One of the things most of us love about being in a relationship is knowing that we don’t have to face things alone; that there’s someone there to help protect us when life becomes difficult. But, sometimes that feeling of protection isn’t there.
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In this article, we’re going to look at what makes a man want to protect you and how you know that he feels that way. We’re also going to talk about things we do that can make it difficult for a guy to show that he feels protective, and what you can do about them.
There can be some really great resources containing loads of good relationship advice available online. Some topics, such as toxic relationships, have loads of great advice. Unfortunately, the advice on why men feel protective of you is largely awful. We’re going to look at some of the real reasons he becomes protective of you, and some of the worst myths.
One of the things that will make a man want to protect you is when he sees the pair of you as part of the same group. Psychologists have consistently demonstrated that we will protect people we see as part of our group, especially against people we see as part of a different group. This is known as ingroup-outgroup bias1.
Of course, none of us are defined by a single group. You might be part of a group with your family, another with your friends, and another as a fan of your favorite band. As your relationship becomes closer, you’ll both see yourselves as part of more shared groups. This increases how protective he is likely to feel.
A lot of the opinions being posted online about why men want to protect you talk about evolution and suggest that men are biologically driven to protect their women. This is seen as uniquely male and unavoidable.
This is the same kind of pseudo-scientific idea that says that women shouldn’t have the vote because we’re not ‘rational’ enough or that women shouldn’t go to work because we’re ‘natural’ homemakers.
When you wake up in the morning, you’re probably safe and warm, and comfortable. You don’t need anything. From an evolutionary perspective, unless you’re hungry, you should just stay there. But you don’t. You get up, drink coffee, and go to work. We’re not controlled by our ‘evolutionary imperatives’.
In fact, women feel just as protective of the people we care about. Just think about the stereotype of a woman turning into a mama bear to protect her children or how women protect each other from creepy guys on a night out. We are all predisposed to protect the people we love.
The myth that protectiveness is uniquely male is dangerous because of what it tells us if a man doesn’t seem protective of us. It’s subtly blaming us for not being feminine enough to arouse his male instincts.
Having said that protectiveness is definitely not some automatic process that only happens to men, we do need to acknowledge that there often are differences in how men and women show their protective feelings. Many of these will come from cultural expectations of masculinity and femininity.
Specifically, our culture typically celebrates men being protective of their partners and discourages them from being vulnerable or needing protection themselves2. Vulnerable men in the media are typically seen as someone to laugh at more than emulate.
What does this mean for why your man feels protective of you? Well, he might become protective of you because it fits with his self-image. For many men, being seen as protective can help to boost their self-esteem.
This myth suggests that men will only ever feel protective of women who they believe ‘needs’ them. Again, this suggests that we need to be more fragile or less capable if we want our partner to feel protective towards us.
That can certainly be the case, especially in the short term. Some women will arouse protective feelings in others by looking like they aren’t going to cope alone. Unfortunately, this usually leads to a damaging, codependent relationship3.
This myth encourages women to seem less strong and capable than they are to encourage their partners to become more protective. That’s not good for your self-esteem and it’s also creating a relationship based on manipulation rather than mutual respect and trust.
As you can see, what makes a guy feel protective of you isn’t straightforward. So, how can you tell whether he wants to protect you or not? Here are the main signs that he wants to protect you and keep you safe and happy.
He can’t look after you and keep you safe if he doesn’t know what’s going on with you. If he works hard to stay in contact, it can be a sign that he wants to know when you’re struggling or feeling down so he can support you.
This is even more likely if he asks about how you’re feeling as much as about what you’re doing. A guy who texts “WYD?” is probably less protective than one who says “Hey. I just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing. I know last month was rough so I thought I’d give you a chance to vent if you need it.”
A guy who feels protective of you isn’t assuming that you can’t take care of yourself. He’s just trying to be aware of the risks you face and make it easier for you to be safe.
At the simplest level, this might mean that he asks to walk you to your door after a date or offers to drive you home from an event so you don’t have to take an Uber or public transport.
There are also subtler signs, which can be even more positive. Some guys really do understand that dating is scarier for women than it is for men, and so they go the extra mile to make sure that you know you’re safe with him.
This might include making sure that you meet for the first time in a public place, asking where you would feel most comfortable, or not standing between you and the door. These signs show that he’s both protective and respectful at the same time.
Some guys are only protective of your physical safety. Sometimes, this starts to feel less like they’re trying to protect you and more as though they’re trying to keep you away from other men. That’s being possessive, rather than protective.
At the other end of the scale, some guys really care about your emotional safety. They will listen and understand when someone has hurt your feelings. This kind of guy understands that he can protect you from more than just ‘sticks and stones’. He doesn’t want words to hurt you either.
