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.