I am no one special. Just a common man with common thoughts. And I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect, I have succeeded as gloriously as anyone who’s ever lived. I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and for me, that has always been enough.
– Duke (James Garner), The Notebook (2004)
Duke got it. Success is as simple as real, lasting connection with another person. This is true for both women and men. We’re all hardwired to crave relationship.
Our connections with other people give life its greatest purpose.
But sometimes men lose sight of this basic truth. By nature, men tend to focus on goals and achievements, and it’s easy for non-relationship goals to take center stage.
That’s fine when it happens for a short while. It can even be good since it allows for razor-sharp focus. The problem occurs when a man forgets to bring his attention back to his relationship with you once a mission has been accomplished.
Let me explain why this happens to men. Imagine what life was like for humans thousands of years ago. Men were typically hunters. The man would leave his family and go out into the wild to find food.
Why? Because he loved his family and wanted to provide for them. Relationship was his ultimate goal. By hunting, he was providing for his family. When he succeeded, he felt joy because of what it meant for his family.
But the thrill of the hunt, developing new skills, and seeking prestige among fellow hunters can cause a gradual shift in attention. Seeking success in hunting can gradually remove his focus from his partner or family.
The same thing happens to modern man. The rat race is fierce. It takes intense focus to climb the corporate ladder, stay out of debt, win the approval of friends and family.
When a man invests himself in his job to the degree that he forgets the rest of his life, we call him a “workaholic.” Like a prehistoric hunter, his job can steal his focus.
Sadly, guys don’t even need jobs for this effect to play out.
Young men in college can become distracted while building the perfect physique, or trying to become popular. Even the quest for the ultimate bro-adventure can become an obsession.
While this is happening, he may pay lip service to the woman in his life, saying she’s the most important thing. But in reality, she’s only getting the left-over scraps of his attention.
His passion is pointed somewhere else. She may even be reduced to just another “accomplishment.”
Of course, eventually those non-relationship accomplishments reveal themselves to be empty. If he’s lucky, he sees that quickly. For some unfortunate men, it takes years.
Why am I telling you this?
Because it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter this dynamic at some point with a man you love. He may not lose sight of you completely, but you will experience at least mild effects of this phenomenon. If you understand it, you can learn to see past the surface level symptoms to what is really happening.
That kind of insight will benefit you in two ways.
First, you’ll have compassion. This is a natural thing that all men deal with. When you understand and accept that, it’s much easier to be sympathetic toward him instead of hurt or angry.
Second, you’ll be in a position to help pull his attention back toward what really matters. He knows the truth, but he may have forgotten it. You can gently remind him what real success is.
Real success in life comes from our connection with others. Our relationships are what make all the other goals worthwhile.
To remind him of this, don’t nag him or point out his failure. Instead, help him remember that the greatest joys in life come from relationships.
Share some of that joy with him. Create positive experiences, while also letting him know you appreciate his focus and hard work.
Build him up while lovingly calling his attention back to you. In doing so, you’ll help make him an even greater success in the way that matters most.
