Today I’m sharing a post written by a gentleman named Ben Neal, who wrote this at my request just for my Date Like a Grownup community. I asked him to write about how to get our men to open up (yes! I mean OUR) because, whether you’re dating or in a relationship, getting men to talk about their feelings can be one of our most frustrating challenges . There’s good news though: When you’re dating or in a relationship after 40, your men are grownups too! As Ben discusses, they are more open to connecting on a real emotional level, you just may have to teach them how.
Ben publishes some of his articles on Elephant Journal, which was recommended to me by a Facebook friend. (Thanks Lisa!) Now, I’m not much of a “woo-woo” kind of gal, but Elephant Journal, which says they are “dedicated to a mindful life”, has a lot of inspiring, uplifting and thought-provoking articles. I’d check it out, as I think many of us (including myself) can benefit from approaching our life in a more mindful conscious fashion.
Ben is a poet, musician, and freelance writer from Kansas City, MO. (Also where my husband, Larry, is from.) He loves to be outdoors, camping, bike riding or working in the garden. You can connect with him on Facebook, and read more of his writings at the elephant journal or on his blog.
I want to hear from you! What do you think of his advice? What have you done that works with your man?
Thank you Ben!
Experts have been telling us for decades that communication is the key to a strong relationship.
For most women, communication could be defined simply as talking about your feelings – something that many men are unable or unwilling to do. This leads to one of the most common relationship myths: that men don’t have feelings.
Of course men have emotions. We feel just as strongly as women do, with just as much depth and subtlety. The difference lies in our emotional vocabulary.
Men are not raised to talk about their feelings. It’s perceived as a sign of weakness, it brings ridicule and torment. Instead we learn to keep quiet and “deal with it” on our own. After a lifetime of silence, the whole spectrum of human emotion tends to be simplified into good or bad, happy or mad. It’s either “I’m fine” or “Go away. Leave me alone.”
It takes time to unlearn these tendencies. It takes time to learn how to explore our emotions and express them out loud. It takes patience, love and support from the ones close to us.
Here are some tips for you to help your man to tear down his emotional iron curtain.
1. Pay attention to body language. Guys do show how we feel, even if we don’t say it out loud. Most men tend to withdraw when under stress. When your man is moody and tense, no matter how badly you want to understand, no matter how tempting it may be, now is not the time to prod him. Be patient, give him space, and wait for the storm to pass. You are much more likely to get through to him when he is relaxed and at ease. And he will find it much easier to talk about what’s bothering him after he has put it behind him.
2. Show appreciation. A man may show you how he feels for you by holding your hand, or touching the small of your back; he may bring you flowers or surprise gifts. He may show you he cares by working on your car, fixing things around the house, and just generally “taking care of business.” Tell him how much you appreciate these things, how much it means to you. Positive encouragement can be very effective.
3. Do something fun together. If your guy has trouble talking about how he feels, then just sitting down and talking one-on-one is going to make him feel awkward, and make it even more difficult for him. Some men absolutely dread it when their woman says, “Let’s talk.” They go into complete lock-down. So instead, plan a fun, physical activity. Go to the bowling alley or the golf course, or just go out for a walk. This takes the pressure off, gives him something to focus on, and makes it so much easier for him to loosen up and talk freely.
4. Talk about things he cares about. If you want your man to open up about his feelings, you may have to step out of your comfort zone a bit, too. Take the first step, and talk to him about sports, or movies, or poker – whatever it is he’s into. Some men are silent about how they feel, but they love to talk about what they think. Get intellectual with him, talk about business, politics, philosophy, and you may have him chatting away happily for hours.
5. Don’t make assumptions. When your guy does open up and start talking, listen without leaping to conclusions. Remember, a man’s mind just doesn’t work the same as yours. If you start reading into everything he says, it is bound to lead to misunderstanding. So listen. Just listen.
6. Be direct. Don’t insinuate. Don’t drop hints. Don’t beat around the bush. Your man isn’t going to be able to read you like your girlfriends do. He doesn’t pick up on the same things. If you want something, ask for it. If you feel there is an issue that needs to be resolved, say so. If you ask, “Why don’t you ever tell me how you feel?” you’ll get nowhere. Instead say, “I want to get know you better. I want to understand how you feel about this. It’s important to me.”
There is no “one way” to get a guy to talk about how he feels. Every man is unique, and every relationship too. But if you and your partner are committed to each other and your relationship, and you’re committed to learning and growing as individuals, then together you can learn to remove the barriers and communicate like grownups.