Guys: Emotions Matter, Are Normal, and You’re Not a Weak Pussy for Having Them

man sad with grief

(Image/Aidan Nworks)

Author’s Note: I think the #1 problem in the world is how poorly humans manage their relationships. Even if you disagree, follow my logic, please. The biggest influence on whether our lives suck or are awesome is the quality of our closest relationships. For most of our lives, that’s the relationship with our spouses or long-term romantic partners. While it would be nice for everyone everywhere to get along—because of the huge problems caused by our Us vs. Them mentality—I still believe it all comes back to husbands and wives, or two committed partners in general. Human conflict is problematic everywhere. But when it’s two people who decided to pool their resources and have promised to love one another forever, and make and share children? It’s a crisis. The ripple-effect consequences know no bounds. Divorce breaks people, and then broken people break other things.

I think the #1 cause of divorce is relationship-damaging behavior by men who honestly don’t recognize it. Good men with generally good intentions who do things over and over again that damage their wives’ emotional and mental health. And they just don’t realize it in time.

How? Why? There are no easy answers. But I think the closest one is: No one knows. Just like people spent decades smoking tobacco without knowing it had dire health consequences.

I think we don’t teach our children the truth about adulthood. That we don’t teach our boys the truth about manhood. Not because we’re liars. But because we didn’t fucking know either.

This is the first in a series of posts about The Things We Don’t Teach Men (And How It Ruins Everything).

Things We Don’t Teach Men: #1 – Feelings Matter, Are Normal, and You’re Not a Weak Pussy for Having Them

“Why don’t you cry about it?”

“Be a man.”

“Stop whining like a bitch.”

“You’re acting like a little girl.”

“Toughen up, you pussy.”

Every one of us have heard it. Most of us even said it.

Men have been taught to keep emotions to themselves. Because expressing emotions is a sign of weakness. It’s “something girls do.”

It’s like the ultimate double whammy to healthy male-female relationships.

We cultivate emotionally stunted boys with dangerously flawed perceptions of what it means to “be a man,” AND we teach and perpetuate sexism simultaneously by shaming boys for doing things “like a girl.”

We make it BAD to be female, and then act all confused that misogyny and sexual abuse, or even just general displays of disrespect toward women by men are as common as they are.

Writer Paul Hudson in an Elite Daily article said it as well as I ever could:

“Men aren’t always accepted when they’re being emotional. For years and years, men have gotten bashed, personally and in the media, for being heartless, for not being understanding of women and the way they feel. Many women will still use this as an argument-squasher. The truth is, men didn’t allow themselves to understand the way the women they loved felt because they didn’t understand why women weren’t willing to follow the rules they were taught to follow.

“Don’t cry. Don’t pout. Don’t complain. Be a man — an emotionless, stubborn man. Again, not all men but most, I’m afraid.

“Men were taught emotions are a sign of weakness. Women were taught the opposite. So what are you left with? Men who believe women are weak because they’re emotional, and women who are pissed off they’re seen as being weak for something they were taught to embrace.”

For decades, psychologists studying human behavior would conduct studies about human emotion by surveying parents of children, or asking adults to self-report.

As you might imagine, that only further cemented our preconceived notions about emotions and gender.

Once the psych-research community started asking better questions, studies started to yield more interesting results.

And several studies have concluded that men are actually more emotional than women, even though men will say they are less emotional than they actually are, and women will claim to be more emotional than they are.

From The Daily Mail:

“Neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis who led the study said, ‘Gender stereotypes about men being stoic and women being emotional are reinforced by our day to day consumption of media and our social interactions.

“’We tend to oversimplify and exaggerate the perceived differences between men and women and are more likely to focus on evidence that supports our existing gender stereotypes.

“’This study suggests that men feel emotion just as much as women, sometimes more strongly, but are less willing to express these emotions openly due to expectations put on them by society.’”

Dr. Peggy Drexler also tackled this topic in: “Guess What? Men Are More Emotionally Fragile Than Women.”

Why This Emotion Thing Matters

Because truth and authenticity in intimate relationships matters.

