When a man pulls away in a relationship (what I call “cave time”), the woman who loves him can start to feel insecure in their relationship.
That insecurity can have a domino effect and push him even further away, sometimes to the point of ending the relationship.
So, how do you avoid this common pitfall?
In this post, I’ll show you why men need their cave time, what common and tempting mistakes to steer clear of, and what you can do in response that will help you grow in love, intimacy, and bonding.
I’ve got a fun question here from Lexi but it’s a big one, so let’s take it in chunks:
I’ve been in a relationship with an amazing man for about seven months now. He’s 27. I’m his first serious girlfriend. I found it hard to believe at first because he’s such a wonderful boyfriend to me and totally knows what he’s doing. In the last few months, I’ve experienced him caving or perhaps rubber banding. I can usually tell when it starts and know the steps I need to take when it happens. Such as giving him space, leaving him alone, et cetera. He usually comes back to normal, well, within a day, loving and all but now…
What Is “Caving” or “Going to the Cave?”
For those who haven’t read my book, caving is when a guy goes to his cave and just wants to be alone for a while, and you’re not in his world for a while.
He’s thinking about watching TV, a football game, he’s relaxing.
It’s really how men rebuild their testosterone. They use it up in their work and then they come home and relax and rebuild their testosterone through caving.
And perhaps, rubber banding.
A rubber band is where men will come on really strong, and that’s how they release testosterone and bond with you. And now, oxytocin gets produced. Oxytocin suppresses his testosterone. So, then he has to pull away to rebuild his testosterone and then he comes closer.
In a relationship, it’s a little dance between getting close, pulling away, getting close, pulling away.
After 28 years together, my wife said to me, “I don’t know what you do when you pull away, John, but it’s like a miracle. You can seem so upset with me and so annoyed by me, but then you go away and you come back, and you’re just so loving. So, it’s not for me to understand the process, I just trust it now.”
And that’s why we were happily together for 33 years until the day she died.
She always gave me that space and she didn’t worry, she didn’t make me wrong for taking the space. She knew that “he’s taking what he needs.”
Just as for me, sometimes, she got upset about stuff. I’d just give her the room to have it, ask a few more questions, try to be present as much as I can, and she felt safe being herself.
So, for women struggling with “the cave,” maybe you could relate to that.
Feeling safe to be yourself, not having to be perfect all the time.
Let a man feel safe to not be perfect either and not always be this attentive guy all the time.
Recently, we had a great night. We went out to eat, watched movies, et cetera. He was very intimate and was very lovey-dovey. It was one of those memorable nights. However, the next day, he became distant and insisted that we not see each other that night. I asked him if everything was okay. He said it was but now…
Your Big (and Very Common) Mistake
Big mistake. When you have a really great night with a guy, he’s going to take a few days to recover from that, and recovery can be a lot of different things, but for him it’s like this:
“Hey, I climbed the mountain. I achieved great success. Now, I can take a nap! I mean, I achieved my goal, do I have to keep working here at it? No, I feel great, and I relax. And if I relax, and you go into insecurity, that just causes me to pull further away.”
Normally his caving is no big deal (because you’ve read the book and learned about your partner — great job!) but this time he got so close, you thought you went through a breakthrough and that you can now be intimate longer.
This happens with couples a lot, where they go on vacation and they have a really good time together. Then the next week, the guy completely ignores his wife and she goes, “What happened? I thought, now, we’re going to be closer and closer.”
That’s because her oxytocin was peaking. Oxytocin was going up in him too. Closeness, intimacy, shuts down testosterone in men. So, it causes them to rubber band even more. So, he pulls away even more.
It’s not about you doing the wrong thing.
It’s about a relationship being good, then periodically, a guy pulls away. It’s a natural cycle.
He became distant and insisted we not see each other. I asked him if everything was okay. He said it was. I found it weird because we’re always spending time together unless I’m out of town.
Assuming that he may be experiencing rubber banding. I politely agreed to his request and did not see him that night. It’s now been two days and I haven’t seen or heard from him. I sent him a text saying, ‘Hey, is everything okay? Haven’t heard from you.”
How Autonomy Serves Your Connection
Now that he’s connected with you, oxytocin levels go up faster so he needs to spend more time apart to balance his hormones.
You see, in the beginning, when a guy connects with you, he’s just getting to know you, so his oxytocin doesn’t increase as much. He hasn’t bonded as much. But as a man bonds more, seven months now, he’s bonded a lot, just hanging out with you a little bit of time is going to increase his oxytocin, which means rubber banding is going to increase. You haven’t done anything wrong, but you can make it “worse.”
It’s almost like playing a little hard to get or playing not too interested although you’re not playing.
