We hear a lot about toxic masculinity these days. But what some people don’t understand is that there’s toxic masculinity (bullying, immaturity, misogyny) which is a very bad thing…and then there’s also emotional suppression. Which is not a “bad thing” for society as much as it’s a tragic and painful thing to endure for the man himself.
No, men shouldn’t be required or forced to be emotionally open if they don’t want to be. But it’s such a tragedy when you go through life feeling suppressed, guarded, and not being able to share what you really feel inside.
I know a lot of our fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers probably dealt with this. After all, the Greatest Generation and the Lost Generation of the early 1900s were characterized by great strength of character triumphing over unbearable tragedy. Men had no choice but to be strong and not let their emotions overcome their obligation.
But we live in a new era and there’s no need to carry that weight, that burden of burying your emotions for the greater good. Women are amazing creatures, in that you have the ability to be both strong and emotionally open. But there are many men who have problems being open, emotional, and even honest with themselves.
So this article is about the guarded man. What can you do if you sense that your crush or boyfriend is guarded emotionally and either hold back his true feelings from you or perhaps everyone?
This article is going to discuss what causes someone to be guarded and how do you get an emotionally unavailable man to open up.
He Won’t Open Up Emotionally
Let’s first discuss why men are so guarded. While men have been socially indoctrinated to be tough, dominant, and logical, there are other factors that contribute to emotional unavailability.
According to Healthline, some of the factors that can contribute to emotional unavailability include:
- Attachment issues, particularly parental neglect
- Temporary depression
- Grief – either family loss or relationship turmoil
- Other relationship problems, like infidelity, unrequited crushes, abuse, and toxicity
- Low self-esteem in general
While it’s easy to speculate what went wrong the more important question for the moment is how do you get him to open up about his feelings?
Let’s start by talking about love languages.
The Love Language of an Emotionally Unavailable Man
To say that emotionally repressed men don’t feel emotions would be wrong. They do and they can. But as we often learn with different love languages among people, they don’t necessarily respond the way you might expect.
A woman can usually tell if a man has feelings for her, by the way he looks at her, or by what he says, or eccentric things he might even do as a sign that he’s interested.
In case you’re wondering how do you tell if an emotionally unavailable man loves you here are a few signs that transcend all love languages:
- He is very protective of you – to him, providing for you is his love language!
- He talks about emotional things with you, more than anyone else
- He talks a lot about his past
- He always asks for your opinion
- He sees a future with you
- He seems open to discussing anything, even if he’s not so effusive
That last item is significant. Because a man who is emotionally “unavailable” can still change. The fact that that he would even consider sharing his feelings with you is major progress. This is something he could probably never do with a therapist, or a friend, or maybe even a family member.
But he trusts you! That’s a major breakthrough. And the good news is that while this may be a challenging task, once you get him to this point, he is very likely to remain loyal to you. After all, you not only were there for him as a partner, but you helped him achieve new milestones and helped him grow as a person.
The question is now, how can you learn his love language and communicate with him even without the transparent emotions that most couples rely on?
Questions to Get Him to Open Up
It’s important to understand what his frame of mind is, rather than assuming that something is wrong with him, or that he can’t be helped. The fact that he’s willing to share a little bit means a lot. Rather than fault him for what he can’t do, encourage him for what he’s willing to do.
One of the best ways to get him to open is by asking questions. A man who takes pride in his logical side and his inner strength might enjoy the non-confrontational version of “opening up.” Namely, by using his brain power to explain what he would do, in absence of emotions.
But the fact that he’s thinking AND feeling (even if it’s a very subtle feeling) is only going to help him. Making him talk about his feelings does put him in touch with his buried emotions. Because the only way we can understand someone talking about emotions is to experience those same emotions.
So try some of the following questions, which are playful but also existential.
How to Get a Guy to Express His Feelings in Questions
- Have you ever made conversation with a complete stranger? (What did you talk about?)
- What was the scariest nightmare you ever had?
- What’s the most terrified you’ve ever been?
- Have you ever told a secret you’ve never told anyone else? (Who was it?)
- Ever felt that some higher power (God, the Universe) was guiding you?
- Who is your favorite artist/writer/musician/filmmaker? (Why?)
- What was your first job? (And how did you feel?)
- What’s the saddest movie you can think of?
- What’s something you’ve never done you’d like to try once?
- What’s the nicest thing you’ve ever done for a stranger?
- Taken some really bad advice?
- Felt really embarrassed?
- Hurt someone’s feelings without meaning too?
- Ever lied to get out of a sticky situation?
