There is a deeply embedded idea floating around in relationship circles, that men are emotional klutzes when it comes to the expression of deep feeling. And this idea is not without some merit. As women, we’ve witnessed men scratch themselves in public, and give huge pats on the back or behind (depending on the culture) when affirming each other in some sport. Men have screamed, laughed and even cried together at the outcome of some game or the other. Obviously, to men, there seems to be some safety in expressing emotion during the testosterone-laden, competitive nature of sports. There appears to be some unspoken male-code which makes this acceptable. When it comes to expressing themselves to their women, however, the opposite is true; they have been known to virtually clam up. What is it about emotional intimacy with women that renders most men speechless?
Several theories have been advanced in an attempt to explain this phenomenon. Chief among these is the well worn notion of male socialization; the fact that we raise boys not to cry, or express pain, hurt or disappointment, for fear that this would feminize them. The impact of this is often an inadequate emotional vocabulary when it comes to the expression of feeling. Women, on the other hand, who have been raised in a context where they have been allowed to vent, cry and talk things over with their tested and tried girlfriends through the years, take this same level of emotional intensity to their romantic relationships fully expecting to have this reciprocated. The disappointment that ensues when most men fail to even understand what their wives or partners are demanding of them, can be almost tangible and can lead to deep levels of dissatisfaction for women.
The good news is however, that with the advent of relationship-education, counselling and the like, some men have been learning gradually, (with much kicking and screaming) to drop their defences and shed their relationship inhibitions. This leads me to the new or emerging “sexy” in male-female relationships; a term I will tag as “guy-vulnerability”. Yes, guys are learning to be more in touch with their softer-kinder-gentler side and are experiencing the joys of being more open emotionally. Not surprisingly, this is leading to more fulfilling relationships. Not only are there several benefits to men in this area, but women find this new development very appealing.
How exactly does being a “vulnerable guy” help a man? Firstly, there is the potential for great stress-relief. Since there is no longer a need to hide feelings, there is less tension and physical stress, so such a guy is likely to be far more relaxed and at peace mentally. Less stress also means far less quarrelling and bickering over petty things in the relationship. The guy, who has learned to harness his vulnerability, does not have to repeatedly extend the effort to prove his brawn, bravado or masculinity. He can therefore re-direct his energies into learning to meet his partner’s needs more. This new lease on a man’s emotional life, actually makes him appear very attractive to the woman in his life.
As a woman I can vouch for this. When a man is expressive, he seems far more human and humble. There is no shame in admitting weakness, fear, uncertainty, hurt or intense need. There is no shame in verbalizing deep love and desire. In fact, far from emasculating him or robbing him of his “balls” as some men might fear, the man who unmasks and exposes himself, appears to be a giant in most women’s eyes. We women well understand the social pressures exerted on men and by men in “keeping up appearances”. The guy, who does not allow these social expectations to shape him, is perhaps far more courageous, individualistic and principled. This is indicative of a resolve and of a strength-of-character which we all crave in our partners. Who wants a wimp who just bends to the pressure of social expectation without a consideration of how this may make his partner unhappy?
There is perhaps something to be said for those time-worn principles on which many of us were raised; those principles which said that to be a leader you first had to follow or the one which affirmed that there is strength in weakness. When applied to the male-female debacle, we can conclude that these are valuable relationship traits which should cross the sexes. Both men and women must learn to be gracious in how they deal with each other. Yet, I recognise distinct male and female characteristics which help us to at least feel that we are not married to ourselves. I am in no way suggesting that men become “just like” women or vice-versa. There are plenty of male-female distinctions which reflect how we truly compliment (and not oppose) each other. And we know all too well what those are.
At the same time, when a guy, can go all out, to at least learn how to navigate his relationship in a way that is perhaps different to the norm, then his woman will appreciate this. One of the bigger benefits of this improved intimacy is likely to be an increased passion, which will be felt all the way in the bedroom. Men who are emotionally expressive are likely to be more vocal in bed, more willing to experiment sexually and will definitely place their spouse’s sexual needs before their own. Sex to such a man is not one-dimensional or penis-focused but is likely to involve a man giving every inch of his body and soul to his woman, as well as encouraging and coaching her to do the same.
So guys need not fear that emotional vulnerability is about being all soft and wimpy. In fact, we women think that it’s pretty hot and sexy.