As I grew up, I knew that men do not show emotion, least of all cry regardless of their affliction. Showing emotion was considered a sign of weakness. While my sisters and I could cry, scream, vent and express our feelings in any way we choose, to the boys they were constantly reminded that they were men. Societal expectations have taught them to hide their emotions. If you are waiting for your man to show you some soft emotions, you may need to read on.
Mary, frustrated about her partner, said "he just never tells me how he is feeling, I know he is hurting but he does not admit it, he never expresses any emotions, he just shuts off and chooses to leave whenever I pursue him, this leaves me really frustrated". You may have heard that before, I hear it all the time. Does it mean that men have no emotions, or the need to express them?
Of course not; all humans including men have feelings as well. Although people have a preconceived notion that men do not have feelings, far from it. The truth is that men have a difficult time acknowledging their feelings, leave alone processing them.
Most men grew up being taught from an early age that no man worth his name expresses feelings; they are expected to be strong, in control and certainly not to show any form of emotions, as society considers it a sign of weakness. The only emotion they openly exhibit is anger. Men are typically under pressure, holding back their emotions which accumulate to pain, frustration, fear, insecurities, and ultimately manifest itself in forms of violence.
Men handle emotions differently from women. They feel they need to be self-sufficient and seldom seek support from significant others. This is reinforced by the stereotype heroic male, who is "macho" and can handle anything. Women on the other hand, are more likely to express their feelings openly when upset unlike men, they are quick to seek the support of friends and family, whereas men withdraw and suppress their emotions.
Men often feel the need for self-reliance and self-control. They are focused on the task completion and fulfillment of needs as opposed to being centered on emotions and feelings. Many men have father wounds due to absent fathers, emotionally distant fathers or who showed no love, affirmation nor expressed any level of affection. Generally, parents and caregivers model what becomes our life compass in early childhood, which shapes our world view and behavior.
The different ways men and women display their emotions can cause conflict if not understood and well managed. Understanding how your partner processes emotions can prevent conflict and enhance communication.
Here are some tips for you;
- Give your man time to process his thoughts, not asking him what he is thinking, simply ignore and give him his space. He will come round when he is ready.
- Avoid being critical, and cynical, allow him room to trust you and your motives. He will only warm up to you when his vulnerabilities are addressed. Meaning, he is challenged enough, don't make it worse for him
- Stop labeling your man, accusing him of being insensitive and not showing emotions. Instead, affirm him, let him sense your admiration and non-conditional acceptance.
- Choose to support your man to achieve his goals, his projects and ambitions. He needs you, even if he does not ask for your support, ask him how you can help out. Every man needs a God given "helper", be the one.
- Avoid emotional drama, he cannot handle this well and will choose to escape. When sensitive, do not ridicule when he expresses an emotion, instead offer compassion, and be supportive.
- Recognise that men and women have different minds and see things from different worldview.
- Whatever you do, avoid telling your man "we need to talk", that throws him off the handle and will choose to flee out of fear of emotional engagement.
To enjoy your relationships, begin by ensuring your emotional health is in good shape and support your man along the journey of life.
The writer is a relationship coach and author of Marriage Built to Last. You can reach her on; www.jenniekarina.co.ke