Ask a Guy: How Can I Help Him Get Over His Emotional Issues and Baggage? post image

Ask a Guy: How Can I Help Him Get Over His Emotional Issues and Baggage?


I have known this guy for two years now. We started off as friends, had a bit of a romance, then broke up and we are now starting to be friends again.

I feel like I was always the one who was more invested in the relationship. He is very guarded and emotionally unavailable and has past issues that he doesn’t want to confront. So my question is, how do I support him with that kind of a baggage as a friend now? How can I make him understand that even though we are starting fresh, we still have a past and some things could come back to us in the future unless we solve them now? And how can I maintain my confidence and self-respect now and not get emotionally swept away again, like I did before?

We have come far and I never thought it would be possible to try and be friends again after a romantic history, but I also want to avoid making the same mistakes I did before. What should I do?


If you’ve read my articles and newsletters, so I know you know that I don’t sugarcoat my messages.  As always, though, I want to make it clear that my biggest goal is to help you… so if I come off harsh or very blunt at any point, it’s nothing against you personally. If anything, it’s to bust through heavy layers of thoughts, beliefs, or ideas that are holding you back and actually causing the problems you’re concerned with.

So let me start off by saying that your question doesn’t strikes me like a woman asking about a male friend.  It strikes me as a woman who wants a second shot at romance and wants a guarantee that her heart won’t get broken in the process.

For the sake of answering your question as you wrote it, though, let’s assume that you really are “just friends” with nothing romantic between you.

In that case, why would you care if he has “baggage”?  You’re not his girlfriend, what does it matter?  What does it matter if you guys have a history?  You’re friends now… you’re not doing the relationship thing… I can’t imagine that you try to force your other friends to talk about stuff they don’t want to talk about.

Moreover, if it really is a friendship, you’re basically saying that you are friends, he wants a clean slate and you want to talk about emotions and baggage.  In other words, you want to dump all the most unpleasant parts of a relationship on him (talking about difficult emotions, baggage, stuff he doesn’t want to focus on) without “relationship-only” type stuff like physical/sexual intimacy, exclusivity, etc. Doesn’t sound like much fun.

To be honest, this doesn’t really hit me like he’s the one with the baggage.  It sounds to me more like you are the one concerned with the past, you are the one who wants to bring it up, you are the one who wants to dig it out of its grave and breathe life into it again.

The past is done… and as far as most guys are concerned… if it’s not happening right now at this moment, it doesn’t need to be dealt with… it’s resolved.

Yes, maybe bad things happened to him in his past that effect him. Or maybe he just said they did as an excuse to avoid getting closer than he wanted to get.  Regardless, it’s his business… and guys deal with their business themselves, alone, away from everyone else.

If he wants to talk to you about his past or any of his issues, he’ll bring it up.  Not necessarily to discuss it, but rather so you can understand where he’s coming from. When that happens, it’s a good sign – it shows that he wants you to be on the same page with him and it shows that he values you as someone in his life that he trusts and lets in.

Guys don’t open up to you and trust you because you bust down their defenses and force them to talk about stuff.  If they want to talk about something, if they trust you to not react negatively or selfishly, and if you give them enough space, then they’ll open up to you at their own rate. For some guys, it could take weeks, for others, years.

The important factor here is that you give the guy space.  The worst thing you can do is try to bring up heavy negative emotional topics as something to talk about with him… that’s a very quick way to shut him down and trigger his walls.  The key is to give him space… step back, leave the issue completely alone, and if he wants to discuss it he’ll come to you with it. You can’t force these things.

Another point on that… I want to make clear that it’s not because he’s emotionally available or guarded. It’s because he’s a guy.  Guys don’t like to dive into talking about negative emotions… especially if they think the person they’re talking to is going to have some kind of emotional reaction to what they’re saying.  Guys generally avoid emotional conversations at all costs – in fact, a lot of guys would rather be single and alone than have to deal with emotional conversations.

