The One Thing women are actually most afraid of in Men (hint: it’s not aggression)

I used to think women were only afraid of aggression in men, in all its forms: anger, rage, physical violence, verbal abuse, sexual aggression, rape.

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I grew up with all kinds of conflicting social messages about the wrongs (and subtle rights) of violence against women. With three sisters and two mothers (married to my two fathers), I learned early there was something inherently special about women, that they were different from men not just in body parts, but in essence. I knew they should be protected and respected.

In addition to the daily masculine aggression towards women I encountered outside my home, I also watched my alcoholic step-father terrorize my mother, me and two sisters with an explosive rage (he’s sober 21 years now, and a good man). Seeing these beautiful, brilliant women in my life routinely recoil in the face of a horrifying masculine aggression only reinforced my ideas about a woman’s singular fear.

I learned to loathe the thought of making a woman feel unsafe in my presence. I wanted to make women feel good, to like me, and I had seen how aggression made them not feel good, how it made them hate a man.

So I did my best to never express aggression with a woman.

Even sexually. I shut down sexually towards women for fear that my desire would be interpreted by them as aggression. Throughout my dating life and well into relationships, until I was 100% certain a woman welcomed a next step with me, I would not proceed with a next step. A woman had to practically stick her tongue down my throat before I understood that kissing her was welcome.

I castrated myself in countless ways to protect women from any hint of masculine aggression in me.

I often practiced what I believed was the most certain way to make a woman feel safe: I made myself invisible to her.

Whether that meant backing down, staying out of her way, leaving the room, or simply pretending I didn’t want to ravage her when I so desperately did, I made myself as non-threatening in a woman’s presence as I could position myself to be.

I taught myself how to disappear. To save her from what I thought was her primal fear of my aggression.

But here’s what was really happening.

In the last few years I’ve discovered something women fear even more in men than mere aggression. It’s something far more common in our everyday world. Something us men even fear in ourselves, though most aren’t even conscious we’re doing it.

A feminine woman is most afraid of her masculine man disappearing.

She’s afraid of him failing to show up for her. Not stepping up. Walking out. Not staying strong and present, particularly when things get a little crazy and confusing.

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A woman’s deepest desire is to be cherished. When a man leaves, even just emotionally if not physically, she is left completely un-cherished.

Aggression is simply the extreme expression of a man not cherishing a woman.

I checked out for years when my women got too emotional for me, especially when they were angry. I thought if they just saw things differently – if they saw things like I see them – everything would be fine. So I tried like mad to convince their minds to shift. Which rarely worked. They weren’t waiting to have their intellects adjusted. So I would constantly give up and run, even when I stayed in the room.

If she fought me long enough, eventually I fought back. A feminine woman can’t out-masculine me. I will win that battle. And I did. Every time. But I really only ever lost. So did she. Heartbreaking how blind I was to what was actually going on.

I realize now she was simply screaming out her fear, desperate for me to step up strong and claim her heart, to let her know without a doubt that I’m here, not going anywhere, that she’s safe in my love, to simply reassure her deeply that I got her and won’t let anything bad happen to her … like only a healthy masculine man could reassure her.

Women weren’t just afraid of my aggression. They were afraid of my leaving, which ironically I was doing in countless ways often to avoid my own innate aggression which scared me, too.

Had I known this deeper truth, I likely would have married my last girlfriend. Instead, I labeled her immature and mean, and I ran in every direction. I couldn’t stand in the illusory fire of her pain – a pain largely caused by masculine abandonment in her past. I was so triggered by her pain, so caught up in my own, that I couldn’t reassure her that I loved her and would hold her safe as she learned to trust again. I lost the woman I loved most in my life because I could’t see what was really happening; what she was really asking of me.

She was asking me to step up and fight for her heart.

Fight what? Fight myself. Fight my desire to run. To check out. To disappear. She was begging me to be aggressive with my own inner demons, and perhaps hers, too, in the battle for her sacred feminine heart.

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But I lost that battle. She’s married to another man now.

Oh what fine messes of hearts I helped create over the years. I didn’t know. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I see now. I’m growing up. I’m a Man. Eager to share what I’ve learned through so much pain, with other men who don’t yet see, but who are ready to.

I’m finally ready to step up and fight for a woman’s heart.

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A former US Air Force Captain, Bryan Reeves has survived multiple dark nights of the soul and done really stupid things with women that he deeply regrets and has learned a great deal from. Bryan is now a Life Coach & Relationship Coach for men, women, and couples, and is the author of the viral blog, "Choose Her Every Day (or Leave Her)," at www.bryanreeves.com.

