Understanding Men: The Emotional Life Of Men

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I am sitting in my car thinking about understanding men and the concept of male emotions, how fragile men really are. I don’t think this is talked about enough in relationship dialogues and as a result, men tend to get a bad rap. The women in our life don’t really understand us or our emotional life. Women often see men as such an unknown entity. As a result, relationships are suffering causing everyone involved tremendous amounts of pain and anguish and this has people feeling so alone. 

Much of this behavior has been learned from our fathers and other male role models. In American family life of generations past, boys and men were taught to suppress their emotions and not to talk about feelings. Many men grew up with the perception that it was wrong to express emotion or to cry in front of someone, as that could mean they would be seen as weak and not masculine. The reality is far different. A healthy emotional life means being able to express and communicate the entire spectrum of emotion. 

Men are needy and you don’t realize how much we need you women to feel good about ourselves.  Your judgment about our emotional life impacts us, causing us feel shame and guilt that we aren’t better at this whole showing emotion thing.You either describe us without emotion or with anger as the only emotion. This becomes how we view ourselves, our defenses go up and we become very hard and filled with pain because of the lack of attachment.  When emotions are bottled up or suppressed, there needs to be some kind of release.  Often that shows as a quick temper or an angry response, sometimes as depression and isolation which only perpetuates the negative cycles of anger and resentment. 

It’s only within close relationships that we can allow ourselves to feel and express emotions. Those relationships are with you women( for the most part). If the relationship is not close and connected we feel alarmed …empty, a void. The truth is, we need the emotional connection as much if not more than you do. We simply have very little concept of how to, or whether it’s acceptable to express it. You can make it easier for us by being accepting of our emotional needs and responding with compassion and not judgment. Encourage us to share our feelings and to be real and authentic with our loved ones, our kids and our friends.

The Contradiction

Brene Brown did a research study recently about vulnerability and found the ones that were the most critical of men and defined them as weak and unattractive were the women who were demanding them to be vulnerable. Wow! What a contradiction! Brown was very surprised by the results but it’s something to think about. 

It seems that women also have to live down the stereotypes of prior generations. If a man makes himself vulnerable, that’s a sign that he trusts you enough to be real and show his true self.  He desires to make an authentic connection with you. This requires an authentic response.  Your loving response is crucial to making his vulnerability a strength, not a weakness.

If you don’t make your relationship the safe place for him to express himself emotionally, he may continue to pull away and isolate himself emotionally or become resentful and angry. I think men and women both have an incredibly hard task; to have a relationship that’s open and vulnerable and where both can feel free to express true emotion. 

I have so much respect for all of you men and women out there striving  to have a relationship that is special. I get my strength from all of you; to never stop offering my help to be part of your journey. I am honored to be asked into your lives and your loves. You make my mission something that gets me out of bed every day excited to continue this work.



About the Author:

Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships. As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters. The Couples Expert Podcast consists of weekly provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips on The Couples Expert YouTube channel and by subscription in Stuart's Daily Notes. Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. His office practice serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area including the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.