Do you live with a man who is silent and reserved? When did you realise that your conversations were hardly ever intimate? Chances are, you’ve complained to your friends about your man’s inability to share his feelings with you. Chances also are that you were told that you’re expecting too much. Maybe a friend has said, ‘ James never tells me what’s he’s thinking either’ or perhaps ‘That’s just the way men are. You just have to learn to live with it’.
Okay, you might like him strong, but the silent bit is breaking you up. Many women report that they’ve tried to get their man to reveal more of his emotions – to little avail. Some women eventually give up, concluding that their partner’s inability to communicate is in fact, ‘just the way men are’.
But is it? Men aren’t necessarily born with less of a need to communicate. However, even today, with our enlightened gender knowledge, many parents may not even be aware that they are conditioning their boys and encouraging them to be assertive and in control of their emotions. This conditioning is often unconscious and subtle or it can be much more overt. It may mean that parents allow girls to act as they feel and express their emotions readily while for boys the situations where they are allowed to express their feelings are much more restricted.
Recently in a fun park I saw a small boy of about five not clearing the height limit for a particular ride. He began crying and his father said in a firm tone, ‘Stop crying. Get over it’. Looking towards his mother, he then got a mixed message. She looked sorry for him and pulled him towards her, but supporting her husband’s remark, said, ‘You heard what your father said’. So small and yet given the message that he is unable to express an emotion of disappointment, as a child would – by crying.
Over the years, research indicates that women are still viewed as being warm and emotional, while men are seen as dominant and achieving and in leadership roles. This seemingly precludes men from being emotional. The argument appears to be that if you are emotional, you cannot be rational. But expressing emotion does not have to be irrational.
The research also indicates that as men approach their forties and fifties, they do seem to become more confident about expressing how they feel and sometimes the opposite stands for women – they become more confident in their achievements and seek more and newer achievements.
What’s going on for men who find it difficult to communicate?
One man told me that he tries to convey emotions but his words don’t come out the way he had intended. Another confided that he was afraid of being misunderstood if he revealed his emotions. Then there’s the age-old fear of men – the dread of having their words thrown back at them or inviting a heavy, emotional scene or being considered weak.
Recognising your man’s attempts
It isn’t surprising to find that sometimes when men try to convey emotion, some women don’t recognise their attempts. Sometimes, it’s a matter of men using different vocabulary from what a woman might use or maybe being a little oblique in what they’re saying emotionally. It’s often been said that men and women communicate their emotions differently – they have a different style. Of course, this is a debatable truism as some men are more like women when they communicate their emotions, and some women have a more man-like style of communicating emotions. However, if a woman doesn’t recognise these attempts, it might well lead to inadvertently preventing him from communicating any further.
As a woman who wants to encourage and understand her man’s emotions try the following:
Don’t let your relationship fade because you can’t understand one another – it all takes work and a partnership to listen to each other and acknowledge that sometimes men and women have different communication styles. Appreciate these differences and work with them. It’s worth the effort.
To learn more about communication see The Rules of Love