Why A Man Needs His Cave Time

Katie Young
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Wednesday - May 24, 2006
| Del.icio.us

If there was one thing that Lindsay had learned in her five-year marriage to Sam, it was this: Every so often, Sam needed a little “cave time.”

This meant that just when Lindsay thought she and Sam were as close as close could be, he would start to pull away - just a little bit, acting as if he just wanted to “do his own thing.”

“I just need some space,” Sam would say, when Lindsay would bug him about his solemn mood. “Can’t you just leave me alone for a little while?”

Lindsay would become offended. She wondered first to herself just how much “space” Sam needed, and then, as she began to over-analyze what that comment meant, she wondered out loud to Sam, “What does that mean, ‘space’? And where do you expect me to go to give you this space? We both live here.”

Most times, Sam would go into his “cave” - which would end up being the computer room of their small home or the garage. Sometimes he’d be camped out in front of the TV for a few hours, not wanting to be talked to.

But for Lindsay, every time Sam would say he needed “space” she would go into panic mode, fearing that Sam’s emotional distance meant he no longer loved her.

So she’d chase him - literally standing outside Sam’s cave, waiting anxiously for him to emerge. If he took too long, Lindsay would call into the cave, “When are you coming out? Why are you taking so long?”

And when Sam did eventually come out, Lindsay was already mad and distant herself, which made Sam want to go right back in to his happy, quiet man-space.

“The cave is critical for men,” explains Mitzi Gold, a clinical psychologist and social worker, and director of the Mars & Venus Counseling Center of Honolulu. “The cave is a place where a man likes to go to relieve stress. Men all around the planet are doing this. They need it. It’s part of their cycle.”

Gold says this is extremely important for a woman to understand. “Men need to work off the stress they experience in their life,” she explains.

Gold notes that women are always connected to relationships, so they don’t understand why men need their cave time.

“Any chance to connect for a woman sounds good to them!” says Gold. “Women want to connect more and more.”

Dr. John Gray, author of the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus series of books, likens a man’s intimacy cycle to a rubber band.

“When they pull away, they can stretch only so far before they come springing back,” he says. “This cycle involves getting close, pulling away, and then getting close again. Most women are surprised to realize that even when a man loves a woman, periodically he needs to pull away before he can get closer.”

Gray notes that women mis-interpret a man’s pulling away because women generally pull away for different reasons, such as she’s hurt or doesn’t trust him to understand her feelings or has been disappointed.

Men are pulling away only to fulfill their need for independence and autonomy, says Gray, but once they get a little time alone, they will come back ready to love again.

Gold adds that the worst thing women can do in this situation is to chase a man into his cave. “You really don’t want to go in there anyway,” she says. “He won’t be very helpful or friendly and a woman could end

up getting her feelings hurt.”

The best thing for a woman to do when a man is in his cave, she says, is to do something for herself.

“It’s a time when he’s not available for her so she should take the opportunity to do something to make herself happy. The happier you are when he comes out of his cave, the happier he’ll be. If he comes out and just gets scolded, he’d rather have just stayed in there.”

Gold says women need to learn to honor a man’s need for space on occasion and trust that he will come out of his cave. “It’s not anything personal. It’s just the dance of intimacy for men,” she says. “They pull away, but then they come back and want to be close.”

It would be good for the man, however, to learn to warn the woman when he’s feeling like he needs a little “cave time,” even if it’s as simple as just saying those very words.

My friend Phillip agrees. He says the importance of the cave to a man is critical. “It’s a place they go to just be men. They can leave their dirty clothes on the floor and not have to be worried about being yelled at. It’s their space. If a man and woman are living together, all men really require is a little space they can call their own.”

I reminded Phillip that in his studio apartment, it might be hard for his wife to leave him “alone.” But I suggested that perhaps she could set up a little camping tent in the middle of the living room to serve as his “cave” for the time being.

He could have all the things a man needs in there ... a small TV tuned to ESPN, a sandwich, a stick to scratch things ... and he could leave all the dirty clothes he wants on the floor.

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