So to make the first major answer explicitly clear: do not talk to him about what you perceive to be his issues, emotional baggage, or your history.  Leave it alone.  Bringing it up won’t help anything… it will just be you creating a problem when there didn’t need to be and you’ll regret it.

The other side of what I wanted to address (and I actually believe this is your biggest concern) is: How do I make sure my emotions don’t consume me?

Essentially, you don’t want to develop feelings for him again and fall into a torturous unrequited love situation. I hate to say it, but you’re already on the hook with this guy.  If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have sent your question to me.

Again, my perception is that deep down inside, you want a second chance at love with this guy.  You believe that if you can just break through his emotional shell and help him past his issues, he’ll realize what an amazing girl you are and will finally love you back the way you want to be loved.

MORE: Is There Any Chance This Guy Will Finally Commit?

Fact is, it doesn’t work like that. It comes down to one thing: Does he want you enough… or not?

I know some world-class baggage superstars that immediately get their stuff together when a girl appears that they want a relationship with.  It wasn’t that she helped him get over his baggage – it was that he know she wouldn’t put up with that nonsense and, if he wanted to have her, he needed to drop it.

I’m actually floored at the number of women who fall into this trap.  They know better, but the moment  they think a guy is wounded or has some sort of emotional scar that he needs to get over, all reason goes out the window.  In many cases, the guy will explicitly say he can’t be (or doesn’t want to be) in a relationship.

Her best move at that point would be to say, “OK, no relationship with you. Got it.”  Like I always say, “When a guy says he doesn’t want a relationship… believe him!!!

MORE: When A Guy Says He Doesn’t Want to Be in a Relationship

Instead, most women fixate on the hope that if he just didn’t have the emotional wound, everything would somehow work out. His “baggage” isn’t the problem… his lack of interest is.

That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t enjoy sex with you.  It doesn’t mean he wouldn’t enjoy your company.  It doesn’t mean he dislikes you as a person. It means that, when all is said and done, he’s not interested in having a relationship with you.

In those cases, the only thing that ever changes his mind is if the woman moves on from him completely.  I’m talking about in her mind, heart, and soul… not an act to try and get him chasing her.

In the cases where a guy really thinks that a woman will move on if he isn’t going to have the type of relationship she wants, one of two things happens:

1)  He realizes that he will lose her if he doesn’t make a decisive move and he locks her down in the relationship she wants… or…
2)  He lets her go.  This might sound disappointing, but it’s actually a huge relief – you get to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that he was never, ever going to commit to a relationship with you.  That’s not a loss… that’s freedom… and you get to save yourself from wasting years of your life on a dead-end.

When you really let this sink in, you will realize that you never have to worry about being swept away by your emotions again.  Reason being, you’ll know that things are actually quite simple: either he wants to have the kind of relationship that you want (and so you do, right here, right now) or you don’t (in which case, you move on).

The only way you could possibly have a problem with getting carried away by emotions is if you build up a fantasy future.  What I mean is that instead of you looking at your present situation as it is right now, you say, “Well, the situation is like this right now… but if this one thing changed, then it would be great and everything would be how I want it to be.”

In the scenario of building a fantasy future, he’s not giving you false hope… you are… and that means you have the complete power and control to prevent it from happening.

I know it doesn’t always feel this way, but relationships really are simple.  The issue that people struggle with is accepting the situation as it actually is and dropping it if it’s not what they really want. Cutting something off is very hard… even when a person knows it’s not working.

The people who ultimately end up in the happiest relationships are the ones that cut off the options that weren’t working to make room for the relationship that really did work in every way that was important to them.

For your situation… if you want to have a friendship with this guy, you have to stop feeding the ideas that you have a relationship with him.  If you feel that you have a relationship with him, then don’t call it a friendship.