Because fear and anxiety and shame cause us to wear masks and lie and hide parts of ourselves from the people who trust us to love and care for them.

Every man who fakes stoicism to appear like a tough guy because he thinks that’s what he’s supposed to be, or because he thinks that what his wife or girlfriend or whoever wants him to be is a fraud.

I don’t mean that in an ugly way. He’s not being deceptive with malice in his heart. He’s exercising self-preservation techniques to avoid rejection.

We want to be accepted by other males in our various tribes. At school. At work. On teams. In a contingent of soldiers, police officers, firefighters, etc.

We want to be accepted by our fathers. By our coaches. By our mentors.

We want to be accepted by the women in our lives. Respected. Admired. Desired.

So we put on our masks so our friends will stay our friends, and so dad approves, and so our wives or girlfriends won’t want to leave us for those super-tough and stoic guys who never shed tears or feel anything because we never knew that they were all either sociopaths or fellow mask-wearers who feel just as afraid as we do.

So we wear our tough-guy masks and mock or show blatant disregard for everything that doesn’t pass the Man Card sniff test.

And because a husband and wife will never achieve unbreakable status without the level of trust and intimacy that can only come from not hiding true parts of ourselves from the other, this emotion thing can play a significant role in the slow erosion of our relationships.

While we openly disrespect one another over who’s right and who’s wrong, even though nobody is either.

While we egregiously break hearts and tear one another apart in another bloody round of The Same Fight. The same fight we always have. The same fight couples always have.

More from Paul Hudson:

“Men have been taught to keep their emotions to themselves. I’m sure there are some men out there who were raised in a household that praised emotional honesty. But even such individuals had to have stepped out into the world and realized the rest of society and the culture we’ve built over the centuries prefers men to keep their emotions to themselves.

“We were taught to believe sensitivity is synonymous with weakness, which is exactly the opposite if you think about it. Sensing more, feeling more, experiencing more, understanding more, interacting with the world more, that is a strength, an advantage — not something to be ashamed of.

“Boys are taught to be ashamed of the emotions they experience, so they grow into men who are both emotionally confused and in denial. Emotions aren’t meant to be suppressed. They don’t necessarily need to be paraded for everyone else to see — even though there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with that — but they ought to be accepted and understood. Otherwise, the build-up can kill you.”

If it doesn’t literally kill you, you can bet your ass it will kill your marriage.

And those dark days following the end of your marriage?

Staring at a stranger in the mirror. Restless nights. Loss of friends and family. Deep shame and guilt. A powerful sense of failing at life’s most-important thing in a very public way. Fear of an unknown future. Stress about the loss of time with children and influence on their lives.

Those things can kill you.

Unless.

You choose courage. You take off the mask. You own your shit. You do a better job today than you did yesterday. You make things as right as you can. You love even when it’s inconvenient. And once you feel human again, you have the chance to start over—maybe alone, maybe with someone new, or maybe even in a second try with the mother of your children.

When you own your shit and trust someone enough to show them the things you used to hide, then—THEN—bonds too strong to break can finally form.

Not because you were a big pussy who showed too much emotion.

But because you showed more bravery than you ever have before. And everything was okay. You weren’t some weak-ass pussy, after all.

You were strong. Resilient. A warrior.

A man.

We hide the truth because vulnerability is hard. And our relationships suffer for it. And then everything and everyone in our entire lives suffers for it.

Let people in, even when it’s hard.

Because we can do hard things.

