Why Men Lose Focus on Relationships (And How To Gently Pull Him Back)

why men lose relationship focusI am no one special. Just a common man with common thoughts. And I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect, I have succeeded as gloriously as anyone who’s ever lived. I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and for me, that has always been enough.
– Duke (James Garner), The Notebook (2004)

Duke got it. Success is as simple as real, lasting connection with another person. This is true for both women and men. We’re all hardwired to crave relationship.

Our connections with other people give life its greatest purpose.

But sometimes men lose sight of this basic truth. By nature, men tend to focus on goals and achievements, and it’s easy for non-relationship goals to take center stage.

That’s fine when it happens for a short while. It can even be good since it allows for razor-sharp focus. The problem occurs when a man forgets to bring his attention back to his relationship with you once a mission has been accomplished.

Let me explain why this happens to men. Imagine what life was like for humans thousands of years ago. Men were typically hunters. The man would leave his family and go out into the wild to find food.

Why? Because he loved his family and wanted to provide for them. Relationship was his ultimate goal. By hunting, he was providing for his family. When he succeeded, he felt joy because of what it meant for his family.

But the thrill of the hunt, developing new skills, and seeking prestige among fellow hunters can cause a gradual shift in attention. Seeking success in hunting can gradually remove his focus from his partner or family.

The same thing happens to modern man. The rat race is fierce. It takes intense focus to climb the corporate ladder, stay out of debt, win the approval of friends and family.

When a man invests himself in his job to the degree that he forgets the rest of his life, we call him a “workaholic.” Like a prehistoric hunter, his job can steal his focus.

Sadly, guys don’t even need jobs for this effect to play out.

Young men in college can become distracted while building the perfect physique, or trying to become popular. Even the quest for the ultimate bro-adventure can become an obsession.

While this is happening, he may pay lip service to the woman in his life, saying she’s the most important thing. But in reality, she’s only getting the left-over scraps of his attention.

His passion is pointed somewhere else. She may even be reduced to just another “accomplishment.”

Of course, eventually those non-relationship accomplishments reveal themselves to be empty. If he’s lucky, he sees that quickly. For some unfortunate men, it takes years.

Why am I telling you this?

Because it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter this dynamic at some point with a man you love. He may not lose sight of you completely, but you will experience at least mild effects of this phenomenon. If you understand it, you can learn to see past the surface level symptoms to what is really happening.

That kind of insight will benefit you in two ways.

First, you’ll have compassion. This is a natural thing that all men deal with. When you understand and accept that, it’s much easier to be sympathetic toward him instead of hurt or angry.

Second, you’ll be in a position to help pull his attention back toward what really matters. He knows the truth, but he may have forgotten it. You can gently remind him what real success is.

Real success in life comes from our connection with others. Our relationships are what make all the other goals worthwhile.

why men lose relationship focusTo remind him of this, don’t nag him or point out his failure. Instead, help him remember that the greatest joys in life come from relationships.

Share some of that joy with him. Create positive experiences, while also letting him know you appreciate his focus and hard work.

Build him up while lovingly calling his attention back to you. In doing so, you’ll help make him an even greater success in the way that matters most.

James Bauer

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48 thoughts on “Why Men Lose Focus on Relationships (And How To Gently Pull Him Back)

  1. Elizabeth Pettersson said:

    Thank you, James,
    This is a very good point. My Husband was diagnosed with Aspergers about 5 years into our marriage. We are about to celebrate our 6th Anniversary, it hasn’t been easy. Being loving and positive, and reminding him that having quality time with me is one of the most satisfying things he could spend time on really helps our marriage. I focus on trying to get us doing things that fulfill both of our needs while getting us working together and really focusing on each other as part of the project. I also remind myself regularly why my marriage matters to me and that it will only be as good as I build it. The focus always needs to be positive, building what we want, not complaining about the distractions or difficulties.

    • James Bauer said:

      You are an inspiration, Elizabeth. It’s so nice to come across people like you. You are a creator. You create beauty and goodness consciously and by choice. And I’m certain you have enriched your relationship with your husband because of your powerful approach of acceptance and courage regarding the disadvantages the relationship faces due to the impact of Aspergers. Yet you have not allowed that disadvantage to become the defining theme of your relationship. It is something much bigger and more beautiful than that. Way to go!

      • Anonymous said:

        Thank you so much James, that means a lot!

  2. Kat said:

    I totally agree with Brianna and Nasha. Women are continuously told to lovingly embrace a man’s inadequacies and coax him back with compassion and understanding. But we are thereby putting ourselves second, constantly working — graciously of course 😉 –, to win the man’s attention for a short while. Who talks about the emotional burden that this places on women? Why is it ok for a man to continue on his pre-historic trajectory and for women to ignore their own needs (surely also steeped in evolutionary causality!) in order to — here we go again — PLEASE their men?

    • James Bauer said:

      Well stated, Kat. Sometimes I wonder if romance would be easier if both genders shared all the same foibles and desires. Then we wouldn’t have to share tips about reaching across the chasm. Men wouldn’t have to learn to be good listeners, get in touch with their emotions, etc. Women wouldn’t need to explain their emotions to clueless men. And relationship blogs would be for “people trying to improve their relationships” instead of specializing with some for women (like this one) and others for men.

  3. Sheila said:

    8 week relationship early days… but feel I’m at the bottom of the list…. work then his family seems to come first although he apologises for this and says he wants to spend time with me ….texts or phones every day .Think that after his divorce 5years ago he made his life around work, his father ,children and grand children and they all want a piece of him and he can’t say no . I know that a past relationship broke up because his then girlfriend wanted him to spend more time with her and less with his family.

  4. Brianna said:

    I agree with your decision Nasha. As an independent successful woman , it’s difficult for me to just play cheerleader to a growing boy who doesn’t value me enough as a priority. Although this article suggests staying along his side and coaching him back to you, I can’t help but feel angry and sad.

  5. Nasha said:

    I’m talking to a gentlemen like this now, but not for long. I’m going to step back and let him chase after the things he deems “important”. It’s not even that I don’t think he genuinely wants to be with me, he does. However, I’m already over the “back-seat” feelings…. Let his job encourage and love him if that’s what fulfills him…I’m out. I need to be available for the man who recognizes the value in setting aside time…

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