“Real men don’t cry.“ “Stop being such a baby.“ “Toughen up and be a man.“ “You don’t have time for all that touchy-feely stuff.“ Do any of these statements sound familiar to you? If they do, chances are you may have heard them from other men- your dad, your boss, your coach, your coworker. Although these statements tend to come from men you respect or revere, should you adopt these mantras? Why is it the ‘norm’ to accept the tough guy persona rather than be a guy who is in touch with his feelings? Ask yourself, ‘Why is it ‘normal’ to shut down my feelings and emotions?’. What if there’s more to emotions and men? In these next few paragraphs, I’d like to give you a “peek behind the curtain” so you can better understand what men may actually be going through when faced with expressing or sharing emotions.
Are men really emotional?
Men having emotion is impossible to deny. Often our partners assume we are devoid of emotion because they only see negative emotion when we do show it. However, the fact that there are any emotions being expressed is an indicator that we are capable of more than what is on the surface.
The big question.
A bigger question might be, “Why don’t men show other emotions (aka the good ones)?“ Every man is different, but we often see similar reasons why men refuse to be open and vulnerable. One reason may be that men fear judgment or unacceptance if they open up. (Hint: This battle can be won when a partner demonstrates their acceptance of what is occurring in him even if it is negative emotion.) Another possible reason may be earlier experiences – maybe even from childhood – when expressing emotions. (We all remember “what happened last time”.) Another potential reason may be he feels he will disappoint his partner if he is emotional. Men often struggle with feelings & emotions that don’t fit what we believe defines a “real man”. If we aren’t measuring up to our own standards, how can others not also feel disappointed?
Letting emotions out.
So, what’s the answer? Because emotions are within, men need to believe the outcome will be beneficial if and when they let them out. What can you, as a partner, do to help? Be patient and continue being patient. When he is vulnerable, offer reassurance. Finally, thank him for letting you in as you grow together.
Men are unique and our stories are often complicated. Growing, healing, and recovering takes a lot from everyone involved. Just remember, it will be worth your investment!
If you’re a man struggling in your relationships, career, physical health, or identifying and managing your emotions, I’d love to partner with you to find relief and freedom. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule, you don’t have to walk this road alone.
To take a deeper dive into men and emotions, check out the following book recommendations and a Ted Talk with Dr. Adam Dorsay, PsyD:
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
Emotional Intelligence by Travis Bradberry
The Data Men Miss a Ted Talk with Adam Dorsay
Matt is a Certified Mental Health Coach at Married Life with a focus on working with men to develop personally and thrive in relationships. In addition to his work at Married Life, Matt is also a Captain in the United States Army, Reserve Component serving our heroes as Chaplain specializing in relational skills training, crisis intervention counseling, and suicide prevention.