If you have a guy who shares his feelings and listens empathetically to yours, then you have hit the jackpot.
Emotional connection is the heart and soul of relationships. Sharing feelings brings us closer.
But what if you love a guy who bottles up his feelings?
Sure, he gets excited, he gets frustrated, he gets angry…
But he won’t sit down and talk to you about what he feels.
He’s only got limited patience for listening to you talk about your feelings, either.
Are guys just born that way?
Do they lack an “emotional sensitivity chip”?
What can you do to get through to him?
Let’s find out!
Who’s The Most Sensitive of Them All?
If you gathered together a group of baby boys and a group of baby girls, you’d be able to spot the calmer sex.
It’s not the boys.
In general, baby boys have less of an ability to regulate stress and self-soothe compared to baby girls. They’re fussier and more sensitive.
Even as kindergartners, boys have big feelings. They get sad. They get disappointed. They cry.
But then they’re told the magic words:
“Don’t be such a girl.”
In one fell swoop, they learn that feelings are feminine and femininity is wrong.
For the rest of their lives, they fight their feelings. They put on a stoic mask. They drown their feelings in alcohol or numb themselves with video games. They act out in anger (because anger is the only feeling men are encouraged to have).
So what happens when love comes knocking?
Love and Men
Love is a feeling. It’s a BIG feeling.
And many men are terrified of it.
If they love a woman, that means they need her. And men don’t need anyone. They’re rugged and self-sufficient.
They tell themselves that what they feel isn’t love. It’s lust.
And lust is a sign they’re a healthy red-blooded male.
So they push the relationship to become sexual. Bedroom calisthenics is the only way they can give and receive love in a way that’s appropriately masculine.
Plus, a sexual relationship earns them approval from other guys.
If they ever admitted to falling in love, they’d be teased mercilessly. Their friends would joke about the old “ball and chain.” For guys, love doesn’t make a man stronger; it makes him weaker. Answering to a woman makes him less of a man.
But what if your guy is one of the brave ones? What if he doesn’t care what his friends think?
He wants to be with you, and he’s going to lock you down.
So he asks you to be his partner, and you accept.
Are you home-free? Is it going to be happily-ever-after?
His Feelings About His Feelings
Animotophobia is the fear of expressing emotions.
Some men are willing to admit they have feelings—they love you, for instance—but they’re not willing to talk about those feelings.
And they don’t really want to hear you talking about your feelings, either.
Research by the Gottman Institute has found that men tend to have a stronger emotional response to conflict than women do.
She thinks that she’s just telling him how she feels—she’s disappointed or upset. He hears disapproval. His heart starts to race, and he braces for an argument. For him, she’s not sharing her feelings; she’s initiating a fight.
For some men, it’s even threatening when their partner asks how they feel.
She think she’s asking him to share what’s going on for him. He hears her saying, “Don’t be such a guy. Be more feminine like me.”
It can be hard for us as women to imagine the impact of decades of feelings-shaming on men.
We’ve always been encouraged to open up and share our feelings. We’ve been rewarded for it.
We assume that it’s the same for guys. Don’t guys feel better when they talk about their feelings?
The short answer is:
Not when they get knocked back because of it.
Many guys find themselves punished for their vulnerability and sensitivity.
Not just by men, but by women, too.
Single guys complain that when they’re trying to be the kind of guy women say they want—sweet and sensitive and thoughtful—they get “friend-zoned.”
Coupled guys complain that their wives and girlfriends say they want them to talk about their feelings but react badly when they do.
These men conclude that their partners don’t really want to see the vulnerable mess they are inside. What she really wants is a strong, dependable rock she can lean on.
Helping Men Open Up
Even the most stoic of men do show their feelings. They do it through:
For many men, sports are a feelings-fest. They can show all the emotions they normally hide.
- The body
Some men express their feelings physically, through pushing themselves through a workout or getting sick.
Still other men find that music expresses what they don’t have the words to say.
There are powerfully masculine men in sports and the media breaking the silence on male emotions.
Point out to him athletes like Lewis Howes, Terry Crews, Justin Baldoni, Michael Phelps, DeMar DeRozan, Ricky Williams, and Brandon Marshall who are talking openly about mental health and the cost of toxic masculinity.
Seeing a man he admires open up about depression or not feeling like enough of a man can be the permission he needs to open up about what he’s going through.
But don’t forget the most important step:
If you wish your guy would share his feelings more, then make it a positive experience for him.
Whenever he shares something vulnerable, even if it makes you uncomfortable, admire his courage. Opening up makes him more of a man, not less.
You can even say something like, “I’m so honored you chose to share that with me. It’s made me love you even more.”
Ultimately, men will only open up when it’s safe and rewarding to do so. If they experience any push-back, awkwardness, or teasing, they’ll close right back down.
They need to be able to feel like men even when they’re struggling with difficult emotions. They need to know that their messy insides—their worries, their fears—won’t turn you off.
If he’s interested in learning more, point him to these resources.