Last week we started this months theme breaking down some reasons behind men's fear of rejection. Men are in a unique position when it comes to rejection since traditional gender roles still prevail around courtship and dating. The pressure is on men to be the initiators. This pressure can trigger intense anxiety for men that inhibits their ability to connect with women romantically. With help men can learn how to harness the stress response involved, especially with such a specific anxiety.
Let's start with looking at men's behavior in situations with rejection potential. How do most men handle this anxiety related to the fear of rejection? In one of three ways:
The most common reason for anxiety that I encounter from men is around rejection.
Owning your masculinity likely does not mean what you think I am implying here. It is not the stereotypical "be tough" macho man kind of call to action. For some men this might be their natural masculine expression. When I use the term Masculine Expression I mean feeling comfortable with yourself and not allowing yourself to be swayed by others to change who and how you are and taking a more active role in expressing this to others, whatever it is. It's not about being dominant so much as it is about feeling comfortable with your interests, your personality, your desires as well as holding your own boundaries and being assertive when the situation calls for it.
"Respect" toward women has been a predominant theme in the media lately. This is a worthy message all men should heed. But, like I alluded to last week, some men get wrapped up in the message and become confused after acting in accordance with the message. Some men who are my readers and come to my practice hear this message of "Respect" loud and clear, practice it diligently, but then see something very different play out in real life. This recent message of respect called for from women has been mostly in reaction to Robin Thicke's song 'Blurred Lines,' and his performance at the VMA's with Miley Cyrus. I am not going to get into the song or controversy here, but only want to highlight a piece of the narrative that is out there that is confusing for men.
Men's rational minds seem to stop working when they become physically attracted. I don't mean to judge, because I've been there myself. All men have been there. It is responsible for men diving headlong into unhealthy relationships, why men can't get over a break up (especially when it is the right thing for them), or even get caught up in becoming obsessed with one woman, otherwise known as one-itis. There can definitely be other extenuating emotional factors involved, but for the purpose of simplicity I will focus on this one factor that is more common in men than women, leading me to scream out to all men captivated solely by physical attraction - "It's a trap!" (to join in the recent flurry of Admiral Ackbar references going around lately)
If you or the woman you're with starts to behave differently once the relationship has deepened, you can bet that it is due to a change in expectations. This is a dubious endeavor if it is different to how you'd treat a person your dating compared to how you'd treat her if she were your girlfriend or your wife, and even applies to a change in how you behave from the first ever encounter to the first phone call. So, why would the label on your specific relation mean changing the way you act or how you are with another person?
Often, once a relationship has been established, or developed into a somewhat long-term relationship women will often complain, "I don't know what happened. He changed." This change people make once in a relationship comes in many forms.
The biggest problem I have observed, which I will focus on in this blog, is that men often believe they have to put up a front when meeting women or dating in order to create a specific impression that will generate attraction. Once in the relationship, men then let their guard down and believe, "Phew, now I can finally relax and be myself."
There are three problems with this.
1) this implies that these men think that they cannot be attractive without pretending they are someone they are not.