Dear John: He Says I Cry Too Much

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


  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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