Dads are often seen as emotionally repressed. It’s not true. Here’s the real problem and what dads and moms can do to make our relationships safe for everyone’s vulnerabilities.
There are so many wrong ideas out there about men’s emotions.
So often we are seen as emotionally incompetent and poor at sharing our feelings. Sadly, men often feel this way about themselves as well.
In reality, men aren’t primarily lacking in emotional intelligence, it’s our society and each of us as members of this culture that are failing to give men what they need.
This week’s video discusses this predicament and how to easily change it.
There is so much chatter about why men are unable to feel and express our emotions. And so many misconceptions about what happens for us. The reality is that men feel a huge array of sensations. Science has even shown that we experience feelings more intensely than women, but we often do not feel safe, nor have the place to share our feelings. We do not typically feel like there is someone who will really hear our vulnerable emotions without some negative reaction.
Us, like you women, feel a lot of doubts about whether or not we are good enough. It is simply part of being human in our current society. There are also fears about our relationship and about our ability to be successful in the world. It is all extremely uncomfortable to acknowledge, feel and express.
But given a safe person with whom to open up, we will happily pour out our hearts. As a couples therapist, I can not tell you how many men I have worked with where their partner said he is incapable of being in touch with his feelings. But once he feels safe with me, a whole world of complexity opens up. It is often shocking for the woman to hear what is actually happening inside of their partners heads and hearts.
So how can we as men and women create a place where it is safe for men’s feelings to come out, and at the same time create a space where it is safe for the women’s feelings to really be heard? Often the reality is, as much as you women want to hear our feelings, it is quite hard for them to hear what we actually have to say. Just like it is hard for us to hear their feelings.
What’s so Hard about Supporting your Partner?
When we are attached to somebody and thus identified with them, it is very hard to be there for their emotional intensity. With a friend it is quite easy to support them in their doubt, fear and anger. Their struggles don’t directly affect us so we can more easily be compassionate. When it is our partner, it means a lot more to us. If they are upset or insecure, it can make us feel upset and insecure. Given how life can be so overwhelming, we want our partners to be calm, happy and stable. When they are not happy, most of us have a reaction to try to stop them from feeling bad so we will stop feeling bad.
It’s always said that men want to fix women’s problems when they just want to be heard. The reality is that both men and women have a hard time listening to their partner’s feelings and holding back advice. We all want to tell our partners how they can make themselves feel better so that we will feel better.
Why Honesty is so Important
Being in a relationship for many years requires dealing with a lot of hard truths: our own insecurities about being good enough, getting old, losing our beauty, our strength and even our atraction to our partners. There are a lot of subjects that are very difficult to discuss. So often they are just left to the side. Unfortunately, that quickly leads to a dead relationship.
To have a really solid relationship that can last decades and deal with all the complexities that life throws at us, we have to feel safe enough to be honest with one another about everything we are going through. Whether or not it is our fear about our genital size, or how long we last during intercourse, or the natural fluctuations in attraction to our partner, if we are able to share it with one another and have it be received with open-heartedness, without judgment or cheerleading, it is wonderfully healing. Having such a truthful relationship really supports both people to have a much happier life.
What to Actually Do
When your partner comes to you with feelings, just be there, turn towards them and look them in the eye. Try to not fiddle with anything and just listen. Keep your mouth shut and show them your presence with your eye gaze. Mainly, do not respond. Just being heard is so deeply healing.
When they are truly done and there has been a significant pause, if you have a natural compassionate response, then go ahead and share it. If nothing else, you can say, “Thank you.” Mainly we all just need to be heard. We need to feel that somebody is receiving us so we do not feel so alone with all these complexities that we go through.
When a man or a woman knows that they can share whatever is happening inside them to their partner, they can relax, knowing there is a safe place in the world. Having such a refuge and support, makes us all a lot more powerful in the world and much more capable of handling what comes at us.
Thank you for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. I would love to hear your thoughts about these difficult subjects. I know it is intense to share in a public forum, but if we can all be more honest about what we are going through, that makes it safer for all of us to just be ourselves. Be a little courageous if you can, and I’ll see you next time for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood.