Vulnerability is one of the most powerful aspects of human relationships because it enhances love, empathy and acceptance.
Expressing our deepest fears in the presence of someone we trust builds intimacy.
However, one of the most deeply held narratives inside the minds of some men is their need to dismiss and disapprove of their own, (and maybe their partner’s), vulnerability.
Men subsequently find themselves isolated at times in intimate relationships and become engaged in a tense battle within themselves.
Boys will be boys!
From an early age boys are often taught by parents, unconsciously and sometimes explicitly, to hide their feelings. It’s how the ‘big boys don’t cry’ mantra develops and can be perpetuated by teachers, friends, society and popular media.
In some ways we are getting better at teaching emotional acceptance to boys/men. For example, developing emotional intelligence have become buzzwords in schools and workplaces alike.
However, there are still many men who have learnt to mask their emotional lives. It’s not that their vulnerability is absent, it’s just well hidden.
Sadly, some research suggests boys as young as 2yrs old adapt by hiding their emotions in order to seek approval from adult carers who themselves struggle to manage their own and their kids emotional experiences.
Boys grow into men relating emotionally the only way they know, which is to dismiss or disapprove of their feelings, or both.
The following are 21 ways in which men struggle with emotional vulnerability.
Men who are largely emotionally dismissive are certainly warm and loving guys. They may have grown up in caring families and have been taught to care well for others.
However, emotional self-care may have some distinct limits in relation to being open to expressing negative emotions.
- Ignore their feelings
- Believe it’s important only to be positive and not dwell on negatives
- Become highly intolerant towards feeling sad, angry, scared etc.
- Distract themselves from their emotions
- Dismiss sadness as weakness.
- Control or hide anger
- Hide all their feelings.
- View their feelings as trivial
- Want their negative emotions to disappear quickly
- Insist their emotions need fixing
- Minimize their feelings by downplaying including joking and laughing
Men who are emotionally disapproving tend to have a harsher more strict emotional landscape. It may be they grew up in an environment where emotions were punished as bad behaviour.
They are more likely to:
- Judge and criticise their emotions
- Restrict their emotional expression
- View emotions as behaviour that needs to be controlled
- See sadness as being manipulative
- Highly disapprove of their anger
- Believe negative emotions are unhealthy parts of themselves
- Believe showing emotions is weak and that they must be tough to survive
- Not show their own emotions unless very angry or depressed.
- Control all negative emotions
- Believe negative emotions are unproductive and a waste of time
Dismissing and disapproving responses to emotion have significant negative effects on men and relationships. Certain behaviours and communication patterns often emerge within relationships forming the basis of major conflict.
- Believe something is wrong with them because of what they feel
- Act out their feelings with destructive behaviour
- Suffer with low self esteem and confidence when their coping mechanisms backfire
- Suffer with depression and anxiety as they push down their emotions
- Use excessive alcohol or drugs to manage
- Avoid all conflict
- Lose their sexual appetite
- Withdraw and disconnect from their partner
- Behave with aggression or anger toward their partner.
- Become ambivalent toward relationship commitment
Some relationships can become surface level, lack depth, intimacy and get stuck in negative patterns of relating. These relationships have:
- Partners who portray a strong sense of independence and self sufficiency
- Partners who don’t seem to need anybody.
- Partners who push each other away
- Partners who feel alone, isolated and unsupported
Many guys can find better ways to understand their vulnerability.
Their opportunity is to learn to accept and share their thoughts and feelings at their own pace and time.
Men become stronger and their relationships improve dramatically when they face their pain and create a better view of their emotions.
Read this accompanying post: