Because men rarely (if ever) show vulnerable emotions, I used the believe they never experienced them. Boy was I wrong!
I can’t even tell you what a shock this was to me. Because I grew up believing that men and boys did not even have feelings. They didn’t experience emotions at all. Because they never displayed them. They always looked “blank.”
So part of my approach – especially as a teenager – was to try to poke, to get a response out of a guy. The more I poked, the more he shut down.
It’s really important to understand that is a lie from the pit of hell.
In fact, men are actually way more sensitive. Yes, I said that. They are way more sensitive than women are, both to social and emotional cues. That means relational and internal emotions.
I know that that may ring true for some of you. Some of you may have noticed it, whereas others think,
“Wow. That is so not who I see men to be.”
In reality, from the moment of birth, baby boys are more sensitive than baby girls. Research has been done on that. If you would like the reference let me know, and I will get it to you. Baby boys are actually more sensitive than baby girls. They laugh more and coo more. But they also cry more, and they’re harder to soothe.
So what happened?
Why did he turn out to be this way as an adult? What happened to that sensitivity?
Well, it got shamed out of him for the most part. In the process of developing into a boy from a baby, from a boy to a man, shame is a huge factor. It teaches him not to display his vulnerability.
Remember: the one number one thing men are taught is “Don’t be weak.”
So he invests a lot of his energy in appearing to be strong even when he doesn’t feel like it. And it starts by the time he enters kindergarten. First, his verbal expressions disappear. Then his facial expressions disappear, and he learns to be a “blank slate” so nobody will know how scared he is or how inadequate he feels.
This was the most surprising thing that I ever learned about men. Because I didn’t think it was true. Even after having been married and divorced, I still didn’t know that.
It wasn’t until I got into graduate school and started really studying men at an academic level. I’m hearing all of these things, and I’m going, “Huh? That doesn’t sound right.”
Probably like some of you do. “This just can’t be true. This woman is nuts.” Right?
But the evidence is there.
I’ve seen it in couples counseling over and over and over again.
Men are incredibly sensitive.
- I have to say they’re sensitive to different things than women are. Women are more sensitive to getting their feelings hurt.
- Men are more sensitive to things that attack their identity and produce a sense of shame and guilt.
Shame and guilt are a whole other topic we can talk about another day. Because there are some distinctions there. Basically, feeling guilty is more like shame, whereas guilt itself is a statement of fact. (I did it.) It’s a legal term without the emotional pain.
- If you’ve done something wrong, and you sense guilt, you may feel a little shame. But you feel like you can go ahead and correct it.
- Someone who’s deep in shame feels like there’s nothing they can do to repair whatever it is that went wrong.
What can we do with the reality that he’s more sensitive?
- First, you must realize he’s sensitive to different things than you.
- Learn what kinds of things bring him shame and what kinds of things he’s sensitive to. It’s across the board for men, but in some other ways it’s unique to each individual man. So getting to know your man is most important. You don’t have to know all of them. you just have to know yours
I have gotten to know so many men over the years, and they are all so different. They are so unique. No two guys are exactly alike. But learn to watch for the patterns, and watch for the truth about what’s going on behind his external behavior. Then you can see it, and you will respond to him differently. If you know that he’s feeling really hurt, you’re not going to yell at him, right? You’re not going to continue to go over and over and over the things that bug you when he’s feeling shame. Instead, you’re going to approach it from a kinder point of view.
“I really liked it when you did ___. But when you did ____, it kind of hurt. But I do love it when you do ____.”
Do you see what I just did?
I gave a positive and a negative and a positive, with the emphasis on the positive. Because men respond very well to positive feedback. Much more than they do from the negative when he already feels like a screw-up. It’s much more effective than …
- “You need to buck up.”
- “You need to man up.”
- “You need to grow up.”
So many things that women say are counterproductive. But it doesn’t have to be like that in your relationship!
I hope this helps. Talk soon!