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Posted in Conscious Relationships, Humility, Love, Masculine Feminine, Relationships, Self-awareness, Self-Discovery, Sexuality
29 comments on “The One Thing women are actually most afraid of in Men (hint: it’s not aggression)
  1. Ralph says:

    Incredibly well said. Here is another man that is ready to stand up and let a woman know that no matter what I will always be there to lover her and keep her safe.

    • Bryan Reeves says:

      Awesome. Strength in numbers.

    • judy van aman says:

      I see your are a former AF Captain. Did you back up your female troops? Did you believe them when they spoke of being raped, hurt, shamed and put into danger? If you say yes, you must have never been stationed at any of the 5 bases I was stationed at, during a twelve year stint. When, I got out, with an honorable discharge, I felt like I was escaping from a bad marriage. A very bad marriage.
      And, now my son, is a career AF. Life is funny. And, he is still the loveliest funny fellow I know.

  2. Shanda says:

    So so so true, women need and want to feel secure and men can do that by showing up consistently being reliable and remaining present emotionally. I so love reading your posts! Your blog is really helping me soften my heart and further prepare for my spiritual partner and mate. I know I don’t know you intimately but I feel that your words are sincere. Just when I feel like it may not happen for me I read your words and hope returns. Yes there is a spiritually grounded man that does actually exist and is seeking me as I him.

    • Bryan Reeves says:

      I’m honored that these words serve you this way, Shanda. Good men are waking up. It’s happening. Do you know what Maya Angelou said about a woman’s heart??

      “A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.”

      Take God to mean spirit, universe, wisdom, beauty … whatever. Point is, only a worthy man deserves your heart. I know that means you gotta be patient, wading through all the unworthy ones, but the wait is surely worth it. (I’m talking to myself, too, that I may be more and more a worthy man for an exquisite woman).

      • Amber says:

        Wow Bryan. Not only was this article very powerful (and wonderfully written), but your reply to Shanda just caused something very important to click in place for me. Thank you.

  3. Sitting in a cafe in London reading your blog and the tears started rolling. Beautiful words Bryan…X

  4. Lina Pane says:

    awesome article!!! So true!

  5. Beautifully written, Bryan. A must-read for both men and women. Fascinating seeing masculine behavior through a man’s perspective. Thank you. HUGS ❤

  6. Ant says:

    Mmmm.. Interesting insights, but I’m lost with the aggression bit.

    You say, “Aggression is simply the extreme expression of a man not cherishing a woman.”

    – I’d say it’s carelessness. A recklessly careless person will not cherish a loved partner. One could say it’s a form of aggression – but I feel it’s hollow. It needs intent. However, reckless, careless individual would not have an intent to be aggressive. Otherwise, you would say a complacent person is aggressive. It’s a contradiction. Please someone help me out 😀

    • Bryan Reeves says:

      Hi Ant. I don’t want to get too caught up in semantics details. I’m simply suggesting that when a man is intentionally aggressive, we could think of that as an extreme form of failing to cherish another.

      Whereas “cherishing” is an active passionate caring for another on one side of a scale, indifference (carelessness?) feels like a neutral point on that same scale, and aggression feels to me like the opposite extreme from cherishing. But again, I think it’s just a question of semantics really.

  7. braaaaaaains says:

    Omnomnomnom gender essentialism

  8. bacic says:

    Captain Reeves, I salute you. (As a former Army Captain I am qualified to offer said salute) You seem to have, and are, earning it, even if it was the hard way….as if there is any other way. 🙂 Strength in numbers is right, sign me up my brother. If there are any ideas that can save the world from ourselves, it will be the ones that conquer the space between us, which will allow us to work together way better than we do now, both interpersonally, as well as intercontinentally.

    • Bryan Reeves says:

      Thank you, David. Always love hearing from a fellow former soldier in the context of what I’m exploring these days. It’s exciting to see more and more that the immature masculinity we’ve been marinating in is evolving into a more mature, robust and deliciously vibrant expression of itself … and that unfolding reality is underscored whenever a fellow military veteran reaches out and shares his insights on this conversation. I salut you right back, David.

  9. W.R.R. says:

    Can you please clarify what you mean by “subtle rights” here?

    “I grew up with all kinds of conflicting social messages about the wrongs (and subtle rights) of violence against women.”

    How can violence against women (or men) have “subtle rights”?

    Also, I’m going to assume this article isn’t about males like me. I’m a survivor of child sex abuse and incest, bisexual, poly, and more like 60/40 on the feminine/masculine scale; but I am terrified of my own aggression. This almost sounds to me like I can’t be a woman’s man because maybe only really masculine men can do that? I’m not alone, though. I have a boyfriend and a girlfriend and we all co-exist and they adore each other, too. My partners are very masculine and feminine, I suppose, though my girlfriend is more like a “girly tomboy”… I don’t really grasp all the New Age buzzwords. But I can’t understand some of this and hoped you could clarify. Thanks.

