warn the woman in his life that he’ll be emotionally inaccessible for a while. And that’s where the problems begin.
When a man doesn’t explain to a woman that he’s heading into his cave, she’s left to think about all the possible things that could be causing his disappearance. Even if, rationally, she knows he’s preoccupied with work issues or the like, a woman may very well come to the conclusion, “He must be upset with me,” because his absence feels awful. And then she begins to worry. Paranoia, neglect, unhappiness can all settle in and drive a woman to make the not so wise decision to hover around the man’s cave, or worse, enter it.
Healing the Burns
While a man’s needs are to be respected, a woman’s needs are just as important. When a man must be in his cave, this does not automatically release him from an awareness of what the woman in his life needs. However, this time does indicate that he may be incapable of consciously considering her and fulfilling her wants. While a woman should do her best to respect his need for the cave, a man should make an effort to understand her behavior if she is unhappy with his withdrawal.
The cave is a bit of a catch-22. Women think the man they love is in need of support and understanding, but the last thing he wants is to truly acknowledge whatever is going on inside his head. This is a time when the woman has to force herself to let go of her instincts to nurture and care and, instead, focus all of that energy on herself.
A woman can deal with a man’s self-imposed exile by taking care of her own needs. This is an opportunity to let go and indulge in some self-spoiling. When a woman takes the time to do something she enjoys, her mind is off of the man in his cave. This behavior can actually work to the couple’s advantage. She will feel better about herself, and the man will feel as though his needs were respected and he may emerge from his cave sooner rather than later.
The most important thing for a woman not to do is to punish the man for being in the cave. Do not nag him, make him feel bad for needing time alone, worry about him, feel sorry for him, or resent him for making you feel pushed out of his life. These may sound like nearly impossible decrees, but space is what he wants – with practice, it’s possible to give him the room he needs.
If a woman is unsure of a where a man stands, if she simply asks him, “Are you in your cave?” or, “Do you want to be alone?” the mystery of the situation will be diffused. If both parties are in tune with Mars Venus philosophy, they’ll respect each other’s needs – ideally, the man will say, “Yes, I need some space,” and the woman will accept that need. Cave time is good for the man and the woman – it’s an opportunity, if handled correctly, for both people to indulge themselves and, ultimately, come back to each other refreshed and renewed.
Springing Back and Forth
The rubber band describes the natural intimacy cycle of a man. This behavior can mimic that of cave behavior, but the rubber band differs in one main way: a man is not removing himself from contact and communication because he’s solving a problem; he’s taking time for himself in order to regain his independence and self-worth.
In a loving relationship, a man can sometimes feel overwhelmed and will need to pull away in order to regroup. When a certain amount of “we” time between couples has been reached, a man will crave a release from that intimacy. One moment he is attentive and close then he suddenly becomes distant and uninterested. This is often very painful for a woman because his rubber banding may typically come right after a time when she feels they have connected deeply – a woman is jubilant and happy about the relationship, and suddenly the man is disinterested.
These rubber band actions – like the cave – can also be interpreted by a woman as a “punishment” or rejection because his mood changes can happen so swiftly. Again, the challenge for the woman is to try not to take the man’s actions personally. He’s merely gotten “full” on intimacy and needs to walk away from the table long enough to get hungry for the benefits of the relationship again.
Man vs. Woman
The cave and rubber band phenomena come down to one simple fact: men and women have conflicting needs when a man is experiencing stress. It is a woman’s responsibility to trust that the man she loves will come back to her in good time. Unless something explosive has occurred, a man’s pulling away likely has nothing to do with the woman in his life.
Whenever a man does finally come out of his cave or the rubber band, ease back into the relationship. Don’t automatically bombard him with questions or try to have a serious discussion. Gage his mood and talk about issues at opportune times when you’re sure he’s really capable of listening (not right after work, not when he’s watching TV). Timing really is everything when it comes to these male behaviors.