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Why men shut down when women most need to talk

Men are taught from an early age all over the world that they should not cry, that they should be tough, that they should be strong. And the ultimate power for men is that place where we are not vulnerable anymore. Dictatorship is nothing else than that. The propensity to abuse power is directly linked to the fear of being vulnerable.

If we wonder why women are more resilient and last longer, it is interesting to think that they have never had any pressure to be tough and strong, and never cry.

In fact the opposite is associated to femininity. This sensitivity known to be typically feminine is also perceived as weakness. All the generations of women who struggle to find a place in the business world would agree that there is no place for sensitivity there.

What is fascinating is that it is starting to change. More and more women dare to be who they are in their business environment, Oprah Winfrey being a famous example.

Showing vulnerability exposes us and we may be hurt, badly. But what all women know deep inside is that when we are hurt we move on faster because we don’t ignore the pain and try to suppress it.

As scary as it may seem, vulnerability is precious because this is where we are closer to our heart.

Many women suffer from the fact that their partner “shut down” with them when they are in a difficult situation. What they should know is that most men shut down, full stop.

The reason why they have so much difficulty sharing with their wife is that they were told not to share with anyone because sharing is a sign of weakness.

This video is enlightening because it shows that suppressing a feeling does not make it disappear. In fact so many illnesses if not all illnesses result from unresolved traumas or emotional blockages. Please read Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton to learn more about the chemical reactions caused by emotions.

We, women, know that it makes no sense to ignore overwhelming feeling of fear, distress, shame or sadness. However, for men, shame stops them from acknowledging, especially in front of their wife, the struggle they are facing.

There is nothing personal here. And many times we make the mistake to believe that we have some kind of responsibility if we don’t succeed in helping our partner speak openly about his fears, worries or concerns.

First, men rarely speak about very personal stuff. Men’s conversations with other men rarely go beyond business, money (in general), politics and sports. They process things differently than women do. Check John Gray’s last book Mars on Ice Venus on Fire to learn more about that. I don’t agree with everything John Gray says but his book highlights well how men and women deal with stress.

The very problem is that men usually shut down when women need to talk most. What we learn from this book that explains so many misunderstandings within a couple, is that women process and solve issues while they talk about them: sharing is for them essential especially when they are stressed.

While doing so, they show their vulnerability and their partner, unsecured by this vulnerability, have one thing in mind: solving the problem as soon as possible hoping that it will quiet their wife. What they don’t understand is that women never talk to get answers from others; so they don’t come to their partner with an issue for them to solve. No, what they want is a discussion that will help them find their own solution.

Needless to say these discussions are deeply frustrating for men… and for women. And stressful times are not helping.

Until men learn that vulnerability is ok, well ladies, you are better off sharing whatever is worrying you with a reliable friend than with your partner. Two girlfriends sharing their feelings both benefit from that experience. And there is no shame in doing so because we all go through struggle at one time or an other. It is part of life. When you look for a quick solution however, go directly to him.

You gentlemen, be aware that shutting down not only damages your relationship with your wife, it also jeopardizes your health. You can go to the gym and work it out as much as you want, know that it is ok to feel vulnerable. Everybody does. It is being alive as a human being. And if I quote Brene Brown, it is the path to happiness.

About the Author:

Anne is the author of Happily Ever After In The Real World and the founder of She focuses on long distance relationships and life improvement.

2 Comments on "Why men shut down when women most need to talk"

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  1. joel says:

    I respectfully disagree, it is vulnerability why men shutdown, its because we can’t win. Men are instinctively protectors, problem solvers and hierarchical. Vulnerability is a weakness sometimes and unless it is useful as an advantage to winning a womans affection. Now will a man get respect if he is always vulnerable? No

    • Anne Benissan says:

      Hello Joel, Please accept my apology for taking so long to reply to you. I have neglected my personal blog because I work a lot on EZcouple and its blog, and this is not respectful of readers like you. I guess I would probably write my post differently if I wrote it today because I would avoid the term vulnerability. In fact my position is slightly different now: I don’t think men need to learn that vulnerability is ok, I think that men need to get more in touch with their yin side, with their sensitivity so they understand the turmoil women may feel in the world we live in. Sensitivity is not a weakness even if it appears so at first sight: it is closely linked to the unseen and intuition. Both men and women have a balance of female and male energy within themselves. As men have associated respect to power and strength for centuries it is difficult for them to understand that their sensitive self has a wealth of information they could use to their benefit, in their interactions with women and in their interactions with other people. In addition if you take a look at romance novels and their dynamic you will see that what seems to attract most women is an idealistic figure of alpha male with psychic sensitivity. So you are right when you say that a man always vulnerable would not get respected by women. Last the reason why you feel you can’t win is that a woman deals with her stress by talking: she is not looking for a solution from anybody else than herself but she finds it while talking. It is very annoying for men who want to solve her issue as soon as it is expressed. My husband and I have a code we use: when I come to him because I need to share in order to find a solution I let him know that I only need his ears. And interestingly at the end as he is dying to give his solution I listen to him, and in the end I do a combination of his solution and mine. There is no battle because we both know our different perspectives, and what will be stress relieving for each of us. Thank you Joel for your feedback, I really appreciate; please join me on, this is where I will continue to post on relationships. I also just started a podcast called Understanding Women that you can find on Itunes or on EZcouple because I am aware that women are difficult to understand even for themselves. Blessings to you.

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