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31 thoughts on “Guys: Emotions Matter, Are Normal, and You’re Not a Weak Pussy for Having Them

  1. shannon says:

    I have worked with and been good friends and colleagues with dozens of men, who would discuss their relationship problems with me. My conclusion is that a very large percentage of men are either passive aggressive and/or stubborn, and are too emotional to use logic and practicality to see how to sort out relationship, well, I was going to say problems, but in fact, most of them are of the little, annoying sort that could be easily resolved. Instead of resolving them, the guys keep it up until a mountain is built and bam, divorce. My husband is no different. He is painfully trying to figure it out. Watching him avoid the obvious is painful. It is as if once he sees it, he cannot unseen it, so he struggles mightily to avoid the real issue and conflates and deflects, brilliantly. Which means I have to either walk away and continue my misery, or be a bitch and push and push him. Hard on both of us. My brain spends a lot of time screaming “this is so goddamn simple!”. But the mountain that has ensued is not simple for me, at all.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My heart absolutely melts when a man can be sad, honest, even cry in front of me. To me it shows he is “real” and actually has emotions. I like to see in a man.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Ash says:

    I have so much respect for men who dare to be emotional and not try to hide it or act like it’s something bad. Some men are so caught up in this tough guy act, and it’s unbecoming. What really amuses me is that they think this is what all women want. I’d much rather be around a man who isn’t afraid to cry than a guy who always tries to act like some robotic badass.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow. Another fantastic post, Matt.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well said,Matt.

    Just a couple of things come to mind, women may say they want men who are emotional, who know how to express their feelings, but that should come with some caveats. Women will tend to mother guys like that and the moment we start perceiving him with maternal instincts rather than romantic ones, he’s a dependent, not a boyfriend or a husband.

    Second of all,there are some emotional things women just can’t handle, can’t deal with. I see this in nursing sometimes, we can hear horrific tales of abuse from women and deal with all the accompanying feelings, but guys can be much harder for us to deal with emotionally. I don’t know why this is, but I certainly observe it going on.

    Lastly, men show lots of emotion, they just tend to express the more powerful emotions, anger for example. Angry guys can be dangerous, so our biases towards men showing emotion is not just sexism, it’s culture and tradition, too. Emotional men can be destructive,sometimes unintentionally, sometimes deliberately. I remember a guy I worked with once slammed a door all of us girls had slammed a dozen times before in complete frustration. Of course, when he did it, it fell off it’s hinges. He not only felt bad about breaking the door, he felt bad about inadvertently scaring us all, too.

    Real men not only have feelings, but they also know how to express them in appropriate ways and some of those ways are going to be different then women’s ways.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Heartafire says:

    I’ve only known one man who was completely open and felt free to express his emotions. It was quite an experience to relate on such an honest level. I must agree with IBites though, many women find it very disconcerting to have a man cry or become emotional. they seemed to be taken off guard and unprepared on how to react. This is a wonderful article Matt, every human should be allowed and encouraged to open up and not stifle their true feelings and emotions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shazam says:

      “many women find it very disconcerting to have a man cry or become emotional. they seemed to be taken off guard and unprepared on how to react.”

      This is because most women want to feel that the man is the stronger partner. He’s the one who holds it all together, and she can rely on him. This provides a needed sense of security. She sees this as part of being a man – when something goes boom in the middle of the night and scares her, she wants to see an attitude of “don’t worry, I got this” from him. Not see him huddle under the covers with her, scared and shaking.

      If the woman sees that he’s over-emotional she may even panic on the inside. She’s emotional, she knows this…if he is too, then who is she to rely on to be the leader and the rock? This can lead to real problems in the relationship. Because she would much rather see him calm and confident…this is very reassuring to her. It has a soothing effect on her.

      Not saying men should be robots and not show any feelings. But they should be careful not to overdo it and appear overly emotional, because as I said above, that can trigger some strong anxieties in his partner and scare her.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Matt says:

        So, no matter what is true and real, effective pretending and role playing for PR reasons is the preferred arrangement?

        I understand what you’re saying, and I don’t disagree it’s largely true, but your male-female generalization takes even more liberties than I usually do when using hypotheticals along gender lines.

        Fake is not better than real.

        Men and women — no matter what their individual temperment — can decide for themselves whether they are attracted to one another and compatible during the dating phase.

        But when everyone is pretending, no one actually gets an accurate picture of who the other truly is.

        Stop doing fake shit! Just stop. THAT is the problem.

        I’m not promoting whining cowardice while cringing under a blanket.

        I’m promoting HONESTY and AUTHENTICITY, even when it’s a little scary and inconvenient.

