No one ever taught me how to “be in my heart” (or what that even means).
My relationships have often suffered horribly as a result.
Like most men (many women, too) I’ve been conditioned to live in my head, to use my brain to solve any problem that presents itself. And actually, I was taught to see all of life as an unending set of problems to be solved.
Eventually, I came to see every woman I loved as a problem to solve, too.
As a young man, I got the message that emotions and feelings are inconvenient, irrational, unnecessarily messy. When I joined the military, the government spent millions to formally train me in what pop-culture sold:
That feelings just get in the way of getting shit done.
Thus I was conditioned to not feel what I feel. Thus I learned, like so many men, to keep my heart closed to my own vulnerability, my authentic expression, and by extension, closed to yours, too.
If you’re a woman, being in the presence of a man who’s heart feels closed can be excruciating! Particularly when you yearn to love and be loved by him, yet all he sees is you as a problem to be solved.
When a man can’t connect to heart, he turns so much about a woman into something that needs fixing.
If she’s having an upset and insisting it’s his fault, he will almost certainly resist and dismiss her.
[author note: in my experience, I find that a woman “rarely” blames her man for her upsets … and by “rarely” I actually mean “mostly always”]
Anything about her that doesn’t make logical sense to him, or that he experiences as an obstacle to the outcome he wants, he dismisses, even if only with a mental roll of his eyes. She feels his disconnect from heart, and it hurts her.
He also hurts. Deeply. Profoundly. He just can’t admit it – or maybe even see it. Still, everyone loses.
I still sometimes grapple with this in my own relationship. When my partner feels me disconnected from my heart, stuck in my logical mind, it can be devastating to her.
So when a woman recently asked me, “How do you get a man into his heart?,” I searched my own heart for wisdom.
I know you can’t “get” a man to do anything he doesn’t genuinely want to do. If you can, you won’t respect him, and he won’t respect himself, either. But we do need support. Because we cause so much pain to ourselves and others when we can’t connect with heart.
So this is for you, if you ache to feel the heart of the man you love.
How do you get a man into his heart?
(1) You model it for him.
It’s a bit disingenuous to expect a man to “be in his heart” if you’re not.
If you’re stuck in your head, too, where fear, judgment, shame, and blame roost, and you merely projectile vomit that inner turmoil onto him, you’re gonna inspire his resistance, not his heart-connect.
Remember, his programming causes him to first evaluate whether your words have logical merit. If he finds fault with your view, he’s sure to resist you there.
[author note: in my experience, I find that a man “rarely” questions his woman’s logic … and by “rarely” I still mean “mostly always”]
When you can see your partner is having a rough moment and he’s still trying to work out the logic of what’s going on – i.e. he’s stuck in his head – usually the least helpful thing you can do is try to convince him he’s wrong or that he should just agree with your logic. Though an even worst thing you can do is tell him he’s stuck in his head and needs to get into his heart.
Personally, when I’m told I need to think or do something differently – even if my woman is right – what happens is I get hit with a massive surge of inner resistance arising in me like a tsunami. Suddenly, it’s even more difficult to connect with my heart, and damn near impossible to connect with hers.
What you can do – which is effective though terrifying – is simply acknowledge the depths of your authentic feelings. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable and honest about your pain, fear, shame, sadness, anger … well, that keeps you in your own heart.
It takes real courage to stay connected to your own feelings and avoid telling him what he needs to do about it.
An ex-girlfriend once told me, “I’m afraid to be afraid.” Whenever she resisted her fear, she would tear into me like a pitbull tears into a meat-flavored rag-doll. Which she could only do with a closed heart.
When you resist feeling what you’re really feeling, you close your own heart.
That’s what your man is regularly experiencing. He’s terrified to feel what he really feels in his heart, so he buries it beneath thick, icy layers of emotionless mind-manure.
If you want your man to connect with his heart, model it by staying connected to yours. Allow yourself to fully feel what you feel, when you feel it.
When my partner fully acknowledges her feelings – especially without judging me or blaming me – the armor around my heart often begins to melt immediately.
(2) Don’t judge or blame him for what you’re feeling.
Yes, a man can be thoughtless, insensitive and do all kinds of things on a daily basis that seem to prove he has absolutely no regard for your feelings.
Hello … that’s how anyone behaves when they’re not connected to heart. If he can’t feel his own heart, how can he possibly feel yours?
Even a man who can feel will still sometimes speak or act in ways that trigger your upset. That’s because it’s your upset. Which has nothing to do with him, no matter how convinced you are that it does (a juicy topic for another blog).
Whether or not you accept that, whenever you feel threatened, you put up a wall, don’t you?
Same goes for him.
Men tend to be overly identified with what we DO. We derive self-worth from how well we DO or FIX things. We tend to think it’s our job to make you happy – or at least not piss you off. It isn’t, but we mostly don’t know that.
When he senses you negatively judging what he’s doing, or he thinks that what h’s doing may be hurting you, despite his best intentions, he feels shame. Any man’s first instinct will be to run from his shame by closing his heart.
If you can fully feel what you’re feeling and not judge or blame him for it – even if his actions did trigger it – you give him at least a fighting chance to soften his resistance, avoid hitting shame, and just be present with you.
Yes, absolutely offer your feedback to him about what you’re experiencing. Just stay away from criticizing him, even if his actions really are triggering your upset.
Consider … are you really “in your own heart” when you’re criticizing him or telling him he needs to do it different?
It’s natural that you want him to feel what you feel. Of course you want his empathy, to feel him “in his heart.” That’s how you feel most connected to him.
But if he’s been burying what he feels for a long time, your emotional range will be much wider than his. If he’s well practiced at heart-disconnect, then you’ll be better at connecting to heart than he is.
It doesn’t serve either of you to judge or shame him further for being disconnected, for not feeling what you feel, when it isn’t his fault that life taught and conditioned him this way.
(3) Hold him accountable.
The worst thing you can ever do for a man is let him get away with loving small. If only because that gives him no incentive to learn, grow, and open up his heart.
Modeling it for him and not judging him are a great start, but you can’t demonstrate over and over that you’re satisfied with a man who’s heart is consistently closed and expect him to change. Make no mistake:
When you stay with him even as he clearly refuses to grow or open, you teach him that he doesn’t actually have to grow or open. He learns that you stay, no matter what he does. Why change?
Men grow through challenge. We rise – or sink – to the level of the competition. If he knows you’ll let him get away with most anything outside of cheating on or beating you, he will get lazy and stop trying to connect with you. But if he knows you will leave if you don’t consistently feel connected to him – and you might even have to actually leave him before he gets that – then if he really wants to be with you, he’ll figure it out.
Indeed, a lot of men have started coaching with me only AFTER they discovered the hard way that their woman isn’t settling for any more hollow assurances.
Sadly, though, I still hear from women every day who’ve spent years with a man who clearly refuses to grow in love, insisting they’ve done everything they know to “get him in his heart.”
But they haven’t done the one thing that matters most:
You can’t hold a man accountable by staying with him so long as he’s unwilling to open his heart, or even learn how.
So that’s the vegetarian meat of it. I know this may open up more questions than it answers.
In the end, these practices help you stay connected to your own heart, whether or not your man makes the difficult journey himself, from his head to his heart.
If he does find his way to meeting you there, all the delicious better for everyone.
If he doesn’t, or he remains closed to even learning how … well, just keep listening to your own precious heart.
Because your own heart will always show you the way.
* if this inspires (or offends) you, please let me know in the comments below.
** this article sparked by Zoe Kors, a brilliant writer/activist/friend who’s simple, and profound, questions always inspire me.