The Biggest Complaint I Get About Men, Hands Down!

Many men are not emotionally available. We have discussed this in previous posts, see below. I get that. Many of us do. What I am learning lately, however, is how incredibly important emotional connection is. It is becoming abundantly clear to me that most couples who have been together for years and years do not seem to connect anymore on a deeply, friendly, and intimate level. It’s not something abusive or intentional, it just happens. You have seen the other person naked a thousand times (hopefully), know all their habits, and those special little character traits have become annoyances. You find that you cannot connect like you did when you were dating. If you were perfectly honest you would probably have to admit that this person is no longer your real best friend.

You love your partner, but the “spark” is gone.

I am firmly convinced that the spark is emotional, not physical or sexual.

Although not uniquely a gender issue, it is women who will usually tell me they long for an emotional connection that has died. This is primarily for two reasons:

  1. Most of my clients/patients are female. By far the vast majority. This has been the case for so long that I tend to identify better with women emotionally than men. My redneck, Scottish ancestors would be so proud.
  2. Woman are typically vastly more in touch with their emotions. In fairness, however, I was never really taught to connect on an emotional level. My generation of males did not grow up to value emotional vulnerability. We work out our issues alone. We have caves. I grew up believing that emotionally sensitive guys were barely guys at all. Clint Eastwood did not cry after beating someone up when I was a kid. He wasn’t in The Bridges of Madison County yet, he was still doing spaghetti westerns. I grew up wanting to shoot people, not cuddle. On the other hand I watch females engage naturally, automatically share emotionally, and tune in to another’s emotions almost flawlessly. Where did they teach this?

As a counselor who has had hundreds of great female teachers I have observed that men (I will generalize from here on in so please excuse) generally are not emotionally mature and rarely, unless they get paid to do this kind of stuff, learn emotional wisdom. Men have not traditionally valued emotional connection, post-marriage. We are excellent chameleons who can flawlessly invest ourselves emotionally when romantically infatuated; but it is another thing altogether to expect us to “share our feelings” after we have become relationally comfortable (lazy). Talking to you about your feelings, or worse, my feelings, requires an actual effort for men – I kid you not. Seriously. Really.

It is no wonder than that men, once the gloss of the romance has tarnished, subconsciously assume that they can go back to life as it has been their entire life (the media has not helped in this regard. Men over thirty are still portrayed in sitcoms and movies as emotional neandrathals who have to be mothered and nagged to do anything relational. The emotionally sensitive male is almost always the gay guy or the metrosexual twenty-four year old who gets physically manhandled by every female. Notice the message this sends to men).

The women I speak to tell me that they are willing to put up with just about anything, short of infidelity. The one thing they say they need the most though, and the one thing men generally give the least, is emotional connection. It’s an epidemic in my counseling world. It is the single most problematic issue women talk to this counselor about, hands down. Maybe it is just a big issue on the left coast of Canada, but I sincerely doubt it.

It is easy to take shots at men, we are used to being told we are the weaker, stupider, insensitive, uncoordinated gender by the popular media. The truth is, however, perhaps quite different. We have different skills, important ones, that we caught or were taught. Men are not stupid. Women are not smarter than men, it’s simply not true. The research is overwhelming conclusive in this regard. What is true, I am convinced, is that women are emotionally smarter than men. This problem is compounded by the unfortunate fact that most men don’t even realize there is a problem. They don’t believe they are emotionally unavailable as much as they think that women and effeminate men are too emotional.

And for many many men, that is the same as weakness. Suck it up and be a man.

So why do I keep writing about this topic? I am convinced that the solution is not more belittling or denigrating. Telling men they are stupid, or shallow, or insensitive, is only going to further the problem and polarize the combatants. It is my dream that men who read articles like this will wake up to the fact that it isn’t penis size, or earning potential, or even looks that my clients are looking for. They are looking for understanding, connection, and they want their best friend back.

If you are a woman reading this, please teach your guy. He doesn’t mean to be a caveman, most of us have never seriously considered the importance of emotional connection. We hear you talking, but we can’t hear it if it isn’t presented in guy-speak, by someone who is humble and willing to butter us up a bit. Sorry, but that is the truth.

19 thoughts on “The Biggest Complaint I Get About Men, Hands Down!