Actually I have been in the same situation that my bf neglected me for years. I was the one just waiting for him to get things done or in short putting him number one in my life because frankly there wasn’t anything else more important to me at that time. One day the camel Broke it’s back. I came to see the light of how little I meant to him when decided that his shopping needs came first as a
Opposed to something important I was trying to celebrate with him over the phone. I was ok to not be a priority because of work ( yes he is a workaholic), but not ok when it came to his leisure also! I saw the light and ended the relationship. He could not believe it and thought I would return to him after 3-6 months, which I always did. I did not this time around. I do not and will not partner with someone who doesn’t mot put my feelings and welfare as priority. I knew that for years that I was not. But was hoping I would be his priorty like I was when we first dated. But more so I could not leave emotionally because I was hoping that he would be the one that I would marry. Because of that, I accepted all kinds of shit and nonsense. When I left, I asked myself if I could accept that I don’t ever meet anyone better and be ok with it. The day I could accept that, I started to make other parts of my life more fulfilling and fun. Did I feel lonely in between ? Yes I did. But I surrounded myself with girlfriends and family who knew it was over. Never talked to them why. Didn’t want to dig up the past. Just kept doing things that made me happy. Just kept doing them. Then slowly I felt happy. Started meeting other men. It was nice. Even fell in love with some …though they didn’t work out yet. But I cannot thank the gift of making my emotional needs come first. I started to be more self aware of how I was giving my power away to others too. Then 6 months later, he is not begging me to go back. My ego is satisfied, but more so now I am not jumping back because I know I am so much happier without him then when I was within him. So he needs to proof himself to be worthy. Now he yelled me he needs me and is the world to him etc . So bottom line is I think women or men, need to be in a relationship where they don’t loose themselves. I think there is the level of integration with your partner, but I will never ever give myself 150 % to someone anymore. This is just wrong. They don’t need it and cannot appreciate. I think as women we may be built in to do this for child bearing purposes, but grown men and women should not need that. Even children at some point need to be given less so that they can grow up in their own sense of selves. Back to grown men, so now my philosophy is in any relationship, I can give of myself and even love fully , but that doesn’t mean that my needs should take a second place. Why should it ? I have a job and it makes it easier to do this because like it or now, money I earn gives me the freedom to decide many things in my control. But even for full time housewives , I would encourage you to to either find some ways to earn your own side income eg: baby sitting or baking … and start to feel good about taking your power back. Less so taking your power back from your husbands, but taking your power back to yourself . Know that you want an equal emotional contributor in a relationship. If he cannot do this, then maybe it is time to not keep on hoping. That doesn’t not mean a divorce because there are kids or finances involved. Start being emotionally independent and fulfilled. And quite frankly, he may come around to check you out if he starts to get curious. But that’s not the purpose. The purpose is to make yourself feel whole and happy again because that someone isn’t going to do that until he really wants to. I dare say most of it is when the sparks are gone. That’s what I feel about my ex now. He doesn’t excite me any more. I do love him still in my heart but the sparks are gone. And I think this is what’s happened to many marriages .. and I seriously don’t think those sparks can be back by mere counselling. In fact, it is worse because counselling is WORK. Who wants to work at relationships when they are already so tired from working in their real jobs?! Those have their places, but I think they can only come after reigniting the sparks. That’s the beginning of dating.. taking care of the body, dressing up, not pouring every detail of your day, or worse still making then man your listening buddy..lol basically don’t do what you would do to your husband if he was just someone you are first dating. Things may ‘ fall’ apart eg: dropping the balls in some instances ..so be it. If it is a small thing like being late for a soccer game just because he has not done his part in xxx, so be it. If it is not going to be costly because he always needs to learn his part in the relationship..if women are there to rescue all the time, then when will the man ever need to step up at home ?. Then bring back the passion with no expectations and all those responsibilities… unwashed dishes so what ? He has no clean underwear so what ? He will make noise and you can just say that you want him naked the whole time.. it is sexy…lol It is easier when the kids have all grown up. I have no suggestions for kids that are still young…maybe other have..anyway my point is start loving YOUR life ( even if you don’t feel it, just have to make it happen ] and loving your body. If you don’t feel sexy and love your body, do you think he will? . Do this not only because it is something to do for yourself but it is also the best chance of fixing your marriage. Just my 2 cents worth. It worked out for me. Now I am happy.
Hello. Just wanted to say a big THANK YOU 🤗 for your input in your response. I am in similar situation and I had no idea how lonely it could be even married, when all the weight is on me (unlike most relationships, I am the wife and main income earners, cleaner, cook, etc – you know how that goes). For years I got no emotional support from my husband, but of course I was there for him. All of that, plus his selfishness, eventually killed any romantic feelings I had for him. Therapy just solidified my intention to end the marriage. Now I have a new start in life, didn’t want it to end this way, but life is about choices. Thanks again for sharing!
I love what you said. I so relate to that. I think that we have to be happy and confident within ourselves first.
Amazing and totally legit. All of it. Thank you. Dealing with trauma, codependency, and a narcissist makes it hard, ultimately we have to love ourselves and value ourselves every moment of life. Set boundaries, be kind, and as Bruce Lee put it, be like water…strong and pure.
