10 things men do in relationships when they lack emotional intelligence

Navigating relationships can be a bit of a minefield, especially when emotional intelligence is in short supply.

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is essentially the ability to understand, manage, and effectively express your own feelings, all while successfully navigating the feelings of others. For men in relationships, a lack of EQ often translates into certain unhelpful behaviors.

In this article, we’ll dive into 10 things men tend to do when they’re lacking in emotional intelligence in their relationships. And fellas, if you’re reading this, pay attention—recognizing these behaviors is the first step to improving your EQ and overall relationship health.

So, let’s jump right in.

1) Misinterpreting emotions

If you’ve ever found yourself thinking, “Why can’t he understand how I’m feeling?”, you’re definitely not alone.

Many men, when lacking emotional intelligence, struggle to accurately interpret their partners’ emotions. This often leads to a lot of misunderstanding and frustration.

Emotional intelligence involves being able to pick up on the emotional cues of others and respond appropriately. When this ability is lacking, it can feel like your partner is speaking a different language.

Often, men with low EQ will misinterpret their partner’s emotional reactions as attacks, which can trigger defensive or even aggressive behavior. This creates a cycle of misunderstanding where both parties end up feeling unheard and unappreciated.

2) Keeping emotions bottled up

Oh boy, can I relate to that. In one of my past relationships, I had this habit of keeping my feelings all to myself.

Whenever something bothered me, instead of talking about it, I’d just swallow it down and put on a brave face. I figured I was being tough and sparing my partner unnecessary stress or fights.

But looking back, I see I was building a wall between us. My partner sensed something was off, but since I wasn’t opening up, she felt left out and our connection suffered.

It dawned on me later that men who aren’t great at handling emotions often bottle up their feelings. It’s not because they don’t care or don’t feel; it’s just they haven’t learned to express themselves effectively.

Bottom line? Learning to open up and share your feelings is a big part of emotional intelligence, and it can really boost the quality of your relationships.

3) Struggling to empathize

Empathy is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence. It’s the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, essentially putting yourself in their shoes.

But did you know that research has shown that men generally have lower levels of empathy compared to women? This doesn’t mean men can’t be empathetic, but rather highlights how men can struggle in this area.

When a man lacks emotional intelligence, his ability to empathize can be even more reduced. He might have difficulty understanding his partner’s point of view, or might dismiss their feelings as unimportant or irrational.

This lack of empathy can lead to tension and conflict in a relationship. It makes the other person feel misunderstood and undervalued, which over time can create a significant rift.

4) Avoiding difficult conversations

Difficult conversations are just part and parcel of life, especially in relationships. Whether it’s discussing future plans or addressing underlying tensions, they’re inevitable.

However, men lacking in emotional sensitivity often tend to shy away from these tough talks. They might dread confrontation, worry about the consequences, or simply lack the skills to navigate such discussions.

But by dodging these conversations, they miss out on chances to resolve issues, grow together, and deepen their bond.

Sure, avoidance might feel like the easier route at the moment, but it only leads to unresolved issues piling up and causing even more tension down the line. 

5) Ignoring their partner’s needs

In a relationship, understanding and respecting each other’s needs is crucial. But guys who aren’t very emotionally aware may struggle to recognize what his partner truly needs.

This could be as simple as not realizing that his partner needs more quality time together, or as complex as failing to understand the emotional support needed during tough times.

The fact is, we can’t meet our partner’s needs if we don’t understand what they are. And when these needs are consistently ignored, it can lead to feelings of neglect and dissatisfaction in the relationship.

Improving emotional intelligence helps men become more attuned to their partner’s needs, leading to a more balanced and fulfilling relationship for both parties.

6) Struggling to express love

Love is the bedrock of any romantic relationship, but it’s not always easy to express. Men with low emotional intelligence often find it difficult to show their feelings of love in a way that their partner understands and appreciates.

It’s not that they don’t love their partners, but rather they may not know how to express it in a way that resonates.

They might say “I love you” without understanding that their actions need to support their words, or they may rely on grand gestures while missing out on the small daily acts of love that build connection.

Love isn’t just about saying three words. It’s about showing up, being there for your partner, and expressing your affection in ways that matter to them.

If a man struggles to express love, it’s often a sign of low emotional intelligence. But with awareness and effort, this is something that can be improved, leading to deeper connections and more fulfilling relationships.

7) Reacting instead of responding

I’ll confess, there was a time when my temper would get the best of me. When confronted with criticism or disagreement, my immediate reaction was to get defensive or even retaliate.

But over time, I realized that my reactions were causing more harm than good. They were hurting the people I cared about and damaging my relationships.

In contrast, emotional intelligence involves responding rather than reacting. A response is thoughtful and considers the feelings of the other person. A reaction, on the other hand, is immediate and driven by our emotions without considering the impact.

The transition from reacting to responding can be challenging, but it’s a key aspect of emotional intelligence that can significantly improve relationships. It’s all about taking a moment to process your emotions before letting them control your actions.

8) Trying to fix everything

When faced with a problem, it’s a natural instinct for many men to want to fix it. Whether it’s a leaky faucet or a broken car engine, the urge to solve problems can be strong.

But in relationships, not every problem needs fixing—at least, not in the way you might think.

Sometimes, when a partner shares their struggles or difficulties, they’re not necessarily seeking solutions. Instead, they might just need a listening ear, a comforting word, or a supportive shoulder to lean on.

Guys with a limited grasp on emotions often miss this subtle difference. They jump into problem-solving mode when their partner might really just want empathy and understanding.

9) Holding on to grudges

We all have disagreements and arguments in relationships—it’s just part of being human. But clinging onto resentment and grudges isn’t healthy.

Men who struggle to process their feelings effectively often find it hard to let go of past conflicts. They might keep bringing up old arguments or holding onto resentment long after the issue has been resolved.

This lingering negativity can create an atmosphere of tension and hostility, making it tough for both partners to move forward.

Here’s the thing: Emotional intelligence means understanding that letting go of grudges is crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship. It’s about learning to forgive, move on, and focus on the present instead of dwelling on the past.

10) Lacking self-awareness

At the heart of emotional intelligence lies self-awareness. It’s about recognizing your own emotions, understanding how they drive your actions, and acknowledging their impact on those around you.

A man who struggles to connect emotionally often lacks this self-awareness. He may not grasp why he reacts in certain ways or how his behavior can affect his partner.

Without self-awareness, making positive changes or boosting emotional intelligence becomes a daunting task. It’s like trying to navigate a maze in the dark.

So, if there’s one thing I want you to remember, it’s this: self-awareness is key. It’s the crucial first step toward enhancing emotional intelligence and fostering healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

Unlock emotional potential 

For guys dealing with the hurdles of low emotional intelligence, never forget that every step toward growth is a win. Embrace the journey of understanding and accepting your emotions, knowing that each moment of self-reflection brings you closer to emotional empowerment.

As you navigate relationships, approach them with an open heart and a willingness to learn from every interaction. Seek out resources and support systems that resonate with you, and keep in mind that every effort you make toward emotional awareness brings you one step closer to personal fulfillment.

With determination and self-compassion, you have the power to transform your emotional landscape and cultivate deeper connections with yourself and others.

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

9 body language signals that show confidence and authenticity, according to psychology

8 small things to start doing now if you want to be ahead of everyone else in 10 years