What I’m saying is, don’t be so needy. And if it means putting on an act, fine. But actually, learn to be easier with this, relax. You don’t have to spend all this time together. I know it’s been exciting and fun for that first seven months, but every relationship, there comes a time, where once you’ve bonded, you don’t need as much time to bond. And when you bond quickly, that means he tends to pull away more. And, ultimately, it serves both of you to maintain a sense of autonomy instead of so much neediness and dependence.
When it comes to your text, women would appreciate a text like: “Oh my gosh, haven’t heard from you, are you okay?” But men don’t necessarily appreciate the “Hey, is everything okay?” They respond better to, “Hey, haven’t heard from you lately, what’s going on?” Something like that.
He replied, ‘Hi. Yeah. I’m good. Just chilling.’ I was glad to hear that he was doing fine and proceeded to text him, ‘Okay. Have a good night.'” He then replied, ‘Thanks. You too.’ I know that I haven’t done anything wrong except maybe text him.
I just can’t help but wonder why he’s being this way. He’s always been very consistent with how much attention he gives me. He tells me that he would never want to hurt me.
He calls me every day just to hear my voice when we don’t see each other and constantly prefers to be around me often. I’ve never had to compete for his attention nor feel insecure about our relationship until today.
A Turning Point for Your Relationship
One: A little text is fine. It’s what you say with a text that makes the difference.
Two: He hasn’t hurt you. You’ve hurt yourself. Just get that in your mind. It’s how you interpret his behaviors that causes you to feel hurt. We’re going to explore that a little bit more today.
Three: So now, the challenges begin, because, just as he bonds with you very quickly, you’re attached to him. And once you’re fully attached to him, you start to feel like, “I need him more,” as opposed to feeling more secure and looking to friends and family and work to feel better about yourself and experience fulfillment.
This is a turning point where the romance shifts from more time to better quality when you have time together.
I want to reach out to him and let him know that I feel hurt with all this. But of course, I know I shouldn’t. Am I being selfish or needy?
First ask, Am I Interpreting This Correctly?
No. You’re being needy, you’re not being selfish, without a doubt. And the neediness comes from not understanding the situation. If somebody told me that my bank account was empty, I’d freak out. But what if the bank account wasn’t empty, then I’m being too needy, but it’s reasonable.
If you were to believe that this guy that you love and have had a great relationship with is no longer in love with you and not interested in you, then, of course, you’re going to feel insecure, afraid, and appear needy — but that’s not the case!
You have to look at your feelings of neediness and think, “How am I interpreting this situation? Is it correct?” And that’s what’s causing you to feel like he’s pulling back his love, he doesn’t love you as much, or that the relationship’s over.
And that’s what the fears are about. And of course, that’s going to make you feel needy, but feeling hurt is beyond needy. And when you feel hurt, it’s like, “Hey, you hurt me.” Do you want to say to him that he’s hurt you? Then that makes him a bad guy. You never want to make the guy the bad guy. Then he has to defend himself, and now, you’re in an argument and you sound too needy.
So, if you have a hurt, recognize that you’re responsible for dealing with hurt. And where does hurt come from? I found if you have a better understanding of what hurt means, it helps you figure out what to do next.
Honestly, I’m clueless as to what I should do next. I try to keep myself preoccupied with things to do, by reading, hanging out with friends, et cetera, but I still can’t stop wondering what’s going on with him.
What to Do Next to Grow in Love!
So, that’s why you feel hurt. You don’t understand what’s going on with him, and you have all these little voices telling you, “You’ve lost the relationship. You’ve done something wrong. It’s not going to last. He’s met somebody else. Something else is happening.”
And then you feel left out. And when you’re left out, that’s what causes us to feel hurt. Hurt is an emotion that we have where we feel abandoned, we’re left out by those we thought were our supporters.
He hasn’t abandoned you, he hasn’t left you out, but you’re reacting as if he has, and that’s not a good message to give to him.
To deal with your hurt, recognize this doesn’t have to do with him so much. Start writing out your feelings in a little exploration, and bring it back to a time in your past where you really were abandoned or you really were rejected or you really did feel left out, and there was a reason to feel left out.
And then feel the hurt around that and express your forgiveness, your appreciation, your understanding that you’re not there anymore.
And that will help you deal with that part of your brain that gets hurt when a man tends to pull away because that is what will ruin your relationship. You can’t let that cause hurt inside of you, otherwise, he’ll always be defensive to you, feel controlled by your sensitivities.
…And that doesn’t promote passion and great sex, and a long and lasting, loving relationship, which you deserve.
Grow in love,
Want to understand men?
Grow in confidence?
Get your needs met in a relationship?