Without the structure of work, however, their feelings and needs surface, and may be expressed through physical symptoms.
4. Men are in a “double-bind” when it comes to expressing emotions.
Although men may not always know what they’re feeling, there’s one thing they’re sure about: They’re convinced they’re in a major double bind.
Society encourages men to express their feelings, but when they do, their partners are often petrified, if not horrified.
Women, they may believe, want their partners to show their feelings, but only certain feelings, and only in doses they can handle.
In fact, results from numerous research studies—as well as clinical experience—tells us that men may be right to be wary of women who implore them to show their true feelings.
Men who deviate from the traditional masculine norm by being emotionally expressive and talking about their fears are often judged as being poorly adjusted.
5. Men’s feelings may take everyone off guard.
Part of the problem for some men may be that they have silenced their feelings for so long that they haven’t developed resources for handling them when they do arise.
Such unplanned, unexpected emotion can often prove overwhelming.
I worked with one couple for whom this was the case: Rob had taken a new job several hours away. Emily stayed back, preparing their house for a sale.
At the same time, they argued about whether or not to get a dog. Emily argued that a dog would provide her with some needed company, and make her feel secure when alone in their home.
In his logical, analytical way, Rob gave her every reason why the timing was not right, for example: How could you show the house with a puppy running around, peeing on the floor?
On an intellectual level, Emily knew he was right, but her heart insisted she would be happier with the dog. They went through several weekends during which all they did was fight about the dog issue.
Emily thought Rob was being cold and unfeeling. Rob thought Emily was being unreasonable. With much coaxing, Rob agreed to accompany Emily to the local animal shelter “just to look” at dogs.
When Rob saw all those rows and rows of dogs in cages, knowing that most of them would probably be put to death, he began sobbing.
Emily said she had never seen him cry so hard. She had been thinking to herself that he didn’t have any feelings, when nothing could have been further from the truth.
My own observation has been that many men experience intense emotions but, lacking the training and support to make sense of those feelings, they are left with few options but to bury them deeper.
It’s only when men are taken off guard (such as when Rob visited the animal shelter) that their feelings are free to surface.
So, no, men are not unfeeling.
Rather, many are trapped in the confines of a socialization process that tells them it’s unmanly to cry, to hurt, or to express the myriad other motions we all experience as a result of living fully as human beings.