He might also intervene if he knows that a conversation is going to make you uncomfortable. For example, if one of his friends makes a sexist joke, he’ll step in and tell them to stop because he doesn’t want you to be forced to have an uncomfortable conversation.
One of the signs he really wants to protect you (and understands what that means) is that he’ll also try to protect you from yourself when you need him to. Again, there can be a fine line between this and being controlling or disrespectful.
When a guy wants to help protect you from yourself, he will usually point out that you might be working too hard or taking on too much. He’ll offer to help, but he won’t tell you what to do.
For example, if you have a lot of deadlines in a week, he might point out that you’re exhausted, suggest talking to your boss about your workload, and cook you a healthy dinner to save time and make sure you have something healthy.
One of the most obvious signs a guy is protective of you is that you feel really safe and relaxed around him. You’re able to let your guard down and be honest and vulnerable because you know that he wants to look after you.
This might sound counterintuitive, but a genuinely protective (and emotionally intelligent) man will show that he wants to protect you by not trying to do absolutely everything for you.
A selfish or controlling man will always want you to turn to him for support. A protective man wants you to be supported, and he’s happy for that support to come from others if that’s what you need.
For example, if you’re upset about an argument with a friend, he’ll listen to you and support you, but he’ll also suggest that you talk to your bestie who knows more about what’s going on. He wants you to have a wide support network because he knows that you need more people in your life than just him.
Finally, a protective guy is really good when you’re feeling sick. He’s not worried about catching your cold. He just wants to bring you soup and a hot water bottle and stroke your hair to make you feel better.
If you’re trying to understand what makes a man feel protective, there’s a chance that lots of the men in your life haven’t been protective of you. You might be wondering how some women seem to have hoards of men trying to carry their bags, while the men you know just assume that you can handle everything alone.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry. There are loads of us who wonder why we don’t seem to inspire protectiveness in the people who love us. Often, the problem isn’t that they don’t feel protective of us. It’s that they hide their feelings because they don’t think we want their protection.
Here are some of the signs you might be sending out to tell a guy that his being protective of you isn’t welcome.
If you struggle to be vulnerable, you probably keep your barriers up in your relationship4. If you’re used to saying things like “I’m ok”, “don’t worry about me”, or “I’ll be fine”, that’s a clear sign to him that you’re not looking for his protection.
This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t feel protective of you. It just means that he (understandably) believes that you don’t want him to show it.
Lots of people struggle to be vulnerable. This might be because you have an avoidant attachment style or you’ve been in abusive relationships in the past. You’re not doing anything wrong by keeping your walls up for now, but you will need to start to lower them if you want him to be more protective.
Another sign that might make him hide his protective feelings is if you’re easily offended. There can be a fine line between being protective and being possessive or patronizing. If you are quick to take offense, he might decide that it’s safer not to show his protective side at all.
A guy can only protect you from things he knows about. If you don’t tell him about things that are difficult for you, it’s really hard for him to step in and be protective.
This doesn’t mean that you should pretend to be weak and helpless to trigger his protective side. Instead, it’s about talking to him about things that are unpleasant or sad and giving him the chance to offer support where you genuinely need it.
You might think that accepting help is completely natural and easy, but that’s not always the case. Lots of us don’t know how to accept help even when it’s offered.
Often, this comes from childhood. Maybe your parents really wanted to teach you to be self-sufficient, or there was some parentification in your family5. It can also be the result of being in abusive or toxic relationships.
Being protective is a sign of love, but being overprotective is more about controlling you. True protectiveness is empowering and strengthening. If your partner’s protectiveness makes you feel safe and happy, that’s great. If it leaves you feeling disrespected or pressured, it might be unhealthy.
The best way to tell your partner that you don’t like his overprotectiveness is to use I statements. This lets you focus on how you feel and what you want, rather than talking about his intentions.
You are the only person who gets to choose your boundaries, and no one should try to tell you that what you want in a relationship isn’t ok. You don’t have to tolerate your partner doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable just because he thinks it’s “protective.”
The simple, evolutionary-based explanations for why a man feels protective are mostly just myths. Instead, a man feels protective of you and wants to keep you safe because he sees the pair of you as a unit or even as a family.
It can be difficult to recognize the line between protectiveness and overprotectiveness, but a protective guy will make you feel both safe and respected.
Did you enjoy this article? Do you have any other signs that a man wants to protect you? How do you feel about a protective man? Let me know in the comments. And please share this article with anyone who needs it, especially if they might believe some of the harmful myths about what makes a man want to protect you.