MORE: 5 Signs He’ll Never Commit

Hope that’s helpful,
eric charles

11 comments… add one

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cierra

Hi Eric that’s okay. I have my answer. its just time to move on if I’m really the only one initiating contact. I deserve better. and like you said. the results will prove in the after effects. the out come will happen but take in everything for what it is and let go. thank you. I read the other article on…Is there any chance thus guy will commit? I appreciate you Eric thank you solo much.

Reply June 10, 2015, 6:16 am

cierra

Eric, I can relate to this because I was talking to a guy that I’ve known for a while noq. he also goes to my church. somehow throughout life we would check in on each other through social media. mainly me… one day he told me he went into the navy and I checked on him from time to time after that. one day out of the blue he asked for my number and it took me almost a whole day after conversating with him one particular day to even say OK here is my number. After giving him my number he explained to me that he always felt like I genuinely cared for him. He said something that caught my attention because in that moment what he said really made me feel like he was interested. He said when he would walk pass me in church he would look at me and turn away hoping I would catch him or notice him looking but I never gave a clue as to if I was. well honestly I would do the same thing and once I caught myself I would turn away before he could catch me looking. He has tried to kiss me before in the past before he went into the navy….but I asked him what was he doing because it caught me by surprise and I don’t kiss just anyone. we have to have either been Dating or on the verge of going into a relationship. so once we decided to get to know each other a little bit more he started to wonder why I would like shy away and it was because I felt like I couldn’t love at the time. But he had my attention and honestly it felt great. mind you we talked long distance because he’s in the navy. we started getting closer and at times he would withdraw. I gave him leeway for a while about this but it became frequent. with me getting close one day he said Don’t call me when your worried about me because you think im going to run away. i did start calling a lot and it made me appear as needy when I cared. one day he called after I text him to get clarification on the text I sent… he asked me what was wrong I told him that i hardly hear from him even when he came home twice and wasn’t able to see me. he explained what happened and just said he felt like I loved him. he said it again because I didn’t respond… he asked did you hear me? I said yes I heard you and I do care a lot because I didn’t want to appear as neeedy. the crazy thing about it is that the same day before he said this i had a thought, in which i thought about him and the thought was that i think i am stRting to love him. but i shook it off and prayed because i had to be sure. two weeks passed by and I got clarification so clear as day that I knew I loved him. I finally was able to open up and tell him… he asked me how did I know for sure I told him that there is this knowing that i never knew existed and that I never felt before. I told him that I don’t just care for his physical state I also care for his spirit and after that I feel like I was being tested. we both became arguementive because I loved to much in his eyes and started calling too much so im admitting i developed needy traits but all i ever wanted to know is if he is ok. But its needy. we both agreed to be friends i kept telling him that i loved him and he asked where did the friendship go? i made it hard for him to be friends with me because now he felt pressured because i asked him where is this going after 6 or 7 months into talking.we stopped talking to each other for three months. I noticed what I did wrong I disrespected him by stepping on his toes unintentionally….telling him that he doesn’t have feelings for me. and that he never was interested. I was just the get woman. buy I was totally wrong. we are now trying to be friends by giving each other space and time to get pass this positively but I send him a msg every now and then just to conversate and let him know I really do care. he answered a question I asked him and wrote me at 3 almost 4 in the morning. and i replied thankyou. he replied anytime. i truly appreciate your advice. And its coming from a man … this is exactly what I was looking for and it is exactly what I needed. there was no sugar coating anything. Is it OK to walk away from this?Because now I have a full understanding but I don’t know if he really needs me as a friend. That is what makes me think he doesn’t need me as a friend. I don’t want to walk away on him because we haven’t argued or anything just simply feeling our way around not focusing on the past because the same thing I admitted to here is the same thing I apologized to him about in all sincerity from the depth of my heart in showing him that I understand what I did to him as him being the man that was created to lead everything. what do you believe I should do?

