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RELATIONSHIPS: Luring a man out of his cave

Saturday February 13 2016

What should a woman do when her man retreats

What should a woman do when her man retreats into an impenetrable shell? PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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It’s a man thing. Every woman has been on the receiving end of it. It is what happens when, after a fight or even in the middle of what appears to the woman as an awesome phase in a relationship, a man withdraws both physically and emotionally.

He doesn’t want to talk, to listen or to do anything with you. It is as if he has gone into a cave and you have no idea how to lure him out.

This is often a very confusing time for a woman. The withdrawal can feel like a threat to the relationship and some women react to it by shutting down. Others who do not know how to deal with the silence, do all that they can to try and coax him out of the

cave. Still, others who feel abandoned react to it by seeking emotional intimacy from another man.

What is even more baffling for a woman is that when a man comes out from the cave, he wants to pick up the relationship from where he left it as if nothing happened.

“We live in the same house and he will be quiet for four days and then just come home so happy one evening like none of that happened,” says an exasperated Nelly Kamau, 31, who lives with her boyfriend.


At a glance, the man cave appears like it hurts more than it helps a relationship. Some even equate it to emotional abuse. Experts on manhood however maintain that this man-only space is actually beneficial to your relationship. Author John Gray in his book

Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, writes that unlike women, men have a better understanding of their time and space which leads them to want to step out of the moment every so often.

Apparently, when a man goes there to regroup from stressful situations, he comes back better.

Why does he come out of it as if nothing happened?

“I withdraw when I feel overwhelmed. Withdrawing has no effect on what I feel for my girlfriend and about our relationship,” Warren Kibet, 29, explains a man’s stance when he is coming out of the cave.


Even with this understanding, a woman’s reaction to a man’s withdrawal is panic. In an attempt to understand what is going on in his head, she will bombard him with questions; Do you still love me? Are you angry? Are we okay? Unfortunately, this usually

pushes a man further into the cave.

What should a woman do when her man goes into the man cave? How can a woman get a man out of it? The answer is that she shouldn’t try. When a man needs time to think, relationships psychologist Chris Hart advises, let him have it.

The only thing that a woman ought to do at this point according to Dr Hart is to acknowledge his need to withdraw. This can be helped by the knowledge of the fact that his withdrawal is a coping mechanism and not an indicator of the state of the


“When a man needs time to think, you should let him have it. You need to talk to him about a difficult issue? Fix a time and place! Men respond very badly to being ambushed,” Dr Hart says.

Rule number two of how to handle your man when he goes into the man cave is, do not try to nudge him out of it. In his book He-Motions: Even Strong Men Struggle, American pastor TD Jakes writes that being supportive rather than combative during this

period is one way that a woman can understand and care for the man in her life.

This means staying out of his way, don’t threaten him, don’t make demands and especially do not give him an ultimatum lest he loses control and says things that both of you will regret later.

What is a woman to do with the negative feelings that this withdrawal might make her feel? According to author John Gray, do something that makes you happy. If you love dancing or the outdoors, indulge yourself.  If you have to talk to him, a phone call

or a text message every so often intended to make him know you are thinking about him will do.

The second thing that determines whether the man cave hurts or helps a relationship other than how a woman reacts when a man withdraws is how a woman treats him when he finally comes out of the cave. From the feelings of anger and apprehension that

the withdrawal causes, the average woman will be angry or withdrawn. This is an inappropriate response.

“I just want her to be nice to me,” Stanley Mwenda a Nairobi banker shares what he would like to come to when he gets out of the cave.

 Gray agrees with this. Often, just because he came out of the cave doesn’t mean he is ready to talk about his problem, so don’t badger him like most women do. This is of course unless he goes to the cave to avoid dealing with problems. In this case, a man

needs to learn better ways of communicating. Clearly just like women, men need tender loving care.



If you want your separation to thrive, separate your feelings from facts. This is the only way you get to see your partner for who he really is. When you are anxious about the relationship or

during a fight ask yourself, do I feel this way because of my partner or is it a feeling triggered by something in my past?