  1. I grew up in a place where emotions were not permitted. I try to be as emotionally distant as possible with everything. My guy friend is trying to teach me that it is ok to feel emotions and let others know. I find it terrifying to let others close enough where they might be subjected to me being emotional. At least terror is an emotion, right? lol

  2. This is rather paradoxical. How are we supposed to ‘teach our men about emotional connection’ when the very topic of emotional connection is sign for them to shut down? Rub their crotch as we beg for our emotional needs?

  3. I think you have made a lot of valid points in this post. I believe emotional availability has little to do with being smart, it has to do more with learned response and perhaps ’emotional maturity’. For example if some-one from a young age has turned to substances or alcohol as a means to numb out strong or unwelcome emotion then they never learned to cope with those emotions and do not know how to effectively display them, and so they have a stunted ability to cope. Also if they were taught to react via lashing out as means of masking sadness and hurt, they will carry this on into adulthood, and when faced with being hurt will now lash out or become moody and brooding rather than expressing ‘hey that hurt my feelings’. (I think this goes for women too by the way). I could probably write a short (or maybe long) essay about this so I digress…

  4. “We hear you talking, but we can’t hear it if it isn’t presented in guy-speak, by someone who is humble and willing to butter us up a bit. ”

    So, what is guy-speak? And how do you butter up a guy? And what does a man consider humble in a woman?

  5. This is fascinating. I’m a female who had to learn emotions from a male therapist because as a child I wasn’t allowed any emotions. So I’m sure it was weird but the male therapist did a great job and I’m quite good now reading mine and others’ emotions.

  6. I really feel like you hit the nail right on the head with this one. Men aren’t emotionally available, and I don’t think that society teaches them to be. Not even in today’s world, where women practically rule it. Men are still expected to be men, which entails putting their emotions in the cupboard.

    Do I think that there is a lack of opportunity for emotional nurturing of men? Absolutely not. I think it’s a matter of societal values and expectations. Men simply don’t take the opportunity, mostly because they are programmed to think that they don’t need it.

    So, how do we make our men realize that this is something of great importance to us? How do we nurture a man and coax him out of his emotional shell?

  7. PLEASE IGNORE MY EARLIER COMMENT
    Great post. Overlooking some of the generalisations , I tend to agree that there is a lot of sense in wha you says. However when you say ‘men’ I tned to think that one need to aks ‘which men are you talking about’? I guess we need to be sensitive to the cultural influence that has gone into the notion of ‘masculinity’. I am inclined to think in the following line: (it is my gut feeling which needs a lot of articulation and defense) the ‘man/men’ which you are talking about is the ‘western man/men’ which is a peculiar product of western modern culture. As one can see, the picture of man as a hard-headed, non-emotional, rational being is a western modern conception. Please note that the modern western conception of emotional is construed in more or less as something antagonistic to rational; emotion is a hinderenace to the rationality and hence is not a virtue to be possed!. The point is that, the reason why men in general in the western world is less emotinally engaging has to be understood in relation with the cultural values which they have internalised.

  8. I believe the problem is predominantly cultural rather than biological, as you indicate here.
    Part of the problem is that historically we ‘killed dinosaurs’ and had no use for emotions. Then, just as ‘new men’ were emerging in the 80’s culture suddenly plunged headlong into a materialist mindset. Technology enabled a proliferation of the market impossible before. Just as men were about to grow up, culture turned en masse from concerns of the self to concerns of money and materialism.
    Now men (and women) don’t have time to work on emotional development, or a reshaping of cultural paradigms of gender, because we are constantly fighting against drowning in debt, or numbing ourselves from this struggle with gadgets and empty entertainment. (have you noticed for example how film of the 60’s/70’s often examined love, culture or other ideas – now 95% of film is little more than a firework display – film is not used to provoke thought any more, but to ‘switch off’.)
    We won’t be able to address our paradigms again until we see through the illusions of our current ‘crises’ of economics and find a place of rest.
    But there is some bridging available in a thought a therapist once shared with me. “how do you show sadness?” they asked. “I am quiet and withdrawn,” I replied. “Then you do show her your emotions, just not in the language she expects.”
    I’m not saying women are at fault for not seeing – only that often we expect our partners to ‘do what we do’ when they emote. It can be important to recognise the unique things they do when they feel something.

  9. In the next-to-impossible event that I ever give another relationship a shot, I will keep this in mind. Of course, that may still be years down the road, so I could forget 😉

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