Emotions Like a Woman?

Several years ago in a session with my therapist she said to me, “you feel emotions like a woman”.  At times I have valued what she said as recognition of a gift to be able to, at some level, relate to and interact with women on their emotional level.  Then I think of my sorted track record with relationships and conclude that the ability is apparently not contributing to having successful  love relationships with women.   With that realization thoughts begin about feeling emotions as deeply and fully as I do being a curse.  Then again maybe the ability is not the issue and it actually is a great gift.  Then maybe it isn’t.  Confused?  Yep.  Me too.    

From “10 Big Differences between Men’s and Women’s Brains” by Amber Hensley:  Emotions. Women typically have a larger deep limbic system than men, which allows them to be more in touch with their feelings and better able to express them, which promotes bonding with others. The down side to this larger deep limbic system is that it also opens women up to depression… 

After reading that paragraph my quandary continues.   It does shed a little light possibly on why I have a tendency towards depression here and there.  But my primary question remains unanswered.  In regards to relationships with women, am I better off with my heightened ability to feel that my counselor sees in me?  Or would I be better off to function more like a typical American male? 

Michael G. Conner, PhD, clinical & medical Psychologist:  At the heart of sensitivity is our capacity to form, appreciate and maintain relationships that are rewarding. For men, what demonstrates a solid relationship is quite different from that of most women. Men feel closer and validated through shared activities. Such activities include sports, competition, outdoor activities or sexual activities that are decidedly active and physical. While both men and women can appreciate and engage in these activities they often have preferential differences. Women, on the other hand, feel closer and validated through communication, dialogue and intimate sharing of experience, emotional content and personal perspectives. Many men tend to find such sharing and involvement uncomfortable, if not, overwhelming. 

Maybe that hints at something I can wrap my mind around.  Having never cared much for sports I really don’t know if that is because of my diagnosed “feminine” way of feeling or simply the fact that I was blessed with hardly any sports abilities.  Conversely, I know many women who love participating and watching sports, so clarity on this “feelings” subject is still elusive.

My confusion grows as I read what Dr. Tara Palmatier wrote in an article to women about how in the last few decades society has attempted to change male emotional expression.  She concludes her article with a section titled “The Lie and the Truth”:  In this confluence of events, men tried to become the sensitive guy modern women claimed to want, but did they? In reality, most women don’t want men who cry when they watch “Beaches.” In fact, most women don’t want to be with men who would willingly watch Beaches or a Lifetime network movie.

 (If this is true, then I may just be an odd-ball.  I like typical male shoot ‘em up movies but contrary to Dr. Palmatier I also really do enjoy “chick flicks”.)

They don’t want men to be unfeeling robots, but want them to be men–strong and reliable, yet capable of tenderness. The result? American men, once stalwart bull mastiffs, turned into angry confused Pekingese drowning in a sea of mixed signals unleashed by women.  I sympathize with men. As a group, they were put into a no-win situation by women who didn’t understand their changing roles or what they wanted.

Accept and embrace the differences. Why swim upstream?  It’s a lot easier to appreciate and desire men in all their glories and faults, then to try to make them become “like us”.  It makes relationships easier. It makes life easier. It makes it easier to forgive and to love.

My conclusion is, I am what I am.  Whether I feel emotions like a man or a woman really is irrelevant.  There is no intention within to want to be different than I am.   Even with the heavy weight the attribute to feel deeply can bring on occasion I have a deep appreciation for me just the way I am.  So what if I went to see “Time Traveler’s Wife” or “One Day” by myself at the theatre.  That’s me and I am good with it.  There is nothing to figure out.   What is, simply “is” and that’s that!

It’s great to slowly but surely become more comfortable in my own skin and to not care (much) what others think.  Finally I am becoming grown up enough to accept myself (mostly) just as I truly am.  For that I am profoundly grateful.

He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away. 
Raymond Hull

2 thoughts on “Emotions Like a Woman?

  1. This was a really great blog.

    I do believe many women send out mixed signals. We want a man who can show emotion…who can actually cry…but we also want a man who will be a man…who has our back…who understands the differences between the genders (example: men mow the yard, women clean the toilets; men fix the cars, women make the beds). The majority of men…at least from my experience and perspective…believe their only job in this world is to go to work and bring home a paycheck. If he’s doing that, he’s done all he needs to do. Most men seem to identify with (and their sense of self and worth come from) their jobs and how much money they make. If asked a direct question with regard to their job and how much they make, I have often heard I am the provider…I am supposed to make enough money to take care of the family (meaning the wife, the children, and him). And so often, that’s where it ends. Sure, most men like sex…but most men don’t know squat about making love because they cannot or will not connect with their feminine and softer side. Women feel and love on an entirely different level than most men. I think it’s crazy…in a good way…that you have some of those feminine qualities. Any woman who would want less is, quite frankly, a damn fool. Thanks for sharing.

    A man’s sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results. A woman’s sense of self is defined through her feelings and the quality of her relationships. Just as a man is fulfilled through working out the intricate details of solving a problem, a woman is fulfilled through talking about the details of her problems.
    ~John Gray

  2. All of this gender stereotyping only makes people confused and feel that they are different or odd. It gives too much fuel to those who wish to exclude and include. I work with young people who struggle too much with imposed stereotypes.

    Even the quote by John Gray above I find erroneous. I am a results driven female who likes to work out the intricate details. Where does the quote by Conner in your post include the boys who are arty and academic?

    As a mother of three boys, I am teaching them the difference between individuality and gender stereotyping (and yes, I use those words).

    As you say, embrace who you are!

    Thanks for this post.

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