Are you the sort of person who cares a lot about how others feel?
Do you constantly think about ways you can help people?
Do you just want to be close to people you like?
You’d never think those qualities could backfire on you.
Those qualities make you who you are!
But sometimes they can go too far.
When you are overly focused on other people’s feelings, you can end up crossing a line…
Especially when it comes to men.
He’ll Never Tell You About This
He won’t tell you this, but one of his BIGGEST turnoffs is:
Someone who’s overly invested in the way he feels.
She spends all her time trying to figure out how he’s feeling. She analyzes everything he says and does for clues as to whether he likes her.
She takes personal responsibility for his feelings. If he backs away or cools off, she sees it as a threat to their relationship and immediately sets plans in place to get close again.
She’s doing all this NOT because she’s a bad person—obviously!—but because she CARES about him. This is just the way she is. She organizes her life around other people’s feelings.
But he doesn’t experience her behavior as caring.
He experiences it as stressful.
He feels like he can no longer live his life in peace. He has to consider how she’ll interpret every single little thing he does. He’s constantly reassuring her.
He gets sick and tired of the conversation always coming back to feelings. It’s just too psychological, and he can’t handle it.
So he breaks things off…
And she never learns why.
It’s Not Your Fault – You Were Trained to Do This
As women, we’ve been set up.
We were trained from a young age that it’s our job to micromanage how everyone else is feeling. So we learned to pay close attention to the people around us.
It’s one thing to be super sensitive to other people’s feelings. But when you add insecurity on top of that—and who doesn’t feel insecure in love?—you stress yourself out.
A man tells you he can’t talk right now, and you assume he’s pushing you away because he doesn’t like you anymore.
A man tells you he can’t meet up with you and walk to class anymore, and you assume he’s telling you he doesn’t want to be with you anymore.
You confront him about it to clear the air, and instead of reassuring you he explodes in frustration. He doesn’t understand why you read so much into his behavior. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t meet up. What’s the big deal?
He storms off, and you feel terrible.
So you try to make it up to him by doing nice things for him, surprising him with his favorite coffee, sending him sweet texts, anything to make things go back the way they were.
But he doesn’t take those overtures in the way you intended.
Now he feels like you won’t leave him alone. He just needed some space, and instead you’re always there every time he turns around.
He gets more and more frustrated, and acts more and more distant each time he sees you, which makes you more and more frantic in your efforts to win him back.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
There’s Another Option
Now imagine a different kind of relationship.
In this relationship, you don’t try to get inside his head. Instead, you train yourself to take your loved one’s behavior at face value.
You don’t overanalyze. You just take him at his word.
If he says he can’t make it tonight, you accept that he can’t make it and get on with your evening. You try to avoid ruining your evening with rumination on what this means for your relationship, where he’s really at tonight, or whether he’s with someone else.
If he seems frustrated or irritated, you wait to see if he’s going to talk about it. If he doesn’t open up, you let it go. You let him do what he needs to do. You don’t take responsibility for his feelings; they’re HIS feelings, not yours.
You don’t psychoanalyze him. You don’t claim to know his “real” motives. You don’t assume you know him better than he knows himself.
He’s the expert on himself. If he says he needs a fishing weekend, you conclude that what he needs is a fishing weekend. You don’t jump to the conclusion that he’s bored of your relationship and doesn’t want to spend time with you anymore.
You honor and respect his personal and psychic space, and he does the same for you.
Does this sound reckless?
Surely you can’t take a man at his word?
Surely you can’t take his behavior at face value?
Surely there’s always more to the story!
But what you’re conveying by doing this is a very valuable message:
You’re showing him that you trust him.
This Doesn’t Just Turn Off Men
This particular turnoff is a universal turnoff.
Men do it to women, too.
Friends do it to friends.
Family members do it.
Any time ANYONE spends too much time thinking about your behavior and taking it personally, it’s a turn-off.
No matter who does it!
An experience of mine really drove home this lesson.
A while back, I was working out at the gym every morning before work. An older gentleman, retired, struck up a conversation with me. We had a nice chat, and the next day he was there again… and the next day… until I realized he was now coming in every time I was there so he could work out with me.
Now, I’m not the sort of person who wants a workout partner. My workout time is “me time.” I need the peace and quiet to plan what I need to do for the day.
But it was hard to tell him that, because he was clearly enjoying spending his mornings with me. Finally, after a few weeks, I managed to tell him that I needed my workout time back because I relied on that that time to mentally set myself up for the day. Even though I was super-polite, I could tell he was hurt.
For the next few days, I would greet him every morning in a friendly way, but I stayed focused on getting my workout done and out the door.
Then the weird stuff started happening.
He started looking for ways to connect with me, like offering me a protein bar or an extra bottle of water. He’d wait for me until I left the gym and give me compliments, like how much he admired my discipline.
He was just a lonely older guy with too much time on his hands, but it began to feel really invasive. Finally he confronted me outside the gym one day and said that he was going to stop coming to the gym in the mornings because it felt like I didn’t want him there.
Your Right to Space
Now, as a woman, your first instinct is to say, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to make you feel that way. Of course I want you here!”
We’ve been raised to believe that it’s our fault if we accidentally make someone feel bad, and it’s our job to make them feel good again immediately.
But I resisted. I just said, “You need to do what makes you feel comfortable.”
Maybe not the perfect reply, but it was enough.
What I have learned through my work is that each and every one of us has a right to boundaries.
We have a right to personal space. We have a right to psychic space.
We have a right to tell someone when we can’t give them what they want or be what they want.
This guy wanted a young attractive friend to work out with every morning. Which is a perfectly fine thing to want, but that person wasn’t going to be me.
It was my responsibility to communicate my boundary in a kind, firm way. It was his responsibility to deal with his disappointment.
If he had done that, chances are we would have remained friends. I liked the guy. I just didn’t want to work out with him.
But he took my no personally. He kept trying to find ways around my boundary. For me, that was a red flag I couldn’t ignore.
No One Can See Inside Your Head
It has taken me so much work to get to a space where I can take ownership of what is mine and let other people take ownership of what is theirs.
I only feel safe in relationships where we honor each other’s personal and psychic space.
But that’s not always easy to find.
Have you ever had a relationship derailed because the other person took your behavior personally when it wasn’t about them at all?
When I’m around people who blur those lines—who project their own thoughts and feelings onto me, or who assume they know the reasons for my behavior better than I do—I shut down.
The legendary Patricia Evans taught me that no one else has the right to tell me who I am or what I’m thinking or feeling.
They can ASK me what I’m thinking or feeling, and I will tell them!
But they don’t get to tell me, “You want this,” or, “You don’t want this.”
That’s putting THEIR thoughts in MY head. And it’s not okay.
Practice The 6th Love Language
You’ve probably heard of the 5 love languages.
But did you know there’s a 6th?
Many therapists believe that giving someone space is a way to show your love for them.
When your partner says he needs his morning workouts, or he needs time to himself, or he needs to be left alone for a minute, listen carefully to what he’s telling you.
You might assume that he’s saying he doesn’t want to be around you.
But maybe he’s just saying he needs you to speak his love language.
Give him what makes him feel loved. Give him space.
Space to think. Space to zone out. Space to breathe. Space to remember himself.
And then he can come back to you refreshed and recharged.
Don’t jinx your relationships by making his behavior into something it’s not.
Let us know what you think!