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By January 11, 2012 2 Comments Read More →

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 EZcouple.com. 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. Daniel says:

    This is b.s. You blame men and take zero accountability for why a man shuts down. Of course a woman writes about this. This is terrible advice to give women: “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” men do like to talk we shut down in fights. Edit your subject because it portrays men as incompetent, emotional, disconnected, misunderstanding retards. Men dont shut down when talk is involved if that was the case we wouldn’t know how to talk to even other men.. it’s conflict and fighting we shut down. It’s frustrating with people like u that misguide women that truly want help with men.

    • Anne Benissan says:

      Daniel,
      Thank you for your comment. I just wish you were not insulting. I do not know what makes you think that I blame men, that I consider that they do not know how to talk nor like to talk. I take the opportunity of this amazing Ted talk to state that men and women have a different way to handle stress. I am not the first and won’t be the last. In stressful situations, talking help women release stress, and find a solution. Their talk at that point is also emotional, showing their vulnerability. That triggers men’s anxiety, and as the conversation goes and seems to never end, they shut down. Most men misunderstand their wife’s need at that time, and they come up with the quickest solution to end the conversation as soon as possible. All she needs at that point is to talk to someone who shows empathy and listens to her.
      At no point I am generalizing to all conversations a man and a woman can have.
      I have the utmost respect for men. And I claim post after post that we should dissociate gender difference from gender battle. We all have a lot to learn from the other gender.
      I invite you to read my post “Are Men Really To Be Blamed?” and you will see that I am far from blaming men. I repeat post after post that women need to take responsibility for their own life.
      What I suggest in the post that annoyed you so much, is that women, in a stressful situation, seek to talk to another woman, instead of stressing out her husband. When she is ready for a solution, she can then go to him: he will be the best to find a pragmatic solution.

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