Despite their penchant for body-crushing sports and blood-and-guts action flicks, guys tend to shy away from confrontations with chicks.
1. He shows his vulnerability.
Many guys think women are looking for the kind of dude who exudes strength and confidence minus the macho bit. So that’s the kind of persona he likely tried to cultivate when he was pursuing you. Once he’s accomplished that, he may let his softer side emerge. “Most men want to appear strong and in control, but behind that facade, they want to be nurtured,” says Henry Cloud, PhD, author of How to Get a Date Worth Keeping. So once he feels that love connection with you, you’re the one he’ll look to when he needs comforting. If you play your cards right during your guy’s time of need, he’ll get into the habit of letting down his emotional guard and opening up to you more often. And what girl doesn’t want an emotionally available man? So just listen, try to empathize with him and offer your support. “By positively reinforcing his vulnerable behavior, you’re encouraging him to be that way with you,” says Los Angeles-based psychologist Yvonne Thomas. But beware of the “mommy” trap. “He wants understanding, not babying,” says Cloud. And make sure you don’t let these heart-to-hearts become a one-way street. It’s important for you to turn to him when you need comforting as well. Says Thomas: “Being vulnerable with each other can help make the relationship stronger.”
2. He takes fights to the finish.
Despite their penchant for body-crushing sports and blood-and-guts action flicks, guys tend to shy away from confrontations with chicks. “Many men feel overwhelmed fighting with their partners,” says Don Ferguson, PhD, author of Reptiles in Love. “They are not as comfortable expressing their emotions as they perceive women to be and, therefore, try to avoid contentious situations.” So if your man steps outside his comfort zone to duke it out with you (verbally, of course), it’s a pretty sure sign that he’s in this twosome for the long term. “A man who is willing to stand up to you and assert himself intends to be around awhile,” says Ferguson. “If he wasn’t that interested, he’d play the compliant card.” Granted, arguing may not be your idea of fun, but it can actually bring you and your man closer. “Couples build intimacy through conflict,” says Ferguson. “It’s how they deepen their knowledge of each other.” The trick is knowing how to fight fair. It’s not about name-calling, blaming or even winning. “When you are fighting for things that are important and to resolve a problem, you’ll both end up more satisfied in the relationship,” says Cloud.
3. He guards his guy habits.
Men are fiercely protective of their buddy time. But when a guy is in hot pursuit, sex trumps the boys, and he’ll be available for the woman he’s with pretty much any time she wants him. That explains why you and your man spent so much together time early on in the relationship. But once that love bond is formed, they feel the need to balance out their social life and reclaim playtime with their buds again. So it makes sense that once your guy realizes he’s hooked on you, he’ll try to carve out more male-bonding opportunities. It doesn’t mean he’s cutting you loose; it’s just his way of overcompensating for falling so hard. “His fears about losing his independence may lead to his need to assert his autonomy so he can prove to himself — and to you — that love hasn’t taken away his freedom,” says Deborah Anapol, PhD, author of The Seven Natural Laws of Love. The best way to deal with these new interruptions in your 24/7 together time is to give him some slack. Matt,* 31, can vouch for that. “I really love being with my girlfriend, Jenny, but when it initially dawned on me that I had been spending all of my time with her, I kind of freaked,” he recalls. “My previous girlfriends always gave me a hard time when I wanted to be with just my friends. But the first time I decided to go out of town with the guys, she told me she was glad because it gave her a chance to see her own friends. Knowing she had plenty going on in her life without me was a relief.” Jenny’s one smart cookie. By sending the message that she wasn’t going to crumble without him, Matt didn’t feel trapped and desperate to get in his guy time. “It’s important to allow him his space and to take your own and trust that it will even out,” says Anapol. “The best thing you can do when your guy pulls back is to take your attention off him and keep it on yourself.”
4. He stops talking as much.
You already know that guys aren’t big on emoting. So when you start dating a dude who’s willing to talk to you for hours on end, sharing all the juicy details of his life, you probably feel like you’ve snagged a rare gem. That is, until you’re an actual couple and he adopts a monosyllabic conversation MO. It’s understandable that you’d feel like he’s shutting you out, but he’s letting you know (not deliberately) that he’s content and comfortable with you. “If your formerly verbal guy becomes close-mouthed, it means that he feels so relaxed with you, he doesn’t need to impress you anymore,” explains Thomas. “Once there’s a real connection, you can be together without talking. It’s a deeper form of intimacy because you’re being more genuine with each other.”
5. He wants less sex.
It’s pretty hard to top that high you get during the lust-fueled beginning of a relationship. So when that inevitably cools off a bit, it can be soul-crushing. But his downshifted libido doesn’t necessarily signal that he’s no longer into you. “A decrease in sex can often mean that a couple is connecting in other ways, so they’re not as driven by lust,” says Cloud. It can also mean that he knows there will be plenty of time for fooling around, so he doesn’t feel desperate to get it on with you whenever you hit the sack. That’s what Lucy, 28, discovered. “In the beginning, Peter and I had tons of amazing sex,” she recalls. “So after a while, when he’d occasionally spend the night and just go to sleep, I got worried. One night, when we got home late from a party and he didn’t want to get it on, I called him on it. He looked at me like I was crazy, then explained that he was simply tired — no big deal.” Ironically, less sex may actually be good for your relationship. “As your partner grows to care about you more, he starts sharing other parts of himself, such as his mind and heart, rather than just his body,” says Thomas. “That’s the difference between lust and love.”
6. He shows his kinky side.
As you and your guy get closer, you may not be having as much sex, but you can definitely have much better sex. Translation: A deeper connection means carnal quality over quantity. And more creativity. That’s because when your man feels tight with you, he’ll be more inclined to suggest some kinkier bedroom activities, because he’s not worried that you’ll bolt or think he’s a perv. “He trusts you and feels safe enough to reveal things without worrying about your judging or rejecting him,” says Thomas. So don’t judge or reject him when he does bring up some new erotic ideas. Of course, you don’t have to indulge him either. But be gentle when you turn him down. Simply saying something like, “That just doesn’t turn me on” should suffice. Then you can counter his suggestion with one of your own. It will help ease any discomfort he might feel about being shot down, and you will probably get what you want in bed as well. Even if you don’t turn him down, communicating your desires will improve your lust life…and boost your bond. “Sharing and experimenting with each other’s more private fantasies can be powerfully intimate and strengthen your relationship,” says Thomas. Hotter sex and a tighter connection? It doesn’t get much better than that.
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