Divorce Recovery and Cultural Obstacles: Debunking the Myth That Men Can’t Express Their Feelings

How it sounds: “Okay.” “bad.” “I dont know.”

How many times have you thought or heard someone say, “Men can’t express their feelings?”

Guy walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Hey, I heard you got divorced. How are you feeling?”

Guy says, “Great!” or “I’m angry!” or I do not know”.

Guy’s parents call and say, “How do you feel now that you’re divorced?”

Guy says, “Great!” or “I’m angry!” or I do not know”.

The guy is on a date and his date asks, “How do you feel now that you’re divorced?”

Guy says, “Great!” or “I’m angry!” or I do not know”.

Conclusion: guys can’t express their feelings.

In fact, it is treated as a “given” in our culture.

Why is myth important?

If it’s true that guys can’t express their feelings, divorced men are really screwed and doomed to repeated visits to divorce court.

The divorce recovery process requires divorced people, men and women, to acknowledge the trauma by fully discussing their emotional reactions to their divorce and their ex. If they are unable to do this, their hopes of making a full and complete recovery from the divorce are seriously hampered.

So yeah, that “men can’t express their feelings” myth. it is a big problem if it turns out that it is not a myth at all, but the truth.

Where does the myth come from?

For decades, boys and men have been told to “bottle up your feelings.”

Starting early in life, father figures, coaches, male teachers, even peers provide a model of stoicism for boys to live by. They are told to “hang in there,” “don’t complain,” or “don’t be a whiner or a sissy” when they want to express their feelings. The only exception is the expression of anger. It’s okay to record the fact that something made you angry.

But pity the poor man who says he feels sad, lonely, hurt and rejected or announces that he feels ashamed, humiliated, guilty and ashamed. Let alone he should tell people that he feels joyful, peaceful, content and giddy with excitement. Men just don’t do that.

So the men are left with answering the question, “How are you feeling?” with the tried and true alternatives: “fine”, “bad”, or “mad”, or “okay”, or the old faithful option, “I don’t know”.

How is the myth perpetuated?

Our culture perpetuates it.

People watch men “fuck and falter” when asked how they feel, and people just assume it must be true that “men can’t express their feelings.” Girlfriends and spouses observe their male partner’s refusal to express his feelings as “that’s just the way men are” and let it slide.

Also, in a funny way, believing that “men can’t express their feelings” actually “solves” some communication problems for men. It prevents men from feeling pressured to reveal their feelings. If people don’t believe that men can, they don’t ask them to express their feelings.

But is it really true that men can’t express their feelings, or is there a more useful and truthful explanation for their ineptitude in trying to do so?

What is really going on here?

Okay, so “Good,” “Bad,” and “I don’t know” are common responses to the question, “How are you feeling?” The question is why?”

The most common explanation is that it’s in your DNA. By virtue of being a man, they cannot.

But there are other possible explanations including:

(1) Is your desire to avoid embarrassment?

(2) Is it your wish not to appear incompetent?

(3) Is it something else?

The explanation of shame. Perhaps men resist expressing their feelings for fear that it will result in a raw, heartbreaking, and uncontrolled discharge of emotions, the display of which is incompatible with the behavior of a respected, educated, and socially appropriate man.

Or maybe men resist the possibility of others thinking he’s being “girly,” whatever that means to him.

explanation of incompetence. Who wants to be considered stupid? What a fool are you if your vocabulary is so limited that you cannot give a coherent and thoughtful response to a question as simple as “How are you feeling?” Well, that’s exactly what the men have been trained to do. unable to do! Having only an elementary school level of understanding of feeling word vocabulary in an adult world is humiliating. No one, man or woman, wants that to be seen as incompetent.

The “something else” explanation. What I strongly suspect is happening is a combination of the two. Expressing your feelings means exposing your vulnerability to shame and exposing your verbal incompetence for having only a childish “feelings vocabulary.” No wonder men don’t respond when asked “How are you feeling?”

How do we know it’s not true?

I have watched men express their feelings without hesitation and in depth for the last 25 years.

Using a tool I initially developed to help people dissolve resistance to change, I have watched men identify their feelings, reveal what they are feeling, and then discuss at length and in depth why they are having the emotional reactions they are having.

The first divorced man to use this tool identified 86 specific feelings about his post-divorce life and his ex. Most were negative, some were positive. We then spent the next four hours working on each of the 86 words, exploring why each particular emotion was triggered in that particular situation. This response is typical. More than 90% of the men and women who use this tool identify and discuss an average of 45 to 100 feeling words.

The men I have observed ranged in age from 22 to 76, from CEOs to janitors, from actors to lawyers. They showed me that men not only can, but wantexpress their feelings as long as the circumstances were right.

So what is the point?

It’s just a myth that men can’t express their feelings.

Men can and will talk about their feelings. However, they require a safe and private place to do so. Also, they need a non-threatening way to help them identify the names of the feelings they are experiencing.

The problem men face is No “I can’t express my feelings.” The problem it is “Don’t make me embarrassed and don’t make me look INCOMPETENT!”

Remove your fear of embarrassment and incompetence from the vocabulary and men will willingly express their feelings.

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