Dear John: He Says I Cry Too Much

tear_flickr_agitprop

A boyfriend who thinks his girlfriend cries too much, a guy who thinks his gay friends have too much PDA, and a son playing violent video games at a friends house.

This article originally appeared here.

Dear John,

I don’t think I cry more often than most women — in fact, I know I don’t — but it’s become an issue between my boyfriend and me. We’ve been dating for over two years now and we have talked of getting engaged, but this remains an obstacle for us. When I’m upset, I cry, and I feel like when I really need him the most, he withdraws completely, and I mean completely. He becomes as cold and distant as an unfriendly stranger. This makes me even more upset, and more often than not he just ends up going home. I have tried to talk to him about it when things were fine between us and he says he feels like women have been using tears and guilt to manipulate him his whole life, and now they just make him shut down. But crying isn’t exactly voluntary for me — and I’m definitely not trying to manipulate him by doing so. I feel like this is threatening our entire relationship, but it seems so silly to throw it away when everything else seems so good.

Signed,
Tearing Up Just Thinking About It

Dear Tearing Up,

Uh-oh. Your soon-to-be-fiancé has either been manipulated by women his whole life, or he hasn’t but thinks he has. I’m not sure which is worse.

This is a challenging area for a lot of guys because typically, the tears are preceded by some kind of disagreement or argument. Rightly or wrongly, the guy is already feeling annoyed/attacked/defensive/whatever. He’s feeling something un-positive. So then, when the woman starts crying, it’s very, very difficult to suddenly start being supportive/sympathetic/protective. (I’m assuming this is the kind of dynamic we’re talking about. If your boyfriend withdraws because you’re crying in reaction to sad news, by all means, run!)

Back to my initial observation: your boyfriend has problems with women. However he came about them, they are not something to ignore or dismiss. Before you both agree to take your relationship to a deeper level, he would be well advised to explore these issues with a therapist.

Dear John,

I’ve been seeing a new guy for almost six months now. We’re very happy together and I am grateful every day that I met him.

Two of my oldest friends are a gay couple. We’ve all seen each other through a lot of hard times, and I love both of these men like brothers.

Here’s why I’m writing. My gay friends are very affectionate with each other. They’re always holding hands, kissing each other hello or goodbye, etc. In general, my boyfriend is a very tolerant person, but these little displays of affection do bother him. He’s asked me to find a way to nicely ask them to tone it down, but I don’t have the least idea how to do this, or even if I should. I want all of us to enjoy each other’s company, but when we’re together now, I feel very stressed wondering what he’s thinking. What should I do?

Sincerely,
Caught in the Middle

Dear Caught,

How, exactly, is your boyfriend tolerant? He’s happy to live and let live as long as nobody forces him to look at something he’d rather not see?

He should expect from your friends exactly the same behaviors he would expect if they were a man and a woman. If he wouldn’t be offended by a heterosexual couple kissing or holding hands, then he shouldn’t be offended by a gay couple doing so. Sorry, but anything short of that, and he falls somewhere on the homophobic spectrum.

And while we’re at it, let me express my distaste for this notion of “tolerance.” By definition, we tolerate something that is inherently flawed or problematic. We might tolerate being underpaid at a job we find fulfilling; we might tolerate a job we loathe to earn a substantial income. We could not say we tolerate a lucrative, fulfilling job. It makes no sense. So I cringe when self-satisfied do-gooders expect us to beam with admiration when they proclaim their tolerance. Gay people needn’t thank us for our tolerance. Why are they even subject to our judgment to begin with? What business of mine is another person’s sexuality? Personally, I find this kind of tolerance patronizing and insulting.

You shouldn’t be talking to your gay friends about this. You should be talking to your boyfriend. He’s the one with the problem.

Dear John,

DearJohnImage22My ten-year-old son likes to hang out with a friend of his after school. I recently discovered why: his friend is allowed to play video games that, in my opinion, no ten-year-old should be playing.

I am not opposed to video games  but when our son was younger and he started asking about them, I did a lot of research and was surprised (shocked might be a better word) at some of the material out there. So he is allowed to play games rated as being appropriate for his age, and he has a set number of hours he can play in a week, too. Now I find that he has been playing games that are explicitly for adults.

I’m thinking of calling his friend’s parents and telling them my son is not allowed to play those games, but that seems like I’m trying to tell them how to raise their son, which I’m not. My husband is encouraging me to forget about it because he never worried about the games our son plays anyway. And to his credit, he has never given us any serious behavior problems. Any suggestions?

Sincerely,
Game Over

Dear Game Over,

You sound like you had a clear and thoughtful strategy for dealing with the inevitable video game issues that parents of young kids face. Too bad that of all the adults in this story, it sounds like you’re the only one who does.

Your son knew the rules for playing video games, right? (And if he claims he believed those rules only applied when he was in his own home, you might as well start researching law schools for him now.) So he should lose the privilege to go to his friend’s house for however many days or weeks you think is appropriate. This will also give you a pretext for calling the kid’s mother or father and explaining that Billy won’t be visiting for a while because he knows full well he is not supposed to play video games rated for older players — nothing in that is telling them how to raise their son; it’s simply clarifying how you’re raising yours.

Once visits resume, explain to your son that since he violated your trust, you will now verify after each play date that none of your rules were broken, and if this problem happens again, he will not be allowed to go to his friend’s house any more. (As an aside, it would be nice if you could host more often, too. In addition to keeping a closer eye on your son, you could limit the video gaming and encourage them to go outside or play with something that doesn’t plug in.)