May, your comments are so valid. After my husband passed away, it took me 7 years and some counseling to get over the depression. I feel better than I have my entire life. I am happier in my own skin and I can actually enjoy my own company. I believe that all my personal growth has helped me in my new relationship. We both “me” time. I believe it has enriched our “we” time. Thanks for your share.
I read this and understand it but only to a point. We aren’t in the hunter gather mode and women are an essential part of the workforce and home. I think it’s time that men stepped up to the plate they so wanted and take their share of the responsibility for it. Why are women always advised to “win him back” and “cater” to the man? These types of things make us feel more like their mothers correcting their bad behavior rather than their significant others in my opinion. We are equals and should be valued as equals not less than.
I don’t believe that’s the point of this article. I agree, we aren’t in the hunter gatherer mode anymore. However, the science and people who have dedicated their lives to the subject of psychology of relationships, it’s proven that we all have a tie to our beginnings. Male and female are and will always be different. Times of changed, so most women these days must work. That doesn’t change the fact that deep inside their DNA, men have a different imprint than women. I think a lot of people like James use the reference of the hunter gatherer because at heart most men are just that deep inside! James isn’t telling women to try to win back a certain man. All he is doing is giving advice. IMHO, Many women seek out this kind of advice after certain relationships go south. I think when women mature and understand the any differences between men and women, beautiful things can happen. I think just because women used to have a place in at home, many of us women, take offense it’s a very ridiculous situations or things that are sad. They take them negatively. The simple fact of the matter is that most women act one way when it comes to relationships and most men and another. It’s part of the reason why the male-female relationship work so well. Opposites attract, and when they do come together, when they can finally get past all the BS, it can really be a beautiful thing. Maybe you’re lucky and you have a husband who is growing with you throughout the years. Maybe he respects that you have to work and maybe you don’t even realize that you talk to him that makes him feel masculine, that makes him want to Pitchin around my house more, in my opinion many men do not do this because they are constantly nagged. No man wants to be married to his mother, no man wants a list on the kitchen table from their wife telling them what they have to do. Come on, if your husband left you a honey do list most women would fly off the handle. I think it is degrading to men to demand what they do in their time. We will never understand what it’s like to be a man, to have to provide for our families, for all of it to fall on the shoulders of one man, we are expected to be our lovers, our best friends, our heroes, all of this is a lot. Don’t get me wrong, women have a lot on their plates too. I am divorced and I am a single mother of a beautiful 15-year-old daughter. I tried to teach her and I have from a young age about this differences between men and women. I believe that we have to be confident and comfortable with it ourselves any of us are not. When this happens, we look to the man in our life to fix everything and to make us feel better about ourselves. It is nobody’s job besides her own to make us feel better. Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day, sometimes there’s nothing more than I love them to fall into the terms of my man I’m just fall into mushy pieces. I don’t cry and I don’t go on about my day. It’s just a hug from him, and may surrendering in that moment that unites our souls. To me it’s different moments like that. You see, I am respecting him by not Babbling on about my day, I am not talking to him as if he were one of my girlfriends. Just like James said men do not talk like women. And they don’t get on the phone with her friends and gas up. Leave all that kind of conversation for your girlfriends! My point is I respect my man enough to not do this to him and in return I am always welcome home when I worked late to clean home, dinner made it, into a hug that I look forward to all day long. I find that when I don’t message him incessantly throughout the day with needless things, when I just sent him a random message, something like I am looking forward to that hug tonight, that’s all it takes. Sometimes it’s the smaller things with men that connect us. I believe James is just trying to help women who are in a situation where they feel they were not communicating well in the relationship. Maybe they have had time to thinkAnd realized that they do want to try again with a certain man. