You’ve waited long enough to share your emotions. Spill it.
oo many times, you’ve condemned yourself to stay quiet, to sit and listen to your partner all while boiling inside with the urge to spew your thoughts. The message to be strong and silent is probably one you’ve received since you were a young adult, maybe even a child. Effortlessly, it’s become intermingled with stereotypical reinforcements to suck it up, to be a man, to not show any emotions, and certainly never to cry. Men, you are not the only ones suffering the cliché, your SOs are at the mercy of such stilted compartmentalizing, too. A lot of us have become unnaturally conditioned to expect you to deliver the appropriate gesture, or non-gesture.
Let’s break those early and archaic rules. It’s your turn, fellas. Let your partner know what’s on your mind. Your feelings, intuitions and needs are important. Your input is vital. It’s 2015, you’ve waited long enough. And I don’t really need to say this, but no matter if you’re gay, straight, whatever you happen to be, when you’re in a relationship, you have committed to living out the particular role to which you most readily identify.
In traditional couplings, women can be the transmitter of these clichés and often we do it without even knowing what we’re propagating, because we have also attached to a role, a place where we feel the most secure. Then we become destined to emulate it. For some women this might mean working outside the home while making sure every detail inside is attended to; for others it might be pitching in to help with mowing the lawn while our guy prepares the meal. We fall into reassuring roles best suited to our strengths and silently we carry out our responsibilities, usually without even thinking about it. This theory applies to our mental classifications as well, and it spills over into our communication styles.
Assigning this kind of identity can take place silently, yet we also bring it into our discussions, where we continue to foster what we think we should be saying and doing. Is there an instigator in the relationship who wants to resolve issues as soon as they start? Is there a responder who experiences anxiety or fear once fresh concerns crop up, who is compelled to iron the surface until it is smooth again? Whomever is playing whatever part, it might be time to mix it up and push yourselves to try an unfamiliar tactic. Switch places if you can, if you’re the talker, very consciously listen to your partner when they want to speak. Men, or women who have a hard time sharing their feelings might need help drawing out their emotions.
Men might communicate differently than women, or one partner in any sort of relationship might struggle with being heard and taking the stage to voice their concerns. If you are the emotional Alpha, it’s your job to facilitate a supportive environment so your Beta will know they are important and that you took the time to listen, not merely to listen to reply. Don’t misinterpret, Betas are awesome, and they bring advantages to each discussion. We can definitely model their listening skills. Besides, there’s no one-upmanship allowed in fair arguing. Betas and Alphas are equal!
In case you’re not aware, a huge gap defines these two listening styles: listening to reply and listening to hear. When you can’t wait for your partner to finish speaking because you conjured up just the perfect response, or retort (if you’re furious), you’re not respecting your partner’s need to communicate. You’re mired in your own ideas in your own monotheistic head. If you’re concentrating with the intent to absorb what your partner is saying, as someone who’s been on the receiving end, it is appreciated. A sincere reverence to the emotional output of your mate cannot be overrated.
If you’re afraid you won’t get a turn to express yourself, discuss this with your SO and agree upon a way to ensure you both get a chance to speak. Then respect that agreement and keep mum until it’s your turn. If you really can’t figure out a way to divvy up the discussion, use a talking stick. Flip a coin if you must to decide who gets to go first! For convenient purposes, a talking stick can be a bottle of cleaner, the dog’s toy, a candlestick, etc. Humor directed at the type of talking stick snips the threads of tensions preceding conflict because you’re forced to laugh at your own ridiculousness. Absurdity, believe it or not, really does move along an argument.
Alright men, tell us what’s on your mind. Don’t hold anything back. We’re listening.
Original article appeared at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission.
Photo: Unedited/Flickr/Jon collier