Imagine the following scenario: Simon has been married for over ten years. He has two children, a loving wife and they all live in modest home. One day, he is retrenched from his comfortable job. On his way home, he becomes concerned for his wife, Janet, and wonders how she’ll react to his news. When he arrives home, he waits until dinner is over and the children are asleep. Then, he tells Janet that he has been retrenched, puts his arms around her and comforts her as she cries. He tells her that everything will be fine.
While the above is an endearing scene, the more important question is this: who is going to comfort Simon? Who will hold him when he cries? Who will listen to him when he talks about his concerns for the future? Some answers are provided by Kara Oh in her book, Men Made Easy: Guide to Greater Love (Avambre Press, 1999)
Men are Taught to Hide Their Feelings
The reality is that, from the time they were little boys, men have been taught that they should hide their feelings. It is quite common to hear statements like, “Big boys don’t cry,” “Be a man,” and “Chin up,” being made to little boys.
With such a narrow view of how to behave, often, a man is only offered comfort when he is undergoing some sort of crisis and, usually, such comfort will last a few minutes before he is encouraged to “snap out of it” and discuss something “non-threatening.”
A Woman’s Place of Honour in a Man’s Life
Warren Farrell, author of The Myth of Male Power), explains that men are affected by the early pressures put on them. He says that until about ten, the suicide rates between girls and boys are the same; in their late teens, the boys’ rates of committing suicide rises to about four times as high as the girls’; by the age of twenty-five, men’s rates are six times higher than women’s.
Although the statistics above reflect a sad situation, it is possible to learn something here: remember that since men have grown up believing that there is no support system for them to express their emotions, it never occurs to them to seek outside help when they need someone to talk to. Women have mothers, sisters and girlfriends to share their emotions with. Therefore, for most men, his partner (being the person closest to him) is the only one with whom he can share his feelings.
A woman must honour, cherish and nurture this important position of being the only one her partner can share his feelings with. More often than not, however, women don’t value this vital role in their partner’s life. Many men have confessed that when they do share their feelings with their partners, the women are unprepared, scared and “look at the men in a funny way.” Worse, the men say that, thereafter, the relationships don’t last and the men decide never to share their emotions with anyone ever again.
How to Get a Complete Picture of a Man
Bearing all of the above in mind, taking the following steps can help to create an emotionally safe environment for a man to share his feelings:
- Pick a time when the man is free and devote all of your attention to him.
- Begin by showing appreciation for what he does.
- As he begins to relax, encourage him to talk by asking simple questions. When he answers, notice that he may not answer immediately. There may be moments when he is completely silent. Kara Oh says that these silences are an indication that he is gathering his thoughts. Do not interrupt him.
- As the conversation progresses and he feels more comfortable and less guarded, he’ll begin to speak of things he’s never told anyone else.
- When he’s finished speaking, do not edit or censure what he says. Instead, acknowledge and appreciate him for expressing his emotions and return to light-hearted conversation.
A word of warning: never disclose to others something that is very personal to a man. Such betrayal of his trust will hurt him immensely. Here’s a rule of thumb that Kara Oh suggests women use when they would like to speak of something their partner has told them: only speak about things that could be said in front of him as well.
When a woman communicates effectively with her partner, she begins to get a more complete picture of him. He, in turn appreciates the effort she makes. Both will begin to notice that their lives will soon be transformed, filled with much love and their relationship will indeed be magical.