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Unless the man was hurtful, abusive, cheated, or was lately just a mean person, who are we to judge a woman for wanting to try that. I’ll be honest, the man I am with now is absolutely fantastic and somebody I’ve waited over 40 years to find. Dated for a year and then broke up for six months. I did a lot of soul-searching and a lot of research. James was one of the best in the business in my opinion. His articles helped me to become a stronger more confident woman. He gave me a better sense of myself, showed me what I can do to change me. We say we cannot change other people. And unfortunately so many women try to change their husband are there partner. I can’t imagine my partner wanting to change me. That would hurt. I love my man for the man that he is. I love it when he goes with his friends plays poker and has a cigar. I would never take the time away from him. And when he comes home, I always know that I’m going to get to fall into those arms again. I guess what I’m trying to say is I think the article is more geared for women who don’t understand the dynamic between the male female relationship. If there is something you can show me that proves this evidence to be wrong, please let me know. However I am a nurse and psychology was part of my studies in college. There is a difference between the sexes and that’s just the way God made us. I think we should embrace those differences, rip up the honey do list, concentrate on ourselves, concentrate on what makes us happy inside and watch the dynamic change that occurs. A real gentleman I was nothing more than a confident woman. I woman with a great sense of self. I work towards that every day and I find the more confident I am the more love I am able to accept into my heart
James, I have gone through your course, His Secret Obsession, and found that my 53-year-old boyfriend of more than a year is just as you have described. He definitely likes to be a hero, and has even saved some lives. I believe he is entering his “King” phase, and as a natural caretaker, wants to give his family everything they need. He hasn’t spent much time with me in person in the past year, due to the pandemic and some of his family situations, but we used to talk on the phone frequently. Recently, we have rarely talked or seen each other, and have only sent occasional emails about how much we miss and want each other. I tried appealing to the hero instinct by asking him for some help, as you suggested – to help me move this heavy piece of furniture, for his advice, and the like, but he didn’t respond or was unable to come over and help me out at the time I asked. Now, he says that a lot has happened in the past few weeks, and he needs to focus only on his family. He said that his desire to be with me was a selfish one on his part, then essentially said goodbye, and didn’t say whether or not he has intentions of picking up our relationship again. (Previously, he had made it clear that he wanted a long-term relationship, but that he couldn’t make any promises about forever. I accepted that at the time, because he had been through a traumatic event that left him emotionally depleted, and felt we could take things slowly, building toward permanence. That seemed to be working, as far as I could tell from the few occasions I spent time with him.)
In reply, I praised him for always being there for his family, said I admire him for it, and proposed that we stay in touch by phone when he is able to. He has not responded at all. This isn’t the first time he’s cut things off, but he has come back each time after a month or two, and each time, our relationship seems to have grown stronger. I work with him, remotely, and always thank and praise him when we interact, as he is usually the one helping me with a problem or teaching me something new. Is there any way I can give him opportunities and then reward him while he won’t communicate with me on a personal basis? We’re not young, and I feel time slipping by.
The issue for me is when the man in your life thinks he needs to abandon or put his relationships on hold to accomplish these things. And you can’t tell him that a solid relationship can HELP him achieve those goals. He doesn’t get it.
Wow, I feel less alone after reading other women who are having the same problems. Same boat!! I’ve been in a marriage for 26 years and last year he decided it wasn’t enough. He took my name off all accounts. I’m a stay home mom/wife and now clueless to our finances. He’s been doing a lot of social networking and being super secretive about everything! I’m certain he’s cheated. To get along, I have to be the guilty one and suck it up. As long as I do that, accept him as he is and don’t question him, ALL is fine. How crappy is that??! I haven’t done anything but be faithful and given my whole life to him and our kids and I’m the one feeling guilty!
My partner, who has told me daily how much he loved me, announced a couple of days ago that he was going back to his wife who he divorced 10 years ago. She came to see him, after having no contact for years, and said she wanted him back. This is the same woman who has, over the years poisoned his children’s (now in their 20’s) minds against him, has had him secretly photographed, on 2 separate occasions, as he is on a disability pension due to a broken back after a work accident, and tried to have his pension disqualified. His daughter, now 28 years old, is getting married next February and has told him that unless he is back with his ex wife, as her partner, he will not be invited to the wedding. We have had a very happy relationship and we talked about being together forever. But now all of a sudden, I am just to be tossed aside as if I don’t matter at all! He can’t see that this is downright blackmail! I just don’t understand.
Hi I’m Nompumelelo
I love the father of my son very much, but for the past four years I feel I have been the one trying to make it work. He has no time at all for me, if I do visit him he leaves me and go with his friends. I’m really hurt and I don’t know what to do. I call him, he hardly calls me that a week finishes without him checking on me and our baby. I feel it now why it’s painful to love someone who doesn’t love you.
