Some men have a very difficult time confronting and processing emotions. They seem to be able to compartmentalize emotions so as to not carry things with them. It is a nice skill really, they are able to break things down and problem solve.
Of course, not all men have difficulty with emotions. There are exceptions. There are men that do handle emotions well and can empathize with their other halves. From an evolutionary psychology standpoint, cavemen were tasked to be the hunters because of their relative stature and built compared to cavewomen. They needed to hunt for their families in order to keep them alive. It became a survival tactic to not let empathy get in the way. If they saw a baby bear they had to kill it for food, otherwise, they risked themselves and their tribes going hungry or starving to death. Empathy equates to death in this context.
Physical & Strategic
Over time, men have evolved to be more physical and strategic rather than emotional and empathetic. Not all men, but many. It is part of who they are. It explains why often times men try to be the “fixers.” You come to them with a problem and they want to try to correct it, rather than just “trying to understand.” It is a common argument from couples— “I can’t read your mind,” “I just want you to tell me that ‘it sucks’ and not try to fix it.” It also explains why many men turn their emotions into a physical response — such as cleaning the garage, fixing a car, exercise, etc.
Most men might ask, “If the problem is solved, then what’s the issue?”
Solving problems is great! The world needs problem solvers. However, problem-solving is different from bonding and connecting. That is why some relationships on the surface appear to be problem-free, but there is no emotional connection. It is not that men don’t feel the same as women; they may experience the same emotions (ie. fear, sadness, anger), it is just that they have different ways of processing these emotions.
So dear men, we need you to step into your emotions and connect with us so we can bond and have better relationships.
The other day I came across a blog post on the popular parenting website Scary Mommy. The post titled “Why I no longer tell my child to be inclusive and kind” is written by a mom who taught her child to always be inclusive especially to the child that was disruptive, had problems at home and was the child no one else wanted to include. The mother instructed the child to be “compassionate” because you don’t know what other people might be going through. In the end, the mother got a call from the school counselor who informed her that same child that her daughter was trying to have compassion for was now stalking her. The mother, as any mother would be, was upset by this news and decided to no longer tell her child to be all-inclusive.
As a counselor, this post stopped me in my tracks. It raised some good questions and presented a topic I feel needs to be discussed. Rather than instructing our children to stay away or avoid compassion and empathy for others because of fear that the person might be a danger, or might not be a good person to associate with, we need to practice healthy compassion.
There is a difference between practicing discernment and boundaries with compassion. Being kind and having compassion for another does not mean letting that person do whatever they want. It does not mean condoning the bad or uncomfortable behavior. There is what we call blind compassion, which establishes no boundaries, and healthy compassion with boundaries. It is important that we teach our children to have an open mind about others and practice compassion because as the mom wrote: “we don’t know what other people are going through.” However, we need to make sure our children learn how to establish healthy boundaries with others.
Being kind to others does not give them a free pass to walk all over us, or to treat us in ways that make us feel wrong or bad in some way. We can be kind but also let that person know that they can’t treat us that way. Teach your children it is ok to say “no,” and walk away or to tell an adult if an uncomfortable situation is present. Teach your children rules go both ways, it is not ok for them to hit or push or for them to be hit or pushed. These are important life lessons for all.