Understand Men Better: Why Men Shut down

Shutting down is such a common thing amongst men when we are upset and dealing with a lot of emotions at once. I believe that shutting down happens a lot in relationships because as men we are forced to deal and open up to someone else besides family and friends. The reason I bring up family and friends is because we have spent an enormous amount of time with these people and we learn what they like and what they don’t. Relationships don’t give you the same time frame to understand that person compared to friends/family therefore everything happens quicker and in a very short period of time. Another difference between friends/family compared to a relationship is that you don’t have to see your friends/family all the time, whereas relationships requirements are different.

We see emotions differently, we were not encouraged to embrace emotions from day one as a boys. We were told just make money and provide and all will be fine, but also those who said that didn’t envision the world we live in now. This is how men see love, imagine there is a room in your house that you are not allowed to go into and since your parents said this and they know better because parents know better, you don’t go into this room, you carry on with your life and you grow. Eventually at some point you will fall in love and now you have to go into that room but that room is dark and there are sharp objects that can harm you and they do because it’s dark and it’s your first time in that room. In that very same room your girlfriend at the time knows every inch of that room even when its dark, hence we celebrate first when a relationship ends – it’s because we have left that room and we won’t get hurt anymore. Later we realize that, that room comes with the person you love and wanna be with all the time but you can’t stand the pain that room comes with. We take longer to trust again and open up ourselves for a relationship again and being open to someone else can take up to five years.

So when you are in a relationship and you have opened yourself to this person, they are likely to hurt you the most because they are the closest. I have learnt how to shut down from my relationship with my mother, because she will always be the first woman I have ever loved. My mother was a shouter, and as a child I came up with this defence mechanism to protect myself from her, therefore I go to a happy place, it could be cartoons or something that makes me happy. As men we have the ability to shut down during a heated conversation and this is always sparked or triggered by different things within the relationship. You will always date someone who has similar traits to your parents therefore you either chose someone who is like your mother as your future wife.

Remember that we were not encouraged to be emotional because we were raised to believe that it was for girls only, only girls are allowed to cry, or say how they feel, we didn’t have the space or environment to learn how to express those emotions. Now you are an adult now and you are in an argument with your woman and she asks you to tell her how you feel. You go blank because what she is asking of you at the time is so foreign. You feel like an idiot and what she has asked you should be simple (it seems simple) but it’s not for you, therefore you shut down.

There was a point where i used to ask my then girldfriend for two days to unpack my emotions and get back to her with how i felt and why i felt this way. It frustrated her that i needed more time to understand my own emotions what she didn’t know was that i was not as equitpt as she was. We also shutdown because we are not allowed to cry because boys don’t cry. No one tells you that shutting down is wrong until you are 28 and in relationship and you are struggling to articulate to your woman that she is hurting you. Some men dont engage with you with regards to emotions, they shutdown and find the next thing that will make them feel better, wether its another woman, liquor and drugs. Alcohol is always an easy one to pick because its a social thing therefore people will not know that you have problems, obviously until the problem gets worse.


  • Lebogang Matli
    21st Nov 2017

    This has hurt so many relationships, it’s ruined marriages and has broken so many people. I have also learnt to shut down as a result, I feel like communication is highly overrated.

    • George Matsheke
      21st Nov 2017

      What do you mean communication is highly overrated?

    • TheLooz
      27th Nov 2017

      my biggest fear with giving up is that we’re going to raise a generation of non-communicators. where would they learn it from if we as parents have given up?

  • Ntokozo Alex Botjie
    21st Nov 2017

    Damn i learnt this the hard way this year, i think we can change this and shout out to Marvin for starting the conversation.

    • George Matsheke
      21st Nov 2017

      Its not easy for men to open up and i think its a constant battle as well …

  • Sivu
    25th Nov 2017

    First up! Big ups to Marvin. I love how we unpack so many issues here, like old friends over wine, vodka, whiskey or Coke for that matter. I really enjoy these streets!

    This piece just hit a nerve. So I haven’t dated in almost 3 years. It has taken so long to recover from my last relationship, but anyway! My guy didn’t talk much. I mean, we conversed but he couldn’t articulate how he felt about anything. As such, I learned that if I wanted to get anything out of him, I would need to ask direct and deliberate questions. During the past 3 years, I’ve met another man who has similar character traits. He responds to paragraph long texts with a “Lol” or “I see” or anything in that family. But here, I am not even trying to unpack.

    Thing is, because women are so used to always being in their feels, we don’t struggle. And if you meet the same kind of man (and say like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, pray, love: “I’ve dated you before!”), you are bound to get tired. Tired to unpack. Tired to do a root cause analysis. it’s a lot of work. And sometimes, you just want someone to just send you an email telling you why they enjoy you. That’s it…

    • George Matsheke
      26th Nov 2017

      Its all about conversations and getting insight about how we can understand each other better. I am glad you guys enjoy these posts. We as men are a different breed and we have alot to unlearn and open up to, so this is a start.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: