Relationship Confidential: A Woman's Guide to Evasive Guys
9 Secrets Men Keep From WomenYou may have married Honest Abe, but many men still keep some of their emotions top secret. A relationship expert explains why they stay so hush-hush.
Medically reviewed by Niya Jones MD, MPH
Ever wish you could delve into the male mind to figure out what he’s reallythinking? For ages, women have tried to interpret “guy-psyche” — why he didn’t he call; why he did call you by his ex’s name. But every man is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for guys’ cryptic tendencies. However, research has found a number of surprising parallels. From his fears of commitment to his fondness for cuddling, certain emotions cause many men to freeze up rather than open up. Here are the top secrets guys keep (and why).
He Loves You, He Loves You Not
Those “three little words” could be the most complex in the English language. While some men prematurely pull the trigger on the "L word" (a recent study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that guys tend to say “I love you” first, often driven by the idea that their partner will be more likely to have sex with them) — other guys just aren’t that good at getting the words out. Instead, they show their love through their actions. How can you know for sure? Those actions may be a truer indicator of his feelings than any passion-fueled colloquy, says Irina Firstein, LCSW, a relationship counselor who has advised couples in New York City for more than 20 years.
He Has Cold Feet
Men often have a harder time picking up on subtle relationship cues — and because of this, your man may not be aware of the point in which your bond has moved to a higher expectation of commitment. In fact, some guys get anxious about becoming attached, even if they seem to enjoy the relationship. "Men often 'rubber band,' withdraw, or pull back if they feel like the relationship has moved beyond their comfort zone," Firstein notes. This new territory can take a man by surprise — even if you felt like he was forging ahead at the same pace you were.
He Gets Performance Jitters
Do men think about sex a lot? Sure they do, but their fears of sexual inadequacy may be just as frequent. If a man has ever had an unsuccessful go at sex (and most of them have! — flopped romps can be triggered by common missteps such as drinking too much), his stress in the bedroom can stockpile — which can eventually lead to sexual dysfunction. Many men will even avoid sex rather than talk honestly about their fears with their partner, and this can harm both the sexual health and the emotional health of a relationship.
He's Not Crazy About Monogamy
Some men stay mum about the extent of their sexual desires. "Freedom, and particularly sexual freedom, and variety are typically more important to men than to women,” says Firstein. “Many married men feel that they love their wives and, at the same time, have no problemscheating." This difference between men and women can be one of the most damaging to a couple because of the sense of betrayal it can create (even if he never actually strays).
He Wants You to Initiate Sex (and Cuddling)
You may think sexual desire is hard-wired in men, but with every attempt at turning you on comes a threat of rejection — even in the most established relationships. That’s why it’s such a turn-on when a woman makes the moves, allowing him to skip the risk altogether. And it’s not just sex he wants: One recent study from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University actually found that cuddling and caressing in a relationship are more important to men than women. Next time, be the sexual pioneer — it could strengthen the health of your relationship more than you realize.
Depression has no gender bias: It can strike anyone, including the most macho of men. However, studies show that men who are depressed are less likely to open up about their sadness or lack of energy than women. Instead, they are more likely to avoid sex, say they’re overtired, or drink more. "Some men are uncomfortable about feeling sad, and their sadness or depression may come out as anger," warns Firstein. Depression is one of the most dangerous secrets a man can keep, so if you think a male in your life could be depressed, it’s important to let him know that you’re concerned.
He Suppresses (Instead of Addresses) Doubt
Some men are instilled with the notion that they shouldn’t show signs of fear or doubt; eventually, those doubts and fears can snowball into big secrets, ones they may keep even from themselves. But when his undisclosed apprehensions involve his relationship — whether it’s about getting married or bringing you along to “guys’ night” — both partners’emotional health is at risk. "Men may postpone a marriage engagement as long as possible and then propose because they think it is the right thing to do,” Firstein says. “They frequently get anxious or distant right before a wedding because they have not fully dealt with their doubts or fears."
He Feels Afraid of His Own Feelings
Doubt isn’t the only emotion men stay hush-hush about — in fact, some guys have a hard time opening up about a range of feelings. "Because many men are problem solvers and are uncomfortable talking about feelings, there are a number of intense feelings that don't get expressed with words, but rather acted out," notes Firstein. The good news? Men aren’t Neanderthals. The emotions are there; they just need to be uncovered. And if ‘fessing up about his feelings remains a stumbling block, he may need to seek relationship advicefrom a professional.
And the Biggest Secret Men Keep…
Here’s a fact: Men need (and want) intimacy just as much as women do. Mutual respect, trust, support, and communication — these relationship musts are just as important for a man's emotional and sexual health as they are for a woman's. When both partners are able to open up and let their relationship develop at its own pace, that love will be nurtured by positivity — rather than stunted by secrets.