    • Bryan Reeves says:

      by “subtle rights” what I mean is simply that I got tons of subtle messages from the world around me telling me it was actually ok to abuse women … if not physically then at least I had the right to be abusive towards woman with my attitude and beliefs about them. That’s what I mean by “subtle rights.”

      Why are you terrified of your own aggression? … and after reading my article, did it not give you any more clarity on a new way to relate to your innate aggression? (we all have it; it’s a question of how we wield it, and from what place inside us we allow it to erupt).

      • W.R.R. says:

        As an incest CSA survivor, my aggression shows up mostly as anger that mixed with frustration can come out as rage. I can’t scream at my abusers, can’t even find them, and I don’t want to scream at my loved ones, but sometimes it happens. I’m in therapy.

        I can see that you are a good writer (I write too, so I can tell) but this and the other article I read here are, as you have said, written from the point of view of a predominantly masculine man. I’m not one of those. Also, you said “a woman’s greatest fear is her masculine man disappearing”. I’m not a “masculine man”, so I guess this particular article doesn’t apply to me. I guess I should look around a bit more here, because I do like your writing style and your open inclusivity. Plus, finding articles that seem to celebrate being male without being marinated in misogyny is a refreshing change online.

        Thank you for your response and for clarifying and answering my question. That made sense.

      • Bryan Reeves says:

        One other thing to consider is that since we all have access to the complete range of masculine and feminine expressions of being, that perhaps some of what you read here might speak to the part of you that is masculine and there might be something meaningful for you there, nonetheless.

        Or you might dive more into the feminine perspectives of what I’m addressing and see what’s meaningful for you there that might be enlightening.

        Although I use man-woman language a lot (it’s just more accessible and useful to most people), what I’m ultimately pointing at in my writing is beyond gender.

        Anyway I hope that is helpful. I really appreciate your commenting and reminding us all of the endless possibilities, subtleties and nuances inevitable on our explorations deep into truth.

  10. […] I wrote a popular article recently about how I grew up believing women were only afraid of aggressio…, so I suppressed any experience of aggression in myself, especially sexual aggression. I did not want women to ever feel unsafe around me. While this enabled me to cultivate beautiful friendships with women, in disowning the primal aggression inherent in my masculinity, I also left women to fend for themselves in many ways. […]

  11. Candace says:

    Such a great post, and SO true. Having been on the receiving end of both, I think the ‘disappearing’ is actually harder to take and way harder to heal than the physical. And when you experience the disappearing over and over in different relationships, it kinda makes you want to just back away completely, throw your hands up and say ‘I give.’

    I can only truly speak for myself, but I would guess that this is why so many women feel we have to be strong and be able to take care of ourselves without needing to rely on a man (or on anyone, for that matter), and end up suppressing our own femininity in the process.

    All of this to say, thanks for your post; it’s nice to see when a guy ‘gets it’. I found your blog through another blog that I’ve followed for awhile, and I’ve been devouring it ever since. Love your words, and keep up the great work on your journey 🙂

    • Bryan Reeves says:

      Hi Candace thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. Yeah I think this is an important insight for men and women both to understand. It sure has changed my way of relating to women completely. I know now that my thrill is hanging in there even when things get abut crazy for me. Checking out in the face of challenging women was a clever, though ignorant, way of avoiding stepping deeper into my own manhood. …… So don’t give up! We’re waking up 🙂 with love, Bryan

  12. […] In the past 8 weeks alone I’ve done 10 podcast interviews because people want more of this insight. I even attracted the attention of Sunrise Australia, the #1 Talk Show in Australia because of a blog I wrote on the One Thing Women Are Afraid of in Men. […]

  13. Jessica Zeigler says:

    Before reading this, I listed my top fear in my head. You know, for comparison. Yep, top fear… Him not showing up. Not physically, but just like you said, not dependable, emotionally unavailable. Thank you, I’ve enjoyed your work.

  14. […] 10. The One Thing Women Are Actually Most Afraid of In Men (Hint: It’s Not Aggression) […]

  15. […] the attention of Sunrise Australia, the #1 Talk Show in Australia because of a blog I wrote on the One Thing Women Are Afraid of in Men. I’m clearly tapping into deep wisdom that’s making a difference in people’s lives. I can’t […]

  16. […] I wrote a popular article recently about how I grew up believing women were only afraid of aggressio…, so I suppressed any experience of aggression in myself, especially sexual aggression. I did not want women to ever feel unsafe around me. While this enabled me to cultivate beautiful friendships with women, in disowning the primal aggression inherent in my masculinity, I also left women to fend for themselves in many ways. […]

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