Over the past few weeks, I’ve had an increasing number of emails from readers asking questions about the very famous relationship book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray. I have no idea what has triggered the sudden gathering of questions but one of the most common issues with the assertion that ‘men are like rubber bands’.
John Gray essentially believes that men have an intimacy cycle that is comparable with a rubber band, which stretches (this is when the man pulls away) and then eventually springs back, which is when he wants to get closer.
“Men instinctively feel this urge to pull away. It is not a decision or choice. It just happens. It is neither his fault nor her fault. It is a natural cycle”
Apparently because we as women pull away when something is wrong, we perceive it as being that there is something wrong when in actual fact the man is fulfilling his need for “independence or autonomy”.
Even more interestingly, when he has stretched the rubber band as far as it can go (basically distanced himself), he will then feel the urge for love and intimacy again and bingo, he springs back into relationship action, picking up the relationship at “whatever degree of intimacy it was when he stretched away. He doesn’t feel any need for a period of getting reacquainted again”
Now I there is a lot I enjoy about this infamous book but I can wholeheartedly say that whilst there are no doubt men who behave in the manner described, many are have actually got busted up rubber bands that do not spring back into action.
This is not planet of the apes where we have to creep around the species with a penis and the problem with this idea that men have a cycle of pushing and pulling and blowing hot and cold (you can see where I am going with this…) is that it sends a message to millions of women that this is what they should expect in all relationships.
What John Gray is also describing are men who are habitually emotionally emotionally unavailable, habitually users, habitually coming back to roost when they need an ego stroke, a shag, or a shoulder to lean on, and who manage down the relationship and the woman’s expectations so that they can get their needs met without meeting the needs of the woman.
We all, both men and women, have the potential to withdraw and have periods of not being very emotionally receptive. Stress, grief, coping just after a break-up, trauma and a variety of things can, for periods of time, impact on our ability to emotionally engage on a healthy level with someone.
Where this rubber band theory is problematic is where there are relationships with poor or non existent foundations and also by creating the expectation that all men behave in this way, many women have misguidedly failed to recognise the major red flags in their men when they are in the early stages of dating them.
They make allowances for poor behaviour believing that this is ‘just what men do’ and spend copious amounts of energy trying to understand, fix, heal, help, and accommodate what often amounts to bullsh*t behaviour.
I speak to people who are in healthy relationships all the time and not one of these people is caught up in some guys ‘relationship menstrual cycle’!
The people who are caught up in this cycle are unhappy and it’s not just because they don’t understand that their man is like a rubber band who needs them to let them breathe and do his thang so that he’ll feel the desire to return; it’s because coupled up with other factors in the relationship, there are some serious issues at work.
What if he’s not ‘returning’? What if he’s just popping in to get what he needs on his terms and then skipping off again the moment that he feels that she wants, needs, or expects too much from him? Sound familiar….
What if he hurtles out of the gate blowing super hot, pursuing you relentlessly, declaring the ‘I Love you’s’ and all that jazz, only to then start stretching himself out to distance himself from you and you start feeling a lukewarm or even super cold breeze coming through? Sound familiar?
What if after he’s blown lukewarm or cold, he starts blowing hot again just as he feels that things are dipping out of his control so he needs to manage the relationship back to the comfort zone of The Status Quo, the comfortable middle ground that a Mr Unavailable determines for the relationship?
And that’s what we all need to recognise here – good relationships don’t feel bad but also when there is a negative pattern of emotional intimacy to your relationship where he is controlling it by blowing hot and cold ‘retreating and returning’ so that he can manage down your expectations, put you and the relationship exactly where he wants it, and basically manage things on his terms, something just isn’t right.
This whole believing that men are like rubber bands has us chasing men that don’t want to be caught and pandering to the needs of men that aren’t prepared to put three toes, never mind two feet into the relationship!
In parts two and three, I explain about distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable ‘retreating’ in a relationship and recognising when you are genuinely crowding someone’s intimacy space and how to handle it without letting your internal and external fears go crazy, but also recognising when someone has no genuine intention of building an intimate relationship with you and is using this behaviour to keep you at a distance, permanently.