Question: My significant other does not know how to handle my emotion when I am depressed or sad. He said he wanted to fix things, but he does not know how, so now he tends to shy away. And his avoidance only makes me feel worse. Is there a way for us to arrive at a happy medium? —Rhonda
Answer: This is a great question, and one that has perplexed women and men for years: How does a man offer emotional support to his significant other, without giving into his natural inclination to try and "fix" things?
In order to answer this question, we must first look at the differences between men and women. As a rule, men are naturally goal-oriented. As such, if we encounter a problem of any kind, we immediately try to figure out a way to solve it. It’s a practical approach that serves us well in school, sports, careers and recreational activities. It does not, however, work particularly well when dealing with the emotions of the women in our lives. In fact, more often than not, our earnest efforts to resolve your pain often exacerbate the situation and lead to even more pain, hurt feelings, misunderstandings and general frustration. The primary reason for this, as you know, is that when you share your feelings and emotions with us, you’re usually not looking for a solution or "quick-fix." You merely want to express what you’re feeling, and have us lend a sympathetic ear and perhaps a strong shoulder to cry on. And that’s it. The sadness or depression you feel will not go away as a result of our pro-active suggestions. You’ll simply stop feeling the way you do in your own time, and not before. That makes perfect sense to you, but leaves us completely baffled. For us, it makes absolutely no sense to feel bad for even one additional moment if there were some course of action you could immediately pursue that would resolve the underlying reason for your emotional pain.
To further complicate matters, women are naturally more comfortable with their emotions. They are happy to share their feelings unabashedly and with little or no reservations. Men, on the other hand, are exactly the opposite. From the time we’re little boys, we are strongly encouraged to keep our feelings and emotions to ourselves. In fact, being openly emotional is apt to cause us to be ridiculed or even ostracized from our peer group. For it is "unmanly" to show our emotions (except when it comes to athletic competition—our sole, legitimate "let your feelings run free" activity). Thus, after years of hiding how we feel, we are understandably ill-equipped to deal with any display of emotion, ours or anybody else’s. Keep Reading...
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