Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Relationship Series: #1 The Rubber Band Theory

A year ago, my goal for this blog was an HONEST look at the single life-- good, bad, and ugly. Dating stories, encouragement, etc.  And I realize that now that I am dating someone seriously (and  calm down people, by seriously, I mean together for more than a couple months, I don't mean eloping next month...), I have not posted as much about dating, etc.  Part of this is because I don't want to be too vulnerable with private stuff.  If we have a fight, I do not want to vent that publically. If we have a sweet moment, thats still not something I want to share publically -- not because I suddenly can't relate to singles, but because these stories and moments are not just mine to share. (we have all read those blogs with OVERSHARE...recently my roomates and I stumbled across a blog of a friend of a friend who would tell us very personal moments in detail! Fine to go home and gush about that to your friends, but we could read it too and we didn't even really know her!)

But, I should share more- about what I am learning, dating, etc.  I LOVE when I read someone else's blog and they provide dating and relationship tips and stories.  So I am going to do a short dating series.


Am I the last one to hear about this? I have recently discovered this theory and love it.  NOT Love it because I think its great (because I actually think it sucks) but LOVE it because its true (and now I don't feel crazy for noticing this in my own relationship)

It was first discussed in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus which is possibly why I haven't heard of this dating theory yet.  Afterall, I was in elementary school in the early 90s when this came out...not so much dating then. (small confession: after reading about this theory in an article, I ordered this book to my kindle. Possibly pathetic that I love self help books, BUT anything that explains something I do not understand is great!)

The concept: Men are like rubber bands.  They need some pull to bounce back.  If they feel too much slack in the band, they will never bounce back to you. Therefore, they operate best if there is a little tension/distance sometimes.

The concept explained: Men have intimacy cycles. They need a lot of intimacy, then they feel scared and need "me" time and pull away.  Then they feel they need intimacy again and come back, then they get their feel of it and need "me" time again and pull away.  This is natural and it has nothing to do with the woman.  Although, admit it. Every woman has felt a man pull away from them and has felt that she must have done something wrong.

Emotions (actually feelings of closeness) trigger this pulling away-- so its quite the opposite of "he doesn't like me!"  When a couple has a good conversation or breaks a new plateau in their relationship, the woman feels closer and probably feels a need to be closer emotionally and physically (not sexually, just physically - as in time spent together)  The man enjoys that intimacy and then feels a little fearful and needs to pull away and have time for himself.  The problem is that right when men are pulling away is when women are pushing close.

Women freak out when this "pulling" happens and do one of two things:
    1. push -- which puts slack in the band. He pulls away, making the tension tight and you push in close, releasing that tension
    2. punish -- she may give him his space but punish him for it which makes him resent her OR causes him not to take it (which would be detrimental to the relationship sense men operate on this cycle)

The proper response is to pull away yourself AND be welcoming when he comes back.  IE, allow no slack in the band. He is pulling, you are pulling, eventually he bounces back. (rubber band pulled tightly eventually bounces back)  If he never feels any tightness in that band (only slack), he won't bounce back.  Don't pull away in a mean way, or a punishing way, still keep contact and be affirming and kind, but give him the space he needs.

WHY I don't like this theory: it seems like game playing and it seems manipulative -- somewhat on the part of men (although i think they don't often realize that they are doing it) but definitely on the part of women (calculating to give space to get the result they want)   HOWEVER -- to be fair, in this theory, women don't play games to begin with, they just respond with one.  And, truthfully, they are giving the man what he wants but hasn't asked for.

Why I like this theory: it's truthful and practical.  EVERYONE needs space.  The difference is woman need space when they feel angry or hurt or upset.  Apparently, men often need space when they are overwhelmed by feelings - which isn't always a bad thing.  The problem is that men don't just say, " hey, can I have a weekend away?" or "I need a day or two to process things." They just dissapear and women are left confused at how the night before he was opening up and then he seems to be pulling away.

I have felt this in my own relationship some.  The first time or two, I was really confused. I thought things were ending because he seemed to pull away quickly. (and obviously sometimes pulling away means a loss of feelings) but a few days later, he would be more attentive and affectionate than normal.  So, now I expect it.