Reply June 10, 2015, 5:19 am

Snowflake

Eric, probably the best, most comprehensive advice I’ve seen anywhere. Relationships are simple. That’s right. The solutions are obvious when YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. The problem I see the women posting on this site having is they won’t get clear on what they want, address the issues they have that are keeping them from getting it (usually self-esteem and self-confidence at the root), and then stand up for it calmly and directly. If the women in the forums took the time to read the work here you and Sabrina share, they wouldn’t even need to post, they’d know the answer. I’m blown away at the high number of forum posts that involve women being total doormats. “He told me he doesn’t want a relationship but he still wants to see me/have sex with me, etc” and then say but he really does want me, right. I slept with him without knowing what was happening and now he’s backpedaling/disappeared. Over and over. DUH. Breaks my heart. They just don’t learn. I came here with a specific problem in my relationship, found the answer and have now learnt everything I need to know to happily co-exist with men the rest of my life. You’re so right, they are just not that complicated; you just have to learn to speak their language. They are actually very straightforward. I am so grateful I found this place. I’m off the forums – too pathetic and repetitive – but I will still be following Ask A Guy posts.

Reply November 13, 2014, 1:02 pm

TDL

Great article Eric!! I see this happen so much, and not just to women. I will admit to falling into this trap myself once, or twice…the last time burning me very, very badly, but I learned, double-quick. Learning to accept “what is”, as hard as it might be, at first, is one of the smartest, and best things a person can do for themselves.

Reply May 9, 2014, 5:17 pm

Jenn

I’ve been having some relationship issues over the past few weeks, and this website has helped me tremendously. My boyfriend and I decided we needed to slow things down because he’s on the road touring with his band and it’s not a good time to fix our little issues, and we need to build up our friendship because we skipped that and if we don’t have that understanding of each other it won’t work. After saying he wanted to move forward, he didn’t talk to me for 2 weeks. I took the advice from another article on here and left him alone and gave him his space to think. I knew his issues weren’t about me and he had to sort them out. Last night we finally talked and he completely opened up to me and said it wasn’t me at all. His friend of 5 years started dating his ex fiancée and seeing them together hurt him. So now his issue is dealing with that betrayal and the doubts caused by that, but he’s torn because he cares about me. I’m definitely taking the advice in this article and will continue to give him space, and know that if he wants to be with me he’ll forget about all of that and commit again.

Reply February 20, 2014, 10:37 pm

Meghan

My situation is similar. He labeled us this past weekend, after only two dates. I was incredibly hesitant because I don’t want to rush into anything. After talking it over, he realized he isn’t ready for a relationship, and just wants to keep things as it is – talking, connecting, dating… whatever it’s called. I agree. I consider us dating and want to develop a bond before transitioning into a relationship, hoping that he overcomes the baggage from his previous relationship so it doesn’t spoil what we’ve got going. But now I’m worried that he’s going to be so focused on putting himself first that he’ll forget to build something with me. Am I being too insecure?

Reply February 18, 2014, 2:59 pm

Stacey

Do men get into an exclusive relationship with one girl while making new friends with females in hopes that one of those female friendships turns into something more? I have a boyfriend that is great at making new female friends and being there for them when tbey have relationship issues.

Reply February 15, 2014, 5:49 pm

sbme

as far as most guys are concerned… if it’s not happening right now at this moment, it doesn’t need to be dealt with… it’s resolved.

guys deal with their business themselves, alone, away from everyone else.

Eric, you are brilliant!
“If he wants to talk to you about his past or any of his issues, he’ll bring it up. Not necessarily to discuss it, but rather so you can understand where he’s coming from. When that happens, it’s a good sign – it shows that he wants you to be on the same page with him and it shows that he values you as someone in his life that he trusts and lets in…..”

Reply February 13, 2014, 1:31 pm

Eric Charles

Thank you – I appreciate that.

Reply February 13, 2014, 2:57 pm

Crystal

Amazing article, as always. Thanks for sharing all your wisdom Eric!

Reply February 13, 2014, 10:45 am

Eric Charles

Thanks Crystal.

Reply February 13, 2014, 2:57 pm

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