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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Why do women pull away in an intimate relationship? What does it mean for the man? Does it mean she has had a change of heart towards him or is it something else?
When women are in love, they go through a natural cycle of intimacy that is a lot like a wave. First, they feel great and have so much love to give to their partners. Then they begin to fall into a deep well of feelings, like hopelessness and loneliness, and that’s why women pull away.
Here is why women pull away and how to respond when it happens.
Why Women Pull Away
When women are in love, the wave cycle comes naturally; it is embedded in their psychology. They may not even realize when they are down and that they are more reactive, vulnerable, and in need of love.
As a man, it is important to understand why women pull away and learn how to respond to your partner’s fluctuations in intimacy.
Women Are Like Waves
When women are in love, they feel happiness, trust, gratitude, and fulfillment. The reason why women pull away from this happiness bubble is that they are also deeply connected to their pre-existing feelings of fear, sadness, and insecurity. When a woman crashes or goes down into her well, it is a time to express and heal those negative feelings.
A woman’s wave is directly related to her own self-esteem. When a woman feels good about herself, she is able to give love. But when a woman doubts herself, she begins to crash. When a woman is at the low point of her wave, she needs support more than ever.
Signs that a woman is crashing down:
- She feels insecure: She might say “I need more from you.”
- She feels overwhelmed: She might say “There’s way too much to do.”
- She is uninterested: She might say “Do whatever you want.”
- She is mistrustful: She might say “What is that supposed to mean?”
Throughout the cycle of giving love and needing love, a woman continues to love and trust her partner. She doesn’t mean to become vulnerable or insecure in the relationship—it is a natural instinct. Many women don’t even realize that their natural intimacy cycles have a profound impact on their male partners.
When a woman crashes, it is important to support her and allow her to feel her negative feelings. Once she hits rock bottom, she will be ready to rise, give love, and feel good about herself again.
If you do not support your partner through her crashes, she might become hesitant to follow her natural cycle. Without having the opportunity to go down and relieve her negative feelings, a woman may become repressed, numb, and uninspired. Repressed negative emotions often lead to repressed positive emotions, as well, including love. She might withhold sex and affection or develop addictions like drinking, overworking, or overeating.
Here are three insights that might give you a sense of relief when dealing with a woman going down into her well:
- When you support your partner through her low period, she might not immediately feel better. But she will feel safe to dive deeper into her feelings. As you go through many more cycles together, you’ll get better at supporting her through the feelings that often arise during her lowest spells.
- You are not to blame for the negative feelings that arise when your female partner crashes. You cannot stop her from going through this cycle, you can only help her get through it.
- You are not responsible for fixing a woman’s problems and helping her rise. She will naturally rebound on her own once she has hit the bottom of her emotional low.
When a Woman Is Down
When your female partner experiences a sudden change of mood and begins to go down into her well of emotions, don’t become defensive or assume that you are to blame. Remember that the main reason why women pull away is that it is in their natural emotional cycle.
Here are some of the most important things to remember when helping your female partner through her crash:
- Make her feel safe: Go out of your way to show your partner that you are there to support her. Never judge her negative feelings or make unfair demands during her low period.
- Don’t try to fix it: Remember that you cannot pull your partner out of her low. Don’t offer suggestions or solutions. Just listen and sympathize, even if you cannot understand why she is feeling down.
- Don’t expect an immediate lift: Remember that your support might not immediately make your partner feel better. In fact, your partner might go even deeper into her negative feelings. This is actually a positive step! The closer she gets to the bottom, the sooner she will be able to rise.
- Don’t get defensive: Remember that your partner is working through pre-existing emotions, as well as current ones. Know that most of the negativity your partner is feeling is natural, and not a result of your behavior.
When a Woman Rises Up
As soon as a woman rises out of the well, she is back to her normal, loving, giving self. But this does not mean that those negative feelings and pre-existing emotions have been fully resolved. The next time she crashes, many of those feelings will surface again. Often, this causes recurring arguments.
Understand that the reason why women pull away has nothing to do with you. Never say things like, “How many times are we going to talk about this?” or “I don’t want to talk about this again.” Instead, listen.
Example: Recurring Emotions
When Chris and Pam got married, they didn’t have much money. Sometimes Pam would go through low periods and complain of being dissatisfied. Chris could easily understand her unhappiness. He resolved to work harder to bring home more money, and Pam felt cared for.
A few years later, Chris and Pam were wealthy. But Pam would sometimes still have low spells. Chris couldn’t understand Pam’s pain anymore. He felt that he had fixed all of her problems. Because Chris couldn’t understand her, Pam couldn’t feel truly loved. The more money Chris and Pam made, the less happy Pam became.
What happened to Chris and Pam? At the start of their marriage, Chris could relate to the negative emotions that surfaced when Pam’s wave crashed. He felt that he could work hard and solve all her problems by making more money.
Later in the relationship, Chris could no longer understand why Pam was going in waves. He thought that money had solved her problems. He forgot that she was from Venus—regardless of her new wealth, Pam just needed support in order to rise back up from her well.
Once Chris realized that he could make Pam happy by simply validating her feelings, just like he had when they were poor, Chris and Pam experienced renewed love and happiness.
The Rubber Band and the Wave
Sometimes, when a woman is crashing to the lowest point of her wave and needs to talk, a man is also stretching back his rubber band and can’t listen. Without an understanding of the natural intimacy cycles of men and women, this could cause conflict in a relationship. But once you know the natural differences between men and women, you can learn to work through these difficult periods together.
How a man can help a woman through her low point while he is pulling back:
- Be honest about your limitations: If you have nothing to give and need to stretch away, be honest with yourself that you are not in a good place to listen.
- Sympathize with her pain: If your partner needs more love than you can give her, she might feel abandoned. Make sure your partner knows that you understand she’s hurting.
- Be reassuring: Reassure your partner that you will come back to her. Tell her that you will give her the love she deserves once you’ve taken care of yourself.
How a woman can go through her low point and allow her man to stretch away:
- Accept his natural cycle: If you want your partner to really listen to you, you’ll have to wait until he is ready to do so. Wait until the time is right to initiate conversation.
- Get support elsewhere: If you need support, go to your friends or family. Remind your partner that he is not solely responsible for your happiness.
Ultimately, a woman should be allowed to ask for love and reassurance when she needs it and a man should be allowed to have time to himself when he needs it. Remember, a healthy relationship results from two people who commit to fulfilling each other’s primary love needs.
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- Why it feels like men and women come from two different planets
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