Men are like rubber bands. When they pull away, they can stretch only so far before they come springing back. A rubber band is the perfect metaphor to understand the male intimacy cycle. 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. Men instinctively feel this urge to pull away. It is not a decision or choice. It just happens. It is neither his fault not her fault. It is a natural cycle.
Women misinterpret a man’s pulling away because generally a woman pulls away for different reasons. She pulls back when she doesn’t trust him to understand her feelings, when she has been hurt and is afraid of being hurt again, or when he has done something wrong and disappointed her.
Certainly a man will pull away for the same reasons, but he will also pull away even if she has done nothing wrong. He may love and trust her, and then suddenly he begins to pull away. Like a stretched rubber band, he will distance himself and then come back all on his own.
A man pulls away to fulfill his need for independence or autonomy. When he as fully stretched away, then instantly he will come springing back. When he has fully separated, then suddenly he will feel his need for love and intimacy again. Automatically he will be more motivated to give his love and receive the love he needs. When a man springs back, he picks up the relationship at whatever degree of intimacy it was when he was stretched away. He doesn’t feel any need for a period of getting reacquainted again.
Without an understanding of how men are like rubber bands, it is very easy for women to misinterpret a man’s reaction. A common confusion arises when says “Let’s talk” and immediately he emotionally distances himself. Right when she wants to open up and get closer, he wants to pull away. Commonly I hear the complaint “Every time I want to talk, he pulls away. I feel like doesn’t care about me.” she mistakenly concludes that he doesn’t ever want to talk to her.
This rubber band analogy explains how a man care very much about his partner but suddenly pull away. When he pulls away it is not because he does not want to talk. Instead, he needs some time alone ; time to be with himself when he is not responsible for anyone else. It is a time for him to take care of himself. When he returns he is available to talk.
To a certain extent a man loses himself through connecting with his partner. By feeling her needs, problems, wants and emotions he may lose touch with his own sense of self. Pulling away allows him to re-establish his personal boundaries and fulfill his need to feel autonomous.
Some men, however, may describe this pulling away differently. To them it is just a feeling of “I need some space” or “I need to be alone.” Regardless of how it is described, when a man pulls away, he is fulfilling a valid need to take care of himself for a while.
Just as we do not decide to be hungry, a man does not decide to pull away. It is an instinctual urge. He can only get so close, and then he begins to lose himself. At this point he begins to feel his need for autonomy and begins to pull away. By understanding this process, women can begin correctly to interpret this pulling away. (Gray, 1992)
References : Gray, J. (1992). Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Harper Collins Publishers Inc.