        Two people who give that to each other have a real chance to make it. Your man-woman stereotypes be damned.

        Like

        • Lissy says:

          Strong men and women know when it’s appropriate to cry. They deal with their emotions openly and then can move on in strength.

          As in everything, the key is balance. Just as a man does not enjoy being married to woman who is often overly emotional and cries all the time, neither will a woman enjoy being married to man who does the same. Displaying appropriate emotion does not equate to being a whiner hiding under the covers.

          It’s great to feel secure in your husband’s strength, but it’s also great to know that you are strong, too.

          Like

        • Lissy says:

          And the thought that once a man cries, he’s on a slippery slope that leads to him whining under the blankets and to always cry in weakness creates an illusion of refuting an argument but actually does not address what Matt is really talking about.

          Like

      • Heartafire says:

        You are right, women are hard wired to depend on man, it is a fact of nature. Women are attracted to strong men, they will choose a strong man over a weak one because they need that security. You nailed it.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          So long as we are not continuing to confuse honest communication of emotion with weakness, I can agree that most women seem to desire a strong, steady partner.

          But I feel sorry for people who think that means men should lie about their feelings to convey a false idea of strength. That’s what’s already happening now.

          Doesn’t work.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Heartafire says:

            It is happening and always has, It must be very hard to have it drummed into one’s psyche that that he must always be stoic and strong because that is what the expectations are. That’s a heavy burden.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Rene says:

      “I must agree with IBites though, many women find it very disconcerting to have a man cry or become emotional. they seemed to be taken off guard and unprepared on how to react.”

      It is up to women to learn how to deal with this. We are unprepared because we also believe that men ought to be stoic and tough. And we need to unlearn that, just as men need to unlearn that it is not ok to be vulnerable.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Louie says:

    I have never had any trouble showing emotions. As a child I had my fair share of being bullied and felt really shitty about it often. I would cry for self pity but later those tears became a warning signal for the bully’s that all hell was about to break loose…..I discovered sports in adolescence and excelled in some of my accomplishments , heartfelt pride would sometimes come with heartswell ,tears and the lip quiver at some of my successes. I once won a hard fought wrestling tournament , I was there alone as it was far away and my parents worked, but when my arm was raised as the champion I looked a the edge of the matt and my dad was standing there with his jacket still on…I blubbered like a child not the as the heavyweight champion of the Tri Valley League.As I got older I was honored to be the son of Greatest Generation parents. Hearing the exploits of their lives in defense of our country during WWII brought me to tears on numerous occasions. The Star Spangled Banner gets me bleary every time. The point is that everything experienced throughout my life was accompanied with the in kind emotional response. When my wife and I split up 25 years ago I spent a lot of time in some deep introspection. This came with listening to meaningful,emotional and inspiring music. Many of my friends saw this at the time and made the “get ahold of yourself “comments. Those emotional responses were critical to me stepping up my game and doing the work to make our marriage survive and more importantly endure. I value my emotions as the reflection of me, The Who I am is sincere,steadfast,courageous and as my beautiful wife says a fighter…a warrior. The belief that no man can be emotional is a recipe for disaster for any of his relationships….especially the most important one. If we as men as humans cannot show our true identities then we risk being phony. My sons have been raised to know they can express themselves anyway they want….my daughter needs no encouragement lol. And when those three were born the nurses brought double the tissues.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. TheOriginalPhoenix says:

    The traditional concepts of masculinity harm EVERYONE. You’re exactly right in this post. :) Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. One thing I admire in men is when they show emotion. There is no shame in showing vulnerability, but if society keeps shaming it, then men will continue to hide their feelings. In the future, people need to teach their sons that it is okay to be upset and to show emotion. Being emotional is a part of life, and that should not be taken away from anyone due to gender stereotypes.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. begeltherapy says:

    I very much enjoy your honesty and thoughtfulness. As a family therapist I see many couples who deal with what you are taking about. We dedicate our blog to sharing cases from the office, as well as our own reflections. I would love for you to check us out. And I’d welcome your comments, since you’re an especially thoughtful and insightful “civilian” :) thanks again

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Esmeralda says:

    another great advice article, which will get torn apart by people who hold ever so tightly to the idea that WOMEN ARE THIS and MEN ARE THAT, and if MEN IS THAT, then they can’t also be THIS. All of which is very immature, undeveloped, and not very useful for anyone. No, women can be emotionally underdeveloped, and yes, men can be idealistic and emotionally in touch.