  1. a little of this is okay, but a lot is not good.  If the man you are dating is putting you on an extreme roller coaster, then there might be more serious issues than a male freakout. Its one thing to learn to deal with the opposite sex, its another thing entirely to be used or mistreated.
  2. Realize that its normal and has nothing to do with you.
  3. Realize that it is good for your relationship.  People need some time away. You need some time away (although you're a woman so you probably just ask for it)  Men need alone time to process and bounce back....if you never give them that alone time, how can they bounce back and pursue.
  4. At a certain point, I think its fine to discuss this with men.  My BF pulled away for a couple days once, I gave him his space.  A couple days later, he realized he had hardly talked to me for a couple days and wanted to know if I was mad at him because I hadn't been calling/texting. I told him that of course I wasn't mad, I had just sensed by his pulling away that he needed some space so I was trying to give it to him.  This started a conversation when he confessed he did not realize he had pulled away but admitted that the space had been good.  We talked about both being able to take space, but maybe being upfront about it-- therefore, the other person doesn't feel dropped.  I think women feel most hurt that men go from being "all in" to "pulling away" without a warning. Its not the space, but the way he goes after his space that annoys the woman.  A simple, "I am going to be gone all day fishing with the boys, but I will call you tomorrow" will suffice. In my case, this talk helped..he has done a lot better with telling me he is going to be out of touch.
  5. Lead by example.  We all need space, its just women rarely just dissapear on a man.  I take space all the time, I just clarify it: "I am going on a girls weekend, so if you don't hear from me much, its because I am out of town with them. I will call when I get back."  As I said above, what hurts most women is that pulling away happens without warning and abruptly - so my guess is that as you do things correctly, your man might catch on.
  6. Have reconnect time after he finishes his "pull away" stage.  Once you get to a point in dating/relationship/marriage where you have discussed the rubber band theory, you can be supportive of his need to pull away, but ask that he be supportive of reconnecting when he has had his space. For women, things don't shift so quickly. I have noticed that I have a hard time shifting into the pull away stage and shifting out of it...I get used to having the space, I guess!!
Also, I think this theory tones down the longer you are together.  Clearly, the more you trust eachother, the less a man feels a need to pull away when feelings grow stronger.  Also, the more free he will probably feel to just ask for time away. So, the comfort is that this theory isn't as extreme forever.  The author gave examples of pushing/pulling in marriages, but I think that it is probably most profound during that first year of dating (just my guess!)

understanding this theory helped me not freak out. I think knowing that men's greatest fear in relationships is often the loss of independence helps women understand that men need space...and relax when they take it.  Also, I think that men understanding they need this space helps them to be more understanding to their girlfriends/wives and make it clear they need some "me" time rather than just pulling away.  (sidenote: I am sure that in marriage, one cannot just take me time as easilly as before, particularly when there are kids involved) but scheduleing some when possible might be good!)

I think I previously would've just called this game playing, but because there is a cycle, I think its less playing hard to get, and more just about how men process things.

And girls, don't think only the men have their weird tendencies... next relationship post will be about women and their CRAZY emotions.

SO, THOUGHTS LADIES? Anyone else experience this or know about this theory? Or was it as NEW to you as it was to me?  Any other tips?


  1. These articles and blogs are truly enough for me for a day.
    Relationships by Code Invasion

    1. If your man is pushing you away and acting distant

      Or if the guy you’re after isn’t giving you the time of day...

      Then it’s time to pull out all the stops.

      Because 99% of the time, there is only 1 thing you can say to a standoffish guy that will grab him by the heartstrings-

      And get his blood pumping at just the thought of you.

      Insert subject line here and link it to: Your ex won’t be able to resist?

      Once you say this to him, or even send this simple phrase in a text message...

      It will flip his world upside down and you will suddenly find him chasing you-

      And even begging to be with you.

      Here’s what I’m talking about:

      Insert subject line here and link it to: Is your man hiding something? He may need your help?

      Thanks again.


  2. what to do you do if this happens in a long distance relationship?

  3. Della,

    I think you just have to be honest...but not in the middle of him pulling away.. Just approach the subject after the fact and say that you respect that he needs time to process alone sometimes but if he could clue you in, that would be great. Its really helpful when someone (BF, friend, whatever) says that they are working through some things or need a couple days to get things done but can't wait to hang out at X time. My fiance is very good about letting me know hes overwhelmed with school and then planning on a date night when he calms down. Always makes me feel like we have time to reconnect.

    You can't change a man and their tendancy to pull away and then come to you and then pull away. But you can learn to manage it better!

    Hope that helps!

  4. Thank you for your personal analysis and it is a good reminder to all experiencing this issue within their relationship. It is comforting to know that you as a woman have not done anything wrong and you just need to give your man space.

  5. This really helped me thank you, been doing the crazy GF thing :)

  6. crazy. my man all of a sudden decided that he wanted to go out and not tell me. I freaked out because I thought I did something wrong, or thought I wasnt good enough for him. I changed my number and havent talked to him since.
    I dont like dishonesty, or lack of communication. I grew up with parents who cheated on eachother and I dont want to live like that.

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  8. Great article and well written !!! I only hope this theory really works...:)

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