Men laugh, love, hurt, and experience joy and pain. And yes, men cry.
“What if he cries? What do I do if my husband cries?” she asked me. Her husband had just experienced the sudden death of a close family member. The days ahead for this young couple – particularly the husband – would be emotionally and mentally challenging. A funeral and a burial would take place in a few days.
It was obvious to me that this young newlywed was deeply concerned about her husband’s emotional and mental well-being. Without hesitation, I told her what to do:
“If he cries, without hesitation, run to him…hold him…comfort him. Tell him that you are here for him and that you love. Let him know that he can shed tears in front of you and that it will, in no way, in your eyes, diminish his manliness. He needs to know that you view his expression of his emotions … his sharing with you of his deepest feelings – a sacred act. He needs to know that he can trust you enough to be vulnerable and bare his soul.”
I wanted to help this young woman “get it right” about what her husband would need and want from her – emotionally and mentally. Many of us have it “all wrong” when it comes to what men need – emotionally and mentally – from the women in their lives. It is important that women “get it right” about the emotional and mental needs of men. Why? Because we are connected to each other. Our belief system about the emotional, spiritual, and psychological needs of men is shaped during our journey from childhood to adulthood by our parents and family members, society, and to some degree, the images and stereotypes of men depicted in film, television, and music videos. As a result, many of us feel that men have different emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs. The truth of the matter is that we were all endowed with the same range of emotions when we emerged from the womb and entered this space and place we know as Planet Earth. Men and women ask the same question: “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter?” Men are not emotionless automatons. Men laugh, love, hurt, and experience joy and pain. And yes, men cry. There is nothing wrong with a man shedding tears. It does not diminish his “manliness” nor is it a reason to call his manhood into question.
For women, supporting the emotional and mental well-being of our husbands, sons, fiancées, brothers, uncles, fathers, grandfathers, nephews, and cousins will require us to examine everything we have been taught about men and to weigh whether it is true or not. We can not begin to help and support men if we cling to false and stereotypical beliefs about them. Our conscious and subconscious beliefs about men drive our behavior towards them. Women with open minds and open hearts can create a “safe harbor” for the men in their lives — a place where men can bare their souls and lay down their emotional baggage. The “safe harbor” is a place that is “drama free” – a place where unconditional love, respect and trust abides. If a man feels and knows that you respect him, he will trust you and allow himself to be vulnerable. He will bare his soul. It will happen without warning. It will be the responsibility of the woman in his life to instinctively recognize that he is pouring out his heart and soul to her and to respond accordingly. When men bare their souls, it is a sacred act and the women in their lives must honor it.
Let’s support the emotional and mental well-being of the men — through words and deeds — that they are worthy…that we hear them…see them …love them…that they matter.