It’s very sad that women must always do this and that for a man. What about men doing things for women, making women happy? Love is for two people and we must both put effort not only women.
Owa days women work aswell so its no excuse for a man to be the best at his job anymore cause women are facing the same thing. Point blank welcome to modern times specially if a man is not paying your bills you have as much as responsibility as him….
RIGHT ON SISTER!!!!!
Hi. I think my husband is going thru this. He doesn’t want responsibility of a family
(although our kids are adults and living their lives at this point) He wants to do his “own” thing and be non-accountable to me. I was a stay at home mom for 14 years. He was the sole bread winner. I didn’t do well at home… as most of my friends worked. I didn’t form connections with other moms who stayed at home. I did finally get a part time job, and felt good about getting out, but it wasn’t good enough for my husband. As our son was starting college and the full brunt of paying for our son’s college fell on my husband… which he agreed to do. He nagged me to get a full time job, but after being out of the work force for some many years I felt I had lost my “edge”… definitely ALL my computer skills. I’ve lost out on numerous jobs because of this. Now after so many rejections, I’m not sure that I’ll even get hired full time anywhere that uses computers! Aside from my insecurities about my job, our relationship has, and is suffering. My husband barely likes coming to the house… I can’t even refer to it as home 🙂 Sometimes he is nice to me, mostly he seems to be tolerating me. We were going to counseling but stopped when we seemed to be getting nowhere/somewhere? My husband said he was tired of our problems consuming his life. He was making it a point to come to house late, leading me to believe that it because he was working late and drive back would be bad due to traffic. He was actually stopping at various restaurants close to house for happy hour and dinner. I finally called him out on it and he did apologize. He keeps telling me that we need to grow as individuals, I agree with, so I’ve started volunteering at a horse rescue, but it’s only once a week. He recently told me that he want’s to go away for the weekend, by himself. I find that freaky. I hate being alone. Is he meeting someone?????? AM I REALLY STUPID FOR THINKING THERE IS A FUTURE FOR US?? Sometimes I wonder why I’m trying sooooo hard.
Hi! This is a very in-depth question, perfect for the private forum available in the new members area.
Please be careful and aware of what is happening. My situation was very close to yours. My husband turned 51, our son 25 and he started acting differently. He started taking solo trips none of which he did before as we always traveled together. There was a reason for his solo trips that he didn’t want either myself or our son to attend with him…another woman. He’s been having an affair for 18 months. I found out over a text message after he took off on one of his solo trips and he didn’t return for over 2 1/2 months. He’s still not home and it’s been 6 months since the day he laid in our bed with me, told me he loved me, that I was the love of his life and then left. I never would have expected such behavior out of him. He wasn’t “that kind” of man, at all.
Please protect yourself and above all take care of yourself because our husbands can be unpredictable and harmful to our well-being. Keep your eyes wide open. Seek council and therapy if need be. I wish you the very best and pray for you.
My boyfriend has lost focus on our relationship. When I confronted him about it, he admitted it and said that he is the one at fault and is fully aware its his fault. He said that I have not done anything wrong. He says that he’s been focusing his attention on his family matters that are huge and i may not know them apart from the fact that he is the only man in his family and many responsibilities are on his shoulders. My worry is how long will this take, and is it really true that a a man can lose focus and stop paying attention to his girlfriend due to his family responsibilities? Or is this his way of telling me indirectly that he does not want me anymore?
Hey Ana. This is a great question, which is why I’ve devoted a section of my course His Secret Obsession solely to answering this question and exploring ways to channel his hero instinct to support your relationship while still allowing him to step up and meet his responsibilities for whatever “mission” he is on.
If you’ve already picked up your copy, turn to the section titled Why Men Say “I’m Just Not Ready.”
The key lesson you’ll learn there is this: A man will ignore the desires of his heart in order to
achieve an identity he can feel proud of. But then you’ll learn how to use the power of fascination to tug at his hero instinct.
