On men and emotions

Last night, my lovely wife and I stayed up and had a long conversation about guys and emotions. I talked from my perspective. She talked from her perspective. We both would say that it was very enlightening. I also learned something in the process:

I love to talk about emotions.

I know. I’m weird. At least that’s what culture would like you to think.

I grew up in an emotionally healthy home. My parents provided a safe place to talk about what I was feeling. They helped me identify those feelings and be specific about expressing them. I was never told to man-up, not to cry or commanded to “get over it.” I was encouraged to feel, express and try to understand what I was feeling.

My earliest memory of this was the day I came home from school, upset that some boys I wanted to play with weren’t playing with me. So, I declared to my mom;

“They don’t want to play with me.”

Her response was unavoidable:

“Is that what they said, or is that what you’re choosing to believe?”

Of course, it’s not what they said, but in that moment I recognized, at a very young age that I was feeling rejection for some reason and I assumed that statement to be true. But it wasn’t true. My moms paradigm changing question helped me identify what I was feeling and then empowered me to choose to believe differently.

Being able to identify what you’re feeling and the ability to express it, is a gift. It’s helped me in my marriage, as a dad, in management, understanding bosses, dissecting culture, understanding strengths and weaknesses, and the list could go on.

Because I’m a guy, I understand that emotions aren’t something that all of us are able and/or willing to talk about. I also wonder, is this really true or is it part of the guy stereotype?

Just like my mom asked me, I ask of guys and girls:

Do guys actually say they don’t want to talk about their emotions, or do we simply assume that they can’t or won’t?

I just wonder, are guys being let off the emotional hook easier than we should be?

Do you agree with anything that I’ve said? Am I wrong to assume that the cultural paradigm of men is that we’re emotionally stunted, at-best? What is your experience? 



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  • http://www.brianhirschy.com bhirschyphoto

    Boy, that’s a rough question.  My wife and I have some role reversal when it comes to talk about emotions simply because of our different upbringings and the safety I had at home was a legitimate danger in her house.  I’m all for talking about emotions, see it as healthy, she on the other hand, has to think about what she feels.  
    I remember the first time she told me that, “I have to think for a few days before I know how I feel about that.”  My mind freaking blew up.  I literally walked away from the conversation, not from anger of frustration, but as if I’d just encountered a literal alien.
    I know its worth it though, I know it takes a bit more fight for me to get to the bottom of her feelings, and I also know that having someone partnered with me who is way less emotional has done a massive service to my sanity.
    I’d urge everyone to maybe not see the lack of emotional expression in terms of good or bad, or even better.  It’s just how some people are made and how they roll.  I often wish that I was as balanced as my wife.

  • http://kylechowning.com kylechowning

    bhirschyphoto Love this response. I too have had some of the same thoughts. My wife is much more reserved when it comes to expressing her thoughts. I tend to let it come out and then deal with it…which maybe what happened with this post. :)
    Great input.