One final note: it’s a shame your husband’s approach to dealing with this is to pretend there’s nothing to deal with. Even if he feels your rules are too stringent, he should realize that once established, they must be obeyed.

Photo credit: Flickr / agitprop

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About John Simpson, GoLocalProv.com

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. His column runs regularly on GoLocalProv.com.

Comments

  1. @tearing: your boyfriend has problems with women– who cry too often for his taste,
    You think you bug him now, give it a few years of marriage, parenting and job stress- he’ll be ready to hang himself…
    If you love him bail out now or set enough aside for the divorce lawyer…
    Or get some therapy and see if you can cope without crying….

    • Psyconomics says:

      I’m inclined to agree more with the author of the article.

      If the guy’s expressed reason that he can’t deal with women crying is that he can’t separate genuine expressions of emotion from attempts to manipulate (or that he doesn’t bother trying) then there is quite likely something ugly in his past that lead him to this situation.

      It would be nice to meet in the middle ground, but if the guy’s inability to see beyond his own biases for the women he loves harms emotional connection and communication then it is incumbent on him to at least try to see how he might be jumping to wrong conclusions.

      • I’ve seen crocodile tears, it pisses me off hardcore. Tears used to manipulate and guilt, then to play victim and act like you’re the bad guy are emotional abuse. Crocodile tears will turn me off and make me annoyed, do it and you’re likely to get dumped by me. REAL tears, REAL emotion will invoke my caring teddy bear personality and I will probably feel like shit if I can’t help and will do whatever I can do soothe or if need be fix the situation. Crocodile tears are usually done by people who are manipulative as hell and I find they are usually spoiled somehow, reminds me of kids throwing tantrums cuz they can’t have that candybar.

  2. If you believe the one you’re with uses tears to manipulate, you shouldn’t be with that person, period. Either you are right, and they are manipulative, or you have serious trust issues, and aren’t ready for a relationship.

    • wellokaythen says:

      One way to tell if they are manipulative tears is to try to have a relatively objective conversation about crying at some point. If she is unwilling to talk about her crying as a phenomenon, or unwilling to examine what she thinks about her crying, or unwilling to be concrete about what she wants from you when she’s crying, then the crying may be manipulative. If she can’t ever talk about crying without starting to cry and shutting down the conversation, then she’s not really present with you. She should be able to listen when you have a constructive conversation about what you experience: “when I see you crying, I feel ___.” If she can’t handle that, then your relationship is in deep trouble.

      Like I said, in some cases what looks like emotional manipulation is actually misunderstanding. In SOME cases, not all. Some people are just manipulative emotional terrorists.

  3. I believe that I agree with the response to LW#1 and that the explanation provided by the boyfriend feels like the sort of issues that could cause such reactions.

    However, I’d like to say that tears can often have a very derailing effect on constructively solving issues in a relationship. I’m not suggesting it’s the only explanation, but I’ve been in a somewhat similar place, myself, and it came down to the fact that anytime I/we/she tried to address something that was causing a problem in our relationship, it was inevitable that a clash in perspective would cause tears and then the whole conversation/action goes from constructively trying to address an issue to being refocused on calming, reassuring and getting back to smiles.

    Suffice to say that after awhile (and trying to bring it up, itself, usually led to the same cycle) my reactions started to become more stoic. I tried ignoring tears and trying to push through: failure. I tried addressing tears and then circling back to the conversation, but by the time the tears were addressed we were both emotionally exhausted and/or tears just came back again.

    It was frustrating, but we worked through it and we’re both more comfortable with each other’s needs. However, you have to look at the context when your calm and ask if the emotional side got in the way of addressing something *else* on the rational/otherly emotional side.

    And in the letter there’s no context. Do tears come randomly? during sad movies? at the cut of an onion? In those cases, where tears exist outside of a causal relationship to the actual relationship there’s a problem. If tears are being mixed into otherwise-highly-charged inter-personal attempts to discuss problems or issues, the above is a possibility.

  4. wellokaythen says:

    To Tearing Up:

    What may be happening is a communication breakdown. What you want when you’re crying may not be what he thinks you’re asking for. He may be getting a message from your crying that’s different from the message you’re trying to send. What may be totally obvious to one person about what crying means may be totally obscure to someone else.

    For example, when you cry, he may be under the impression that he’s being asked to fix something or that he’s responsible for making you feel good enough to make you stop crying. He could be seeing your crying as a project that will never ever end, because he will never really be able to stop it. He may feel overwhelmed with the enormity of the task. When, in fact, you may just want him to listen and NOT try to fix the situation. I recommend you try to talk to him about what your intentions are. Choose a moment when you’re not in tears, tell him what your perspective is, and make it into a request. “When I’m crying, here’s what I’m asking for. I don’t want you to try and fix it, I just want _____.”

    I cannot stress enough how important it is to couch this as a request and not a command or criticism or manipulation or a one-up/one-down thing.

    Another very common root problem is that maybe he doesn’t feel like he gets a chance to express his feelings. He may feel like you’re being emotionally selfish even if you aren’t. He may feel like every time he starts to express a feeling that you may not like that you shut him down. Even if you’re not trying to shut him down, that may be the message he’s getting. Please, please, please do not assume that you are a good listener just because you’re a woman and because you’re in touch with your feelings. Being open to expressing your feelings can actually make a person a poor listener. What you see as his withdrawal he may see as being chased away.

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