Wishing you love and happiness,
I’m going through depression at the moment and I start accusing my partner of cheating which I know he wasn’t and I feel like he has given up on me and not trying as much.. I want him to understand depression is something I can not control but I want to win him back and don’t know how
Hey Soph. I understand. When feeling depressed, some people feel irritable and say irrational things in an attempt to express the frustrated feelings inside. I’ll be honest, it’s not easy to get people who have not experienced depression to understand what it’s like. But if you see a mental health counselor for treatment, he/she may be able to help you explain this to your partner while also empowering him with insights about how he can respond if you slip into a low mood again.
As a woman, I feel like we women, are usually in the line waiting g for our men to have time. In the beginning we ate all they focus on then we come in 2nd. Then 4th .. when we feel like we are 2nd class citizens. Ladies something needs to change quickly.
Thank you, James,
This is a very good point. My Husband was diagnosed with Aspergers about 5 years into our marriage. We are about to celebrate our 6th Anniversary, it hasn’t been easy. Being loving and positive, and reminding him that having quality time with me is one of the most satisfying things he could spend time on really helps our marriage. I focus on trying to get us doing things that fulfill both of our needs while getting us working together and really focusing on each other as part of the project. I also remind myself regularly why my marriage matters to me and that it will only be as good as I build it. The focus always needs to be positive, building what we want, not complaining about the distractions or difficulties.
You are an inspiration, Elizabeth. It’s so nice to come across people like you. You are a creator. You create beauty and goodness consciously and by choice. And I’m certain you have enriched your relationship with your husband because of your powerful approach of acceptance and courage regarding the disadvantages the relationship faces due to the impact of Aspergers. Yet you have not allowed that disadvantage to become the defining theme of your relationship. It is something much bigger and more beautiful than that. Way to go!
Thank you so much James, that means a lot!
Hi Elizabeth, I truly sympathize with you if your husband has Asperger’s. I did not realize that that was our problem until after we were divorced – after almost 40 years of me living in an emotional wilderness!! At least you have that ammunition to help you through some of the bad times you may experience. But your compassionate, understanding attitude and common sense will also stand you in good stead. I wish you well for the future – keep hanging in there. What you can do to help is to build on your own hobbies and “me-time” and good, supportive friends and family, to take the sting out of the fact that he will not always be emotionally there for you. And don’t forget to talk and communicate with him – brushing things under the carpet does not help Good luck!! Lorna
I totally agree with Brianna and Nasha. Women are continuously told to lovingly embrace a man’s inadequacies and coax him back with compassion and understanding. But we are thereby putting ourselves second, constantly working — graciously of course 😉 –, to win the man’s attention for a short while. Who talks about the emotional burden that this places on women? Why is it ok for a man to continue on his pre-historic trajectory and for women to ignore their own needs (surely also steeped in evolutionary causality!) in order to — here we go again — PLEASE their men?
Well stated, Kat. Sometimes I wonder if romance would be easier if both genders shared all the same foibles and desires. Then we wouldn’t have to share tips about reaching across the chasm. Men wouldn’t have to learn to be good listeners, get in touch with their emotions, etc. Women wouldn’t need to explain their emotions to clueless men. And relationship blogs would be for “people trying to improve their relationships” instead of specializing with some for women (like this one) and others for men.
8 week relationship early days… but feel I’m at the bottom of the list…. work then his family seems to come first although he apologises for this and says he wants to spend time with me ….texts or phones every day .Think that after his divorce 5years ago he made his life around work, his father ,children and grand children and they all want a piece of him and he can’t say no . I know that a past relationship broke up because his then girlfriend wanted him to spend more time with her and less with his family.
I agree with your decision Nasha. As an independent successful woman , it’s difficult for me to just play cheerleader to a growing boy who doesn’t value me enough as a priority. Although this article suggests staying along his side and coaching him back to you, I can’t help but feel angry and sad.
I’m talking to a gentlemen like this now, but not for long. I’m going to step back and let him chase after the things he deems “important”. It’s not even that I don’t think he genuinely wants to be with me, he does. However, I’m already over the “back-seat” feelings…. Let his job encourage and love him if that’s what fulfills him…I’m out. I need to be available for the man who recognizes the value in setting aside time…
Same situation, guy concentrating on work only, Says he still feels the same about me but not giving me attention. I stepped back and won’t chase him. Even though every day I feel so hurt. I hope he will realize before I get tired of this and cut all contact.