IF HE CAN’T FIX IT
Men tend to talk about things to fix problems. To a number of men, talking about something that they can’t fix is excruciating. It feels like unnecessary torture.
He knows he can’t make things better like:
– a chronic illness
– your sudden job loss
– a family member’s drug addiction
– a tragedy
Women often tend to talk about deep, painful, difficult things to bond with those they love and to process their feelings. We often feel much better after talking about hard things. Men often don’t bond with words and often feel worse after talking about hard, unsolvable things.
A man may think something like, “We are talking about this horrible problem again, and it reminds me that I can’t make things right and that I can’t make my girlfriend happy. It reminds me of my limitations and that I can’t save the day in this area. Why put ourselves through this pain when it won’t make things better and just makes me feel worse? It really seems to make her feel worse, too. She’s crying again. That means this is hurting her not helping her.”
What can be helpful is to let your man know that for you, talking through something painful is, in itself, healing and helpful. That he is helping your pain by just listening. That is probably a very foreign concept to him because, most likely, he is not wired that way.
If he can know that he is helping to make some of the pain go away for you by listening, even though that is probably not how things work for him, he may be able to listen for awhile. Especially if he sees that you feel better afterward.
LIMITING THE TIME INVOLVED CAN HELP
But if we, as women, can limit the amount of time we talk about really sad or awful things to maybe just 10-15 minutes, and then thank our men for listening and show them that they are our heroes even if they can’t fix the problem, that may be a big help, too.
If they know there will be a time limit and that we will feel better later because they listened, our men may not feel so overwhelmed by these conversations and may be more willing to listen again in the future.
WHAT WAS HIS EXAMPLE?
A second issue is that he may not have had a very good example of a man doing this for his wife. If he didn’t see his dad listening to his mom when he was growing up, if there was a lot of conflict or tension, he may not really know how to do this. If he grew up with lots of yelling and fighting in his home, he may associate conversations about deep things with conflict and screaming. Most men long for peace. They don’t want to open up “a can of worms” just for the sake of making everyone upset for seemingly no reason.
DOES HE FEEL SAFE WITH YOU?
A third issue is that if he has tried being authentic and real with you about difficult subjects before, but he felt shamed, criticized, or misunderstood, he may not feel safe with you. He may shut down that part of his heart to you. It is very difficult for a lot of guys to open up about emotional things. Even one negative experience with a woman can teach a man that he doesn’t want to go there again.
HE PROBABLY DOESN’T BOND EMOTIONALLY WITH WORDS
A fourth issue is that he is not a woman. Women tend to bond with words. Men don’t – in general – but there can be exceptions. So it is okay to ask him respectfully for what you need. But it is not going to be reasonable to expect him to have the same needs you have for face-to-face talking time and emotional bonding through words.