The Chemical Imbalance Theory Debunked

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" by John Gray. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do men behave when stressed? How do men with stress respond differently from women?

Men with stress respond in a manner that is typically different from women. While women seek release by talking it out, men tend to withdraw and mull it over in private.

Keep reading to learn why men respond to stress by withdrawing, and how to support them through this period.

When Under Stress, Men Tend to Withdraw

When under stress, men rarely want to talk about what’s bothering them. Instead, they prefer to retreat into their “cave,” their private mindset. Talking about their problems would make them feel like they are not able to solve them themselves. In the cave, a men’s primary focus is on discovering how to solve their own problems. 

When under stress, men are usually distant, preoccupied, and forgetful. They are unable to be fully present in the relationship until they have found a solution and emerged from the cave. 

As a man, it is important to know your own tendency to go into your cave. Be aware of how quickly you might shift from being warm and loving to being withdrawn and unresponsive. Try to be compassionate of your female partner if she feels neglected while you are in your cave. 

Why Men Go Into the Cave

There are many reasons a man might feel the need to withdraw into his cave:

  • He needs time to think about a problem and find a solution.
  • He is upset and doesn’t want to lose control of his emotions in front of others. 
  • He is refraining from saying something he might regret later.
  • He needs to find his individuality. Especially when in love, men tend to feel as though they are losing themselves. Time in the cave makes them feel powerful again. 

How Women Respond to Men’s Stress

Ideally, women should understand that going into the cave is just how men handle stress and learn not to take it personally. It is unfair to expect a man in the cave to be able to open up or talk about his feelings. Don’t take it personally—remember that he is from Mars. 

Here are the six ways to support your partner through his withdrawn period: 

  1. Don’t disapprove of his natural need for alone time. When a man withdraws, it is easy to become insecure or angry. You might begin to imagine the worst and assume that he no longer cares, but this is not the case. When under stress, men retreat but not because they don’t want to talk to you, but because they need this alone time to mull over their problems.
  2. Don’t offer solutions or try to solve his problems for him. Remember, your male partner needs you to trust him to solve problems independently. 
  3. Don’t attempt to nurture him by asking about his feelings. You might feel that worrying about your partner is a way to show that you care. But in order to have a fulfilling relationship, you must provide a man with the kind of caring he desires. 
  4. Don’t sit in close proximity and wait for him to start talking. The worst thing you can do when you see a man going into his cave is to try and follow him. Imagine that there’s a dragon guarding the cave! You will be burned if you do not respect a man’s need to be alone. 
  5. Don’t pity him or worry about him. It feels unnatural to a woman to leave a man alone, or abandon him when he is upset—that would never happen on Venus. But you will boost your partner’s self-esteem when you show that you aren’t worried about his ability to deal with stress. 
  6. Do something fun while he takes the time he needs. Your partner will be relieved that he doesn’t have to worry about your happiness on top of his other problems. He might even be able to come out of his cave sooner if he knows that you are happily waiting for his return. 
Men and Stress: Warning Signs and How to Respond

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  • Why it feels like men and women come from two different planets
  • How to navigate the gender-based differences in communication
  • The 6 things that men and women need in a loving relationship

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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