- Ever caught someone lying to you?
- Who was your first crush?
- What was your relationship like with your mom/dad?
- What’s the best memory you’ve ever had in life?
- How did you enjoy school?
- What’s the best vacation you’ve ever had?
- Ever had a bad ex? (Did you learn anything from him?)
- How have you changed since when you were a kid?
- Did you ever rebel against your parents? (Even in little ways)
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
- Did your family have any traditions?
- Who was your childhood hero?
- What’s your earliest memory?
- Have you ever done something silly for love?
- How has your biggest fear changed from when you were a kid?
- What would the story of your life be called?
- What’s a reality show you would like to be on and win?
- If we were to play truth or dare what would be three dares and truths you might ask?
- If you could go back in time what would you do first?
- If you could visit any country in the world where would you go?
- If you could get three wishes from a genie what would you get?
- If you could be a genie, whose wishes would you like to grant?
- If you could know the future, what would you want to see?
- What’s a dealbreaker for you in a romantic relationship?
- What does love feel like?
- Do you believe in soul mates or is it all just luck of the draw?
- Where’s the oddest place you’ve ever had sex?
- What’s the best romantic scene in a movie?
- Would you date your ex again if things were different (What things?)
- What things in life turn you on? (Turn you off?)
- What’s the craziest sex fantasy you’ve ever had? (Or watched?)
- Who was the first crush you ever had?
- What do you want your legacy to be?
- Where do you want to be 20 years from today?
- Have you ever predicted something that came true?
- What would be one future invention you would want to buy?
- What’s a message you would give you your past self? (Future self?)
- What is spirituality to a man like you?
- What gets you through life? Knowledge or intuition?
- What is your philosophy on life?
- What are three things you like about yourself?
- What are three things you would change?
- What’s an opinion you used to have that you completely changed?
- What do you think happens after death?
- What sci-fi movie or book could be a real thing?
- Have you ever had to forgive someone that hurt you?
- Who was the worst boss you ever had? (Who was the best?)
- What fictional character do you relate to?
- What’s something stupid you’ve always wanted to try?
- What’s your favorite quote of all time?
- What’s the happiest moment you can remember?
- What is a secret you know about someone else?
- What’s something that always makes you laugh?
- What would be an elaborate wedding proposal to you?
- What’s your favorite food?
- Would you rather work your dream job for minimum wage or be rich for a job you hate?
- What’s on your bucket list?
- If you could commission an artwork, what would you want drawn?
- What song makes you sad?
- What’s a song that reminds you of yourself?
- What’s something you don’t like in movies?
All of these questions, while fun and sometimes funny, do something important. They help him to experience emotions, even if it’s just in a hypothetical situation. What you may see as him giving logical answers, may actually be him getting in touch with his emotions.
He allows himself to feel emotions in a hypothetical scenario. He may not become emotive and passionate overnight just from asking a few questions.
But what will happen is that he will start to associate you as the one person who can draw him out and make him feel something important. That’s a great start.
How Do You Know If a Guarded Person Loves You?
If he does these exercises with you then that’s a good sign that he cares deeply for you. If he seems to get excited at the prospect of doing another quiz, that’s great news! That means not only does he love you, but he’s actually enjoying feeling something and associates you as his safe place, a friend with whom he can confide anything.
Over time, he might start to actually come out of his shell and express how he feels to you emotionally, if no one else. You’ve been there for him since the beginning, with little harmless questions. Now he trusts you to take him to the full journey of emotional discovery.
Learning how to feel and being in a safe place (like with a partner he can trust) is the best way to help a man who has a closed heart to gradually start to trust again and feel again.
What Makes a Man Open Up to a Woman
If you’re still wondering how to get a guarded man to open up, just remember not to push so hard for a demonstrative change. You’re not his therapist. Your his girlfriend, his wife, his crush – someone he considers a friend.
Friendship will help him trust you. He needs to consistently see that you are curious about him, very trustworthy (you never judge him or break his confidence by telling someone else), and honest about emotion.
Better yet, once he sees you opening up and sharing your feelings, he will be more inclined to follow your lead.
When a man opens up to you emotionally it’s important to take the time to show him how it’s done. Be patient. Don’t be judgmental. Be proud of him and let him know that, even if he takes baby steps in terms of sharing.
Letting him “take the lead” in this activity, and not pressuring him to do exactly what you tell him, is important. If you want his emotions to be honest and positive, they must come from his heart. You are what inspires him, so work with that!
If you enjoyed this article, please read my special page on how to Learn how to turn a guy on over text!