We all love it when we are appreciated and loved by our partner. From the smallest things to grand gestures, it feels nice to be loved. And the same goes for your man. Although he may not show it outright, you need to show him that you love him from your heart. Although a sweet gesture is always welcome, what your man really needs is that you create a safe place for him to express himself without getting judged.
My husband snapped at me with impatience the other night and what could have been over in a few seconds erupted into World War III. Why? Because he was expressing disappointment in how I was reacting to something and I responded with defensiveness. That’s all it took and we went on to have it out for a few rounds.
The thing men need the most can be the hardest thing for us to give.
It’s creating the safe place that can be challenging.
Sure, we can be present and loving if a man is sad in front of us if he is talking about being disappointed or worried about something. We can listen if he is calm, quiet and reflective. Creating a safe place for that is probably pretty easy for most of us.
Here’s the thing about feelings, though. They don’t always come up perfectly scripted and modulated.
Feelings don’t always make sense and they sure as hell aren’t always rational. Feelings are sometimes reactive. As I was reminded the other night, feelings sometimes sound like blame. They can feel like accusations.
If we really want to be that safe place for men to share their feelings, we have to have a better understanding of what that means.
It’s hard for anyone to express sadness, disappointment, or regret. Those softer feelings are vulnerable and can leave us feeling weak. That’s usually where anger comes in. When we’re mad, we’re large and in charge. We feel more in control. Our defenses are up and we can’t get hurt. Sometimes, we get sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and that pisses us off.
Being a safe place means accepting that we aren’t perfect. It means understanding that with intent or without it, we can sometimes be a source of pain for the person we love.
Men don’t experience feelings any differently and it becomes easier and more permissible to get angry. If women really want to be a safe place for men’s feelings, they have to increase their comfort level with anger. This doesn’t mean lowering boundaries or repeatedly accepting disrespectful behavior but it does mean accepting that sometimes when a man is really hurt, he isn’t going to express it perfectly. He may yell. He may raise his voice, be short, sarcastic, and flippant.
This shouldn’t be a surprise as women are no different. We can be imperfect when we’re mad, too. Creating a loving space for a man’s anger means staying still, quieting your defensive reactions, and allowing him space to calm down.
Accepting a man’s anger requires patience in the moment. It means trusting that where he is in that moment isn’t where he’ll always be. He might not land in an angry, accusatory place once he calms down and starts talking about what’s bothering him. However, he’ll never start talking about the root of his upset if his initial reaction isn’t accepted.
We have to be prepared to hear that it’s our fault.
It’s not easy when he starts talking and the first thing you hear is “Well, you…..”. Getting defensive can almost feel like an automatic response when someone starts with that phrase and if we react with that defensiveness, we’ve immediately stopped listening. We perceive that any good intent we had on our parts wasn’t seen or trusted and it can feel like he is taking his bad mood out on us.
He might very well want or need our perspective on a situation but before you rush in to save the day, be sure to ask if he’s drowning and wants your help
No one wants to create a safe place for that! Our instinct is to run from that, to push it away. For men, that’s rejection. That says “Sure honey, I care about what you think and feel as long as it doesn’t have anything to do with me.”
Being a safe place means accepting that we aren’t perfect. It means understanding that with intent or without it, we can sometimes be a source of pain for the person we love. It also means understanding and being calm and patient when we’ve been misunderstood-when something really isn’t our fault. Good communication doesn’t happen at high volume or high-intensity.
Creating safety will sometimes mean sitting with blame until things calm and you can talk it out and of course, it means accepting responsibility and apologizing when we have hurt or let them down, even if it wasn’t our intention.
It’s not on us to solve the problem.
Men really aren’t that different from us when it comes to talking about feelings. They want to be heard, validated and understood. When we rush to problem-solving, we’re not really hearing what they have to say. He might very well want or need our perspective on a situation but before you rush in to save the day, be sure to ask if he’s drowning and wants your help. He just may want company while he figures it out.