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Why We Need to Ease Up On Our Men

This isn’t about the men that hurt on purpose, men that rape, or men that abandon their families. This is about the average Joe, the guy that loved his mama, tries his best and is still mystified by those of us that are female.

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I hear women question openly: What’s wrong with men? Why can’t they shoot straight? Why can’t they communicate?

We complain that men are shut down in one breath, and complain they’re too emotional in the next. The truth is, our men are striving for a balance in a world where the rules of masculinity keep changing.

I live in Boulder, Colorado, where a man is as likely to have a yoga mat in the back of his truck as his mountain bike. While yoga may open their hips and allow their minds to clear, there are still many guarded and wounded hearts in those classes. Both men and women have been wounded deeply. Men still struggle to make sense of women, while women experience men as closed off and shut down. The reality is, a man’s heart is as vulnerable as a woman’s, but the rules for men are laid out differently from the very beginning.

Here’s a great example of the difference:

While walking my dog, I met a boy in his young teens on a skateboard. His eyes were clear as they met mine and we engaged in a friendly chat. He was open and unguarded until my dog approached, then sharing with me that he once had a dog that looked like mine and was forced to give her away. In that moment, his face clouded, his eyes dimmed and the pain he carried was noticeable. His body language changed and his friendliness ceased.

My mouth hung open as he walked away without saying goodbye, and I realized I had just witnessed a clue as to why many men seem shut down.

Like many women, men are wounded early. The difference? Men are often forced to “buck up” and stuff their emotions rather than express them. Think about it: peers usually ostracize a crying boy over the age of 7.

Often juggling his ever-changing role with mom, he naturally starts to bond with dad and old rules such as “buck up, boys don’t cry and get over it” from prior generations are passed on once again. As years go by, a young boy’s heart becomes more and more protected with each new wound, no real outlet for emotions available.

On the other hand, a great many women, regardless of their dysfunctional childhood, grow up and find comfort through female friendships—it’s considered normal to cry and vent, express emotion, and fall apart if necessary.

Men aren’t naturally encouraged to release their pain and express hurt, so to survive, they add armor to their hearts and stand guarded against further pain.

While we find comfort in our female friendships, many men say their only source of physical comfort is sex. I often wonder: Do men reach across the bed for sex when sometimes they’re just seeking solace?

The women I know all agree that witnessing an empowered man opening his heart, despite his wounding, and putting it all out there in a vulnerable way–that is sexy. Sexy, but not easy. Most men have been shamed in the past for asking for what they want. They’ve been shamed for wanting sex, shamed for feeling attraction and shamed for their vulnerability. It’s an uneasy playing field out there, actually a mine field, when you think about it.

Take a woman previously wounded by an aggressive man and have her approached by a man openly asking for what he wants and she may run. Makes you realize that the next woman he approaches may experience him as a man that dances around what he really wants–now afraid to ask openly. What a conundrum eh? Women are wounded and afraid to trust. Men are wounded and afraid to open.

So what can we do?

  • We as women, can be patient when men talk with us, give them time and space to express themselves and understand that they don’t communicate like our female friends.

Bantering with girlfriends and talking over one another is common behavior when we gather together, but a man’s sharing is a different process. Men don’t jump from subject to subject. It’s not that they don’t want to share with us, it’s that often when they try to, we jump in and interrupt the flow.

  • We can count to 10 in our heads when they stop talking and give them a chance to speak again because 9 out of 10 times, they will.
  • We can have patience.
  • We can understand that a closed down reaction during a fight is most likely embarrassment and pain as our men realize they’ve disappointed us.

We can take a step back and not take the lack of immediate communication as anger and instead, take a time out.

  • Most importantly we can remember that our man is not going to be like our female friends.

Changing men is not the goal. Even if we successfully changed them, chances are we wouldn’t be attracted to them anymore.

By learning to decipher what appears to be shut down and angry behavior as deep wounding, we can find the patience needed to speak a different language with the men we love. Treating our men as we do our female friends is like walking into a French pastry shop, ordering something in Cantonese, and getting angry when we’re not understood. Men aren’t so difficult, they just require a different language.

 

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19 Responses to “Why We Need to Ease Up On Our Men”

  1. Chuck February 16, 2014 at 2:15 AM #

    Thank you so much for this article, you have totally hit the nail on the head. It often feels to me like us men need a woman to say this stuff for us. I often find myself afraid to open up and ask a woman to be more sensitive to my feelings because of how easy it would be for a woman to shoot such a request down thanks to the countless examples of men being insensitive toward women. It’s hard for us guys to actually ask for this without coming across self centered or unfair.

  2. photopeach.com May 29, 2013 at 8:56 AM #

    Hi, I check your new stuff like every week. Your story-telling style is witty, keep
    doing what you’re doing!

    • tamara May 29, 2013 at 11:15 AM #

      Thank you Kathleen! xo

  3. GSD July 17, 2012 at 5:03 PM #

    Well said, and not soon enough. It is not only ok to be intimate but it shows great strength and security when a man displays such balance.

  4. Dennis Mead-Shikaly June 7, 2012 at 12:42 PM #

    Back in 1991, I read an anthology of essays written by the leading feminist writers about the newly emerging Men’s Movement. As an active advocate for men’s conscious healing, I felt it incumbent on me to read what my sisters were saying about us and our work. One writer said, and I paraphrase … “caring for men’s feelings is like caring for the feelings of the Nazi concentration camp guards.”

    In that moment, I knew that, for me, the essential thread of the men’s movement was the reclamation of men’s feeling bodies, actually bringing men’s pain out of the closet. Now, more than 20 years later, I am still of the same opinion.

    Thank you Tamara, for bring this issue forward in such a sensitive way. I will pas this along to our men’s group.

    • tamara June 7, 2012 at 12:45 PM #

      Thank you Dennis. I just thought of you this morning. I owe you and email! Coming from you, this comment holds high value.

  5. James March 19, 2012 at 8:33 AM #

    Great article, but …. women may “like” a crying men or men that wear their emotions on their sleeves but they are not attracted to that person. The majority of women are ATTRACTED to the confident, strong, witty guy that has social standing.

    • tamara June 21, 2013 at 11:06 AM #

      Thank you for reading James and for commenting. Great point. Let me clarify and sorry for the delay, your comment fell through the cracks a bit. A man letting his intentions being revealed and asking for what he wants is sexy and strong. And there is nothing wrong with a crying man wearing his emotions on his sleeve. Do they really have to be such polar opposites? I believe we all cycle through times of being emotional and wearing our emotions on our sleeves.

      • Dennis August 2, 2013 at 2:48 PM #

        So Tamara are you suggesting that it’s OK for men to be a little vulnerable, but jut not too much?

        I appreciate you bringing up this topic. I think it is crucial to the development and growth of our society. Brené Brown has done some wonderful work on this topic and from her research she has learned that with regard to men and shame it all boils down to one central construct — as a man you can do whatever as long as you are not perceived as weak.

        So if what you are suggesting is that you want to work with your man via your aforementioned suggestions to open up, but go forbid he become to open, to vulnerable, release to much of his hidden pain. Commenter James is spot on; the majority of women want us to be more open and vulnerable, but if they perceive us as weak they are much less receptive. So men open up just a bit, but go forbid you cross the line.

        My question to you Tamara is what’s wrong with a crying man? What’s wrong with a man wearing his emotions on his sleeve particular around someone he loves and trusts? Would you turn away from a crying girlfriend or a girlfriend who wore her emotions on her sleeve?

        If the third generation woman’s movement is going to move forward it will need to do so in harmony with the men’s movement. We need to do this work side by side allowing each of us to find our own authentic place in this world.

        Thanks again for broaching this topic. BTW another way to get your man to open up is to talk with him while doing something. Women love to talk face to face and read facial and body cues. Men tend to go on the defense with such posturing; however, if you talk while making dinner, playing a game, or working on a project together you probably get him to open up more.

        • tamara August 2, 2013 at 4:06 PM #

          Dennis, I’m curious if you read my article. I mention those complaints about men as “what most women SAY about men”, not my opinion.
          What I am saying in my article is how vulnerable men are, just like women.
          And for us women to be patient and kind.
          I’ve not had the problem, thankfully, with any of the men in my life not opening up. I’ve been told I create a safe container and am welcoming to any emotion they are feeling. (I have other issues for sure, but your suggestion of my trouble getting men to open up, isn’t one of them) Again, I’m left wondering if you misunderstood the beginning of my article.
          Thanks for commenting and for visiting my site.
          Best,
          Tamara

  6. Andy Althaus March 8, 2012 at 6:50 AM #

    Thankyou. You speak from my heart.

    • tamara June 21, 2013 at 11:07 AM #

      <3 Thanks for reading and commenting Andy

  7. kundalinicat March 7, 2012 at 11:40 AM #

    I applaud this article. I’m glad some of these thoughts are out in the mainstream. By all means, let women “hug and hold their new male friends” – not just boyfriends, but all male friends. And women friends too, and encourage men to be close with their male friends. Let’s all work toward more closeness and connection.

  8. Kate March 7, 2012 at 11:27 AM #

    Astute and beautifully written.
    “Do our men often reach across the bed for sex when what they are really seeking is comfort?” All too often we cloud our needs in the cloak of safety, and then judge the other for doing the same.
    Thanks for the read.

  9. Natalie March 7, 2012 at 11:26 AM #

    Great post. I’m all for putting it out there (I also have huge trust issues) but it’s tough when you’re the one putting it out there while he’s still shut down.

    Those are not easy waters to navigate… :)

    • tamara August 2, 2013 at 5:02 PM #

      Not easy at all, and we both know…definitely worth it.

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