We spent some time this past week looking at how several different men think and process problems at work and in their marriages. I’d love to have even more husbands answer these questions to give us a broader picture. But I’m so thankful for the men who have been willing to answer these questions for us. They have given us some really helpful information that I believe will bless and benefit many marriages. The more we can understand how men think and feel – the more empathy we can have for them and the better equipped we will be to communicate effectively and to love and respect them.
Today I want to begin an emphasis on how men process feelings and emotions (For part 2 , part 3 and part 4 click here). Not only do men often need time to think through issues by themselves before they are ready to talk about them with their wives (like we talked about in the last series on how men think), but they also often need time to decide how they feel. And even when they know how they feel – they may need time to put their feelings into words.
Men DO have feelings and emotions. They may not show them to us if they don’t feel safe with us. But they feel, too. And they feel just as deeply as we do.
It has to be ok for our men to be men – and for each man to be his own unique self. If they need time to think and process through issues and emotions, then let’s give them the gift of that time without making a bunch of negative assumptions about them having a lack of loving intentions. This need for time doesn’t have anything to do with our husbands’ love for us. It is just the way they are made. If we can embrace and accept these differences between us – conflicts will be much easier to work through!
FROM A CHRISTIAN HUSBAND
I have a very difficult time explaining my emotions, but there is no doubt I feel the emotions. When my wife is happy I feel like I’m the best husband in the world and doing everything right. When she’s sad I feel like I’ve failed as a husband because my one duty is to make my wife feel happy and loved and cherished and sad or hurt is just the opposite of that.
I’ve had that discussion with my wife many times over the last 2-3 years. Because I’m not able to verbalize how/why I feel things it usually comes out that she says she is not responsible for my happiness. That is 100% true, she is not responsible for my happiness. However her emotional state sets the tone for the relationship. If she’s happy then I’m happy, or I could be sad or angry or whatever based on other parts of my life. When she’s happy I’m free to have my emotions based on what’s going on. When she’s sad I’m sad because I feel as if I’ve messed up.
I might have just had the best day of my life at work and if she’s sad I already know I’m going to be sad.
My experience has been that women when the sympathize / empathize / discuss problems with other women don’t take on the emotional tone of the women they are talking to they have their own emotions are much more in-tune with them. They can still be happy and feel sorrow for someone they talk to. Men on the other hand when we sympathize with someone tend to take on that emotion as well. When men go to a funeral it could be someone we hardly knew, but a good friend of ours is feeling horrible. We go up and say sorry for your loss or whatever strikes us, and we in turn feel horrible as well. I think it comes back to the fact that men like to solve problems. We know deep down that if you are sad we want to be able to solve that but it’s not up to us to solve it so it makes us sad in response partly because you are sad and partly because we can’t do anything more to help the situation.
As to verbalizing emotions, I can say I rarely do that. For better or worse I’ve learned through life that when I try to say what’s wrong – because I have a harder time explaining the emotion with words – that it tends to not come out the same as what it feels inside. For example if I’m feeling lonely and disconnected I might appear somewhat down and less talkative than normal.
When my wife would ask what’s wrong I have 2 choices:
1) I can say, “Nothing, just trying to process stuff,” which is usually a lie, but tends to produce results that hurt less even if it doesn’t actually solve the problem.
2) I can try to explain that I’m feeling lonely or disconnected and need some intimate / alone time for the 2 of us to get reconnected. That normally turns into an argument that all I want is sex or I’m too needy.
Because I don’t know how to express the feelings using the right words it’s safer to just stay quiet, but that also means that it will never get better.
We all have different ways to express emotions but it’s learning how those close to you express their emotions that really matters.
Let’s allow our husbands’ needs and emotions to be just as important as our needs and our emotions in our marriages. A healthy marriage is a safe place for BOTH spouses to say how they feel, what they need and to feel heard and significant to the other person.
Other husbands – I would love to hear your take on this issue, too. You may write free form if you prefer, or I have some specific questions here that you can answer. You are welcome to email my husband and me at firstname.lastname@example.org – or you may leave a comment on the post for me to use in a future post. Thank you!!! I think that the more we wives can hear from different husbands, the better we can understand our own husbands.