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Relationship Problems? Unlock the Code of Men’s Feelings

How to help your relationship by decoding men’s feelings.

Published on January 18, 2014 by Barbara Markway, Ph.D. in Living the Questions

The myth that men are unfeeling creates damaging relationship problems. In an interview with Daphne Rose Kingma, author of The Men We Never Knew, she said:

“We’ve dismissed men as the feelingless gender – we’ve given up on them. Because of the way boys are socialized, their ability to deal with emotions has been systematically undermined. Men are taught, point-by-point, not to feel, not to cry, and not to find words to express themselves.”

Just because men aren’t adept at expressing their feelings, don’t for a minute think they don’t feel…and feel deeply. Many times, men express their feelings using a secret code – a code that even they can’t decipher.

Men may convert one feeling into another. Men may convert stereotypically feminine feelings, such as sadness or vