Men, Are You Allowed to be Vulnerable in your Relationship? What Men and Women Can Do To Bring More Vulnerability and Depth Into Their Relationship
More and more men are being asked to soften, and to let down their defenses. And more and more men are doing the emotional healing to heal the wounds of the past. And yet, as men start to become more vulnerable, how is this received, especially in intimate relationships?
Today I will be exploring this idea that men are being asked to be more gentle, loving and open-hearted. I will be sharing what I feel about how men are being directed into their wounds and vulnerability but this openness is not always received.
What can you do as a man to deal with being open and vulnerable in relationships even if your partner struggles with this? And what can your partner do to help facilitate this healing and growth and receive your softness and your vulnerable side?
Men stepping up
Last week I was talking with a male friend about vulnerability. He was sharing how he was learning to be present more and more for his woman. He said that she was going through a lot of anger, upset and struggles and yet he was learning to really be there for her. He was learning to be present for her in her vulnerability.
But the question arises for men – what about me? Does she allow me, as a man, to soften and be vulnerable. Does she allow me to share my tears and hurts, my struggles and my pain? Does she listen and hold space? Or does she run away or aggravate my fears of being exposed and humiliated?
So I thought that this would be a good topic for today. If you are a man reading this – what is the solution? Your woman asks you to be more emotional but when you are – you get humiliated or laughed at.
And if you are a woman reading this – what can you do to hold space? Is it right to hold space for your man or do you need him to step out of his little boy and grow up?
How do you become more vulnerable in relationships?
So as man, it would seem that you are being asked more and more to soften. It can be seen from The Gilette Advert through to your woman asking you to say what you feel. But if you have not learned the language of feelings, as most of us as men did not growing up, then where do we go? What do we do and how do we learn to be vulnerable and share our feelings?
Well, it is a skill. And like any skill it can be learned. Just because we were taught as boys that feelings were bad, dangerous or wrong, in relationships they are needed: to share where you are at, to be able to empathize with your woman and love her deeply, to be more open-hearted.
To connect more with your feelings requires practice and discipline. The following practice will help. Please do this exercise on your own to start off with:
What does your body feel now? Really focus on the bodily sensations of the body breathing.
Draw your awareness, like an anchor, to the sensations in your body.
What do they feel like? Be specific in your analysis. “It feels hot/ tight/ or relaxed, I feel pain/ discomfort/ ease in my hips or belly and so on...”
Start to deepen your breathing.
Notice what is beneath the sensations of the body breathing? Are there any emotions here? Are there tears which need to fall?
Keep focusing on the physical sensations and allow the tears to fall if they need to. There doesn't need to be a story or a reason for the tears or the release. Just allow it to be.
Once you have practiced this for a while on your own, you will feel more comfortable sharing your emotions with your partner.
Communicating with your partner
An important part for men, which is sometimes missed, is to communicate with your woman about your vulnerability.
What I suggest with men is that before you share your vulnerability is to speak to your partner and share why it is important for you to show your vulnerability. Also it is important to let her know what would be useful for you.
Some of the words that you could use are:
“I am doing a lot of process work and healing work at the moment and I would love to feel safe to be able to share my emotions and feelings with you. What I would love for you if this happens is just to hold me, not try to fix me, but allow me to be with my feelings.”
If you can then go on and explain, what it was like growing up so she gets some form of context for why you are frightened of opening up to her that will really help her – being told as a boy that only girls cry, or that there's something wrong with you if you show emotion, or laughed at if you cried, and so on. If you can share from your heart your experiences, she will feel you and understand why it is important for her to hold the space for you.
Why this is powerful is that if you can see what it is like as a man to be held by your woman, you will be able to see why and feel why it is so important that you do the same for her. You will realise that it is so important to drop your thoughts from the day and love her fully, not half-heartedly.
This will give you an insight into how it feels when you are feeling vulnerable and your woman is not listening to you or paying any attention? This will therefore help you to see how painful it is for women when their men aren't present either.
Be aware of overindulging
Once you start to open the floodgates and connect to your woman on this level it can be easy to start to indulge in this. I really recommend that you don't take advantage of this. Your woman has held you and loved you without judgement, but in this place she does not become your therapist or your mother. If you allow that to happen then your partner will probably get upset.
Some men want their women to hold them but there needs to be a balance and a man needs a support network around him so that he is not burdening his woman. I recommend to all men to get involved in a men's group. I have been part of men's groups for the past 13 years, have spent 3 years living in a all male community and have received so much from being able to share my struggles and journey with other men rather than relying just on my wife.
The other important part of a man's network is to have a therapist or coach if he uncovers difficult or challenging emotions or memories. Remember, your woman is not your therapist. Yes, she is there to support you but not there to prop you up and heal you. If you are always expecting your woman to prop you up she will start to resent you. You have to be able to give back to her as well. You have to support her.
There also has to be joy in a relationship. If you are both just working on emotional issues all the time, the joy disappears from the relationship. This is why it is important to have the support of a men's group and a therapist or coach. If baggage comes up with your partner then you have someone to turn to, to help you out. I still to this day have a therapist and coach that I work with – I see that this is an ongoing journey.
Use “I” Centred Language
When you are communicating with your partner it is important that you share from the “I” perspective. What does this mean? It means that rather than saying, “You really hurt me or you shouldn't have done or said that,” you state, “I feel hurt at the moment,” “I feel scared that you will mock me for being vulnerable.”
By using using “I” statements you are stating where you are at. You can make this clear that your dialogue is about you. This is how you feel – it is not about them.
As soon as you move into “You” statements the other person can become defensive or hurt. They can shut down and not be able to hear you or support you in your vulnerability. Be aware of what language you use.
Some mothering is okay
I hear from women often that they don't want to mother their men. They say that their men need to be men and not boys.
And while I agree, I have found that my wife has shared a beautiful perspective. She found that when she first met me when I was in my early 30s that she needed to mother me from time to time due to the wounds that I had. By doing that she enabled me to heal some really deep wounds I had around my mother.
The important point about this is if my wife feels that I am starting to indulge then she will tell me so. She will point out – enough. This is important to know. From time to time your man will need to be vulnerable and by you stepping into the mother energy – you allow him to heal some of his deep wounds. But it is not to let him get lost in that space. If you sense your man is treating you like a therapist or constantly coming to you with problems, send him out to his men's group or his band of brothers.
And yet if he doesn't have that space of unconditional mothering love from you from time to time then he will never truly be able to release the barriers he has in front of his heart. He won't trust you enough and keep his heart shut.
Again, it is not to mother him all the time, but when he is down or needs your support, to really hold and love him as you would your child.
See him as a warrior coming back from battle
Sometimes when I have been off working away or doing some men's work without my wife I come home very tired.
My wife over the years has often pointed out that she feels like I am a warrior returning from a battle and she is tending my wounds. This feels from my perspective very healing. To be held, to be loved, and to be nurtured.
Again, this is not an everyday occurrence – the man needs to find other resources to deal with his challenges – his coach, his men's group, but he does need his woman to hold him from time to time.
And when you do that fully, the next day he will be back to his mature masculine self. If not then you speak what you feel.
Be tough if he wants to stay in the little boy
There are quite a few men that I meet who overindulge in staying in their little boy. They blame others, and they complain about their lot in life. This was certainly one of my patterns.
If your man is doing this then you need to tell him. You have held him and given him the space to heal, you have washed his wounds but now he needs to go back to battle. It is uncomfortable for him as a man but it is what he needs to do and he will appreciate it in the long run.
Be firm, you have held him and now it is time to him to connect to his mature masculine self – the King, the Warrior, the Magician and the Lover.
So it is imperative in relationships that the man is allowed and allows himself to be vulnerable. When this happens the relationship deepens and a trust and love starts to bloom in the partnership. If it is suppressed or overindulged then the relationship can run in to struggles.
Please do leave any feedback or questions below.