I want to talk about a topic that is often only used to describe the actions of women. I want to discuss withholding, a term used mainly to describe women using sex as manipulation in a relationship. But I want to discuss what I feel is the much bigger issue of withholding. The emotional withholding that occurs mainly by men that causes women to completely disconnect.
I am so tired of hearing that I’m too emotional or my expectations are too high or I’m high maintenance. All things that have been said to or about me by men. Not necessarily men I have dated, just men in my life. Things I’m sure all women have heard at some point. Things that make us feel insecure and unlovable, which I’m beginning to think is the point. Things that make us too much, so we’ll become less than.
In my former marriage, I expected my ex to be there for me and have my back. As his wife, I assumed that I would be a priority to him. If he said he was going to do something, I expected that he would do it. If he told me he would be at an event with me, I expected he would show up. If he promised to support me in some way, I expected that he would. All perfectly reasonable expectations, but all evidently too much for him. I spent the majority of my marriage alone- going to events alone, taking care of the kids and the home alone, taking care of me alone. There was always someone or something more important than me. Unless it was something fun for him, he was not doing it or being there for it.
Now this wasn’t how he started, I would never have married him if he was always like this. But his emotional withholding is definitely what played the biggest part in the ending of our relationship. Men need to understand that women are reactive to them. We follow their example in the direction of the relationship. We will make bids to try to fix things that are broken, but when those bids don’t work, we adjust to the new normal until we can’t do it anymore and we shut down emotionally and physically. Let me explain.
Early in my marriage when I would try to talk to my ex about work or family issues or just things I was sad about, he would blow them off as unimportant. So, I quit bringing them up. Then when I would try to talk about problems between us, he would roll his eyes or deeply sigh. So, I quit talking about us. About ten or so years into my marriage, I tried many times to get my ex to go to counseling with me. His response was that I needed counseling, but he didn’t, so he wasn’t going. So, I quit trying. When I tried to talk to him about how I didn’t like going to school events alone, he would tell me how busy work was or he just wouldn’t show. So, I quit asking him to go. When I needed a friend, he wasn’t there. When I needed a husband, he wasn’t there. I made bid after bid, and he rejected them. He withheld emotional connection to me until I completely disconnected from him.
I’m sure his affair that came after that stemmed from my disconnect. I’m not saying the affair was my fault, but I know he had to feel it when I let go. I was already thinking divorce and was ready to walk away. That business trip he was on when he had the affair, he had asked me to go with him. I had no interest in going with him, I didn’t like him anymore. I had made every effort to connect and he had rejected them all.
This type of emotional withholding can manifest in different ways and can also turn into manipulation and control. When you are upset over something they have or haven’t done, they may say they were going to do something nice for you but have now changed their mind. Or when you try to discuss an emotional need you have or a problem, they may bring up how they take care of you financially, so you should he happy. Or they may plan a fun trip instead of dealing with relationship issues, as a distraction.
That business trip my ex invited me on where he had the affair? He knew I wouldn’t be able to go; we had a fifteen- and ten-year-old with no one to watch them and get them to school. But after the affair, I heard about how it wouldn’t have happened if I had come. I can’t even count the trips he took me on after he lost another job or had his affair. Trips are definitely his go to attempt to manipulate happiness, without dealing with the problems. Expensive shoes, a Rolex, new wedding rings- all things I now recognize he used to try to buy his way out of true emotional connection and to make himself feel better for not being there for me. I would have given it all up just to have his support. I didn’t care about the things, I cared about him.
So, I guess I AM too emotional for a man that doesn’t want to connect emotionally, and my expectations ARE too high for a man that doesn’t value loyalty. I suppose I might even be considered high maintenance to a man who is ok with not keeping his commitments, because keeping your word is very important to me. I do know that I would rather be alone than ever wonder where I stand in a relationship again. I would rather be alone by myself than feel alone in a relationship. I would rather be too much than ever make myself less than again.
If I can’t have someone who I can trust to make me a priority and have my back, then I am good with my friends and family that I know are there for me. If you’re one of those, thank you for supporting me. I love y’all.