    It is genuinely hard to be emotionally vulnerable, I am not a man, but my parents are British and (my dad) engaged in “Stiff Upper Lip” and “Brave Face” culture, (Basically, never talk about your problems, never cry unless your in real pain) when I was younger, and that made it very hard for me to open up, and yeah, when I do open up Its not seen as genuine, all of this, which I am just now working through, and I’m a women, I can only imagine how that doubles up in men.

    Honestly, honestly, men kneecap themselves by telling themselves to out alpha each other and turn off the ability to open up, I am way more attracted to people who can be open about their feelings, opposed to playing games and doing shows of strength.

    I also think, men, could get better friendships if they allowed themselves to open up more emotionally to their friends, to say openly “This happened to me, it sucks, come over to my house, we can drink about it”, be open about problems, and seek those who aren’t offended by that openness/

    Like

  12. kad says:

    I am a huge fan of your articles. They help me each time I read them. Thank you for stepping up. I wanted to mention a link to a movie that you might want to see as it is all about this topic: http://therepresentationproject.org/film/the-mask-you-live-in/

    Like

  13. I’m female, and inn my family, my mom was the stoic without emotion. Dad was the one who cried when we got married and went away to school. Interestingly, the only emotion I showed as I entered puberty was…rage. To this day I keep my feelings pretty well buttoned down. Which is prolly why I have the food issues I do. I eat my feelings alive to keep them from talking.

    My brother, on the other had, is perfectly OK showing emotion. And I suspect my sister would prefer not to feel as much as she does….

    I guess we’re all broken in some way.

    Like

  14. ladyinthemountains says:

    Thank you for sharing. You are spot on. I tried so hard to embrace my sons sensitivity but he still tries to be stoic, probably due to his dad and society. I hate it. I actually quit going out with a man a couple of years ago because he told me after a sad movie that men don’t cry. I will not date a man that will NOT CRY. Since my divorce, I have met a few men (and dated a couple) that have been involved in the Mankind Project. It is a group that basically works on these things. Ii highly recommend it in your growth. Every man I have met involved in it is a man worth knowing.
    I am reblogging and sharing this. Thanks again.

    Like

  15. ladyinthemountains says:

    Reblogged this on My Rants, Dreams, and Thoughts on Everything and commented:
    Well worth reading- male or female.

    Like

  16. Working through emotions is not something me are taught growing up. It’s a great skill to have for every part of your life. Have emotional intelligence at home or at work will make your life easier. I’m still learning this but I’ve seen it work every day for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. shriyajackxx says:

    This is so on point! Thank u 4 sharing, indeed this is a must read! :) will share it! God bless

    Like

  18. mindelate says:

    Excellent post on a topic that is too often shunned and not spoken about. And the irony of it all is that showing emotion is in itself courage! I respect anyone who shows and openly expresses their feelings, regardless of their gender. Kudos to them because it isn’t easy to show your vulnerabilities. And any man who shows their emotion is brave and real in my book. Enjoyed reading this, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. ds27012017 says:

    True.. each word of it… what men should be is embracing of their nature… not every straight guy needs to be the clićhed lumberjack kinda tough guy… and not every gay man needs to be the sensitive charmer!! Every human being is different. Such stereotypes end with end of people thinking like this. Thanks for such posts.. I also did a post regarding some topic… would love to get your insight… cheers!

    Like

  20. astoldbymua says:

    Just the title alone got me to read this piece. I think it’s a great perspective to have because at the end of the day men are human.

    Like

  21. Thank you for sharing. As a women I think I suffer with feeling vulnerable. There are so many concepts we “adopt” without realizing it and later have to unravel. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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