MEN: It’s okay to share your feelings.
In our society, most men are afraid to share their feelings. That’s simply a problem – for both men and women. Rather than allowing so-called “feminine emotions” to take over, we only allow ourselves to have masculine emotions – mainly anger. This affects our relationships in an incredibly negative manner, because it is not an effective way to communicate and can be downright scary for many of our partners. So why do we act this way?
Why don’t men share their feelings?
Mainly, social conditioning. They don’t really see the point in sharing their feelings. So many of us men are told from a young age to be tough, we are often discouraged from crying, being sad in general, and encouraged to show our ‘manliness’ by only expressing frustration with anger or rage.
Some of us had ‘strong, masculine’ fathers, father-figures, who influenced us in one of two ways: they would actively and deliberately tell us not to show emotion; or they would never show emotion themselves or share their feelings with us, leaving us without an example to model after.
If we weren’t getting it directly from our families, we were certainly getting the message at school and among our peers that it was okay to share our feelings. Crying was literally the most embarrassing thing that could ever happen to many us. The result: many of us tend to swallow our feelings rather than allow ourselves to open up to our partners.
What happens when men don’t share their feelings?
Not sharing our feelings – this is an incredibly destructive behavior that we have developed. The inability to share your feelings drives our partners away, makes them shut-off, and makes them not really be able to trust in you or your honesty. I have heard countless stories where men who didn’t show any feelings finally had to get real with themselves, but only after their wives asked for a divorce, or they found out that their partners were having affairs.
It was only after these devastating events, did these men realize, that it was a lack of being candid and open with their partners that would eventually drive them away. Sometimes to cheat, sometimes to leave, and sometimes both. You may not agree with how your partner or other’s choose to handle their situation, but the fact is people have needs, and when they don’t receive them in the place that they are supposed to, they will often try to find it elsewhere. Having a friend and confidant is something that we all need as we go through life. That’s why humans look for life partners.
How can men learn to share their feelings?
The short answer is: get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Being vulnerable in front of your partner is one of the only ways to really connect. But it’s really about finding out about yourself. You can use your partner to help you learn more about yourself. And that’s what they are there for. That is why they decided that they want to spend their life with you, to know you, to help you, to have you to help them.
Here’s a few ways you can start getting better at sharing your feelings:
I. Figure out what you feel
This is a big challenge for everyone. Emotions are complex, and can be difficult to identify. Talking with someone about whatever is concerning you is actually a great way to figure out what you’re feeling.
- Talk to your partner. This one can be risky, depending on what’s bothering you. But if done properly, you not only figure out how you are feeling, but also are communicating with your partner – there’s a chance you and your partner will gain more understanding. It is important to make sure your partner understands that you are confused and leaning on them for support in trying to figure out a complex feeling. Otherwise you can confuse your partner, if you’re contradicting yourself. Be clear that you’re still working through something, and that you’re just trying to figure out what you’re feeling about something.
- Talk to a friend. Depending on the situation, talking to your partner to figure out what you feel might not be the right option. If you think your partner may not be receptive to what you have to say right away, talk with a trusted friend to help you refine your thoughts. It is also wise in this, to find one of your more objective friends and don’t necessarily ask for advice – choose wisely. Saying what you’re thinking aloud often times allows you to clear up your feelings. Then you can clearly communicate it with your partner.
- Talk to a therapist. There is no shame in doing talking to a therapist. If you know that you have trouble communicating, try some therapy on your own and actively seek techniques to help you feel more comfortable with being uncomfortable. If your partner also lacks communication skill, ask them about marriage counseling. Even if things appear to be in good shape. A little effort to improve goes a long way.
II. Say it out loud!
In order to get better at communicating, you’re going to have to practice and dive right in. Accept the fact, that once you let those feelings go out in the open, anything can happen. You can only control your reactions. You cannot control your partner’s. It’s scary. You will likely fight, argue, and miscommunicate. You will not always express yourself perfectly, and your partner won’t either. However, as in many aspects of life working hard, and pushing through some pain will yield the results you want.
III. Work on arguing more effectively
There are actually a lot of ways to fight fairly in relationships. Practice getting better at admitting when you are wrong. A lot of this boils down to being vulnerable. You have to allow yourself to get over yourself. Your ego, your need to be a “tough-guy” or the need to “be right” all get in the way with allowing yourself to be vulnerable. But the fact is you need to allow yourself to be vulnerable, to understand what you are actually feeling.
For example: I have a tendency to want to be right a lot, so I fight back. Nothing productive ever comes out of that. It’s not until I let go of my ego and dig deep, where things start to work themselves out. A lot of times, it’s an issue of my self-esteem, I felt dumb and didn’t want to admit that to myself. Believe me, in the moment, the last thing I want to do is admit that I have low self-confidence, but it’s the truth a lot of the time. It’s only when I am honest with my feelings, and communicate those feelings in a vulnerable state, that our argument turn into a productive conversation.
Your feelings are valid. Things that you need to change in your relationship need to be communicated. If you don’t say anything, nothing can change. But it needs to be just that. State what your needs are, not what your partner is doing that is ‘so horrible”. Stick with “I” statements, like I feel like this and here’s why, rather than being accusatory. Follow the steps that work for you and your partner and always be aware that your relationship is unique. Share those feelings and start to love yourself and your partner more. It will all be worth it, in the end.