You are in an intimate relationship with a man. You both love each other and things are working very well between you two. You are happy and do not have much to complain
You come home one day bursting with energy and joy. You are very happy with some achievement you got recently. You share this with the man in your life and all you get is “wow congratulations, let’s party” You are happy and yet you find something is missing.
In another incident your man is going through a tough time. His boss is making his life miserable. He spends the entire weekend sleeping. You ask him “what is going on?” and there is no reply. He just gets busy with his mobile. You are struggling to make in-roads to his heart and mind.
Why do men find it hard to talk?
Psychotherapist Lucy Beresford says that men still find it hard to talk and says that part of the reason is biological. ‘When women are under pressure, just talking about it and expressing their feelings releases the hormone oxytocin, which makes them feel better.
‘Men don’t get that response – their levels of oxytocin are much lower – so for them, talking is a waste of time. It doesn’t produce the same soothing buzz.’
However I think the comparison between men and women is futile.
The idea is not for men to talk as much as women do. The idea is for men to talk enough so that they feel good and their relationships are healthy.
Signs your man is struggling to talk and is bottling up emotions
While in some cases men consciously push down their feelings, it’s common to do so without even realizing it. Some signs your men is not wholly expressing his emotions include:
- He frequently says that “It seems like other people do not understand me”
- He is not getting what he wants out of time spent with others
- He often experiences somatic symptoms, such as an upset stomach or digestive issues, headaches, racing heart, and tension.
- He experiences growing anger and frustration with the world and others.
- He is developing feelings of resentment toward others
- Bottling up emotions can be detected in choice words, tone, and body language. Some men may also unconsciously fold their bodies inward, wring their hands, tap their fingers or feet, dart their eyes, or shake their heads in shame, isolate themselves etc.
- Their response to being asked something as basic as, ‘tell me about yourself,’ might range from a simple ‘I don’t know,’ to an attempt to change the subject, shut down the conversation, or even leave the room.
- Sudden spike in excess abuse of alcohol/toxicants, reckless risk taking in business or life, staying busy with work etc.
We all bottle up emotions to certain degree. If there are no external manifestations of above signs it is ok.
However signs that you should confront him and look for external help for him include a loss of interest in things he would normally care about, phrases such as ‘nothing matters’ and ‘I’d be better off dead’, a change in weight, appearance and sleeping habits and acting in a risky, self-destructive manner.
He is not bottling emotions but I want more connection
In this case if it is your need to hear him more. You want more expression of words and want to talk more. In that case you may need to take initiative.
Remember taking initiative is not equal to taking responsibility!
Solution: What are some ways for you to take initiative?
- Understand that your love language of expression and his language would be different. Identifying your language and his language and calling them out is useful. Saying something like, “I realize that my love language is words of affirmation and yours is touch and acts of service”
- Second, respect his way of coping and allow him to react differently. The classic pattern to avoid is when the woman demands to know what a man is feeling, This will cause him to withdraw further.
- Start by expressing your feelings. Nothing inspires vulnerability more than showing your own vulnerability.
- A lot of times there is a fear of being judged. This prevents all of us from opening up. There is safety in not talking. At this time it is important to not just respect this but call it out and also acknowledge it. “I can understand that you do not want to talk. Maybe you do not feel safe enough. Whenever you feel ready, I am here to talk to you”
- Many times, men do not have enough vocabulary to express. Helping them increase their vocabulary is a good way to start encouraging them to talk.
Call out your needs and feelings rather than blaming them – “I feel there is a disconnection between us”, “We have not talked about our decision to move back for 3 weeks. I am really wanting clarity. Can we discuss?”
- Mutually you can find alternate ways to discuss apart from talk. You can exchange emails, journal, write letters on difficult topics and emotions.
- Don’t be hung up that they need to talk only to you. If they have other friends and resources encourage them to talk to them.
- Encourage the outlets he has for coping with stress — even if they don’t involve expressing emotion. This could be sublimation through outdoor activities, sport, work, seeing his friends etc. Once the stress is less, talking becomes easy.
- Don’t make the classic mistake of booking a table in a restaurant and expecting him to tell all. Men instinctively prefer privacy and often talk better while doing something — going for a walk, painting the bathroom.
- Give invitations to talk — but never pressure. It’s important that men feel supported. So try, ‘I know it’s a difficult time. I’m here if you need to talk about it. I care about what you’re feeling and how you are…’
Standing up to men is not the only way to fight patriarchy. Understanding men and helping them see their biases and limitations is also a way to take feminism foreward. This is a win-win that can also help reduce stress in your life.
I started AneKant Labs with the same spirit. Book your free 60 min call here if need support in doing the same.
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