By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
Tribune News Service
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) From telling your son “it’s ok” to cry to showing your husband or partner kindness in small ways, experts say there are plenty of ways women can take the lead in nurturing men to grow emotionally.
Tribune News Service
Does it seem like a sexist remark to suggest that men need some special attention?
And, does it seem even more weird to say this kindness should come from women?
It likely does seem sexist to most of us, especially those of us who’ve been working for women’s rights for many years.
However, the reality is this: men often get shortchanged on emotional pampering.
Boys and men are taught to swallow their feelings and toughen up. Girls are allowed to cry more openly, without shame.
“I recall that my aunt actually scolded me for comforting her son who’d been injured,” says a friend of ours we’ll call Margie.
Margie explains it this way: “My aunt emphasized to me that kissing and hugging a hurting 10-year-old boy would make him a sissy.”
The reality of asking young boys to toughen up, however, is that he will learn to push all of his feelings down.
“A mentally healthy person has a full range of emotions,” says a psychologist we’ll call Jack. “If a man can’t feel his own emotions fully, he sure can’t feel normal empathy for anyone else. I’ve seen several patients with extreme emotional problems. All of them, who were men, told me they were not soothed or nurtured properly.”
Jack says one of his patients told him this: “I could treat other people like an object because I was always treated like an object. I was not allowed to hurt or cry.”
Jack goes on to say that women showing kindness to their sons, brothers, and husbands goes a long way. “In my opinion, women are so special in nurturing other people. Women nurture each other much better than men do. There is nothing to be lost by women paving the way for supporting males emotionally.”
These tips are ways women can take the lead on nurturing:
-Tell your sons it’s okay to cry. Get your husband on board with this as well. Tell him, “You might not want to cry in front of a crowd, but it’s okay to shed some tears. Cry in private, if you wish, but never cut off your own emotions.”
-Show your husband or partner kindness in small ways. If he comes home from a business trip, let your kids witness you making him a space to relax in the living room. Bring him a special drink or the newspaper, so he’ll feel the nurturing.
-Realize that an angry man is a sad man. It’s tough to nurture or act kindly toward a man who’s yelling or throwing a tantrum. But if you let him calm down, you may learn he’s had a very tough week, and no one cared. Ask him about his week. Even if you just listen, he’ll feel the support.
-Use humor to even things out. If your son or husband is getting on your nerves, avoid a head-on confrontation. Instead, act out your own emotions in a humorous way. Getting too serious all the time can damage any relationship.
“Men can’t really share their stress openly,” says a friend of ours we’ll call John. “We often drown it with alcohol. Men in our society are acting out their stress in violent ways, so anything women can do to help them is good.”
Males who listen to their hurting friends, avoid judging others, and offer kindness in small ways are helping to nurture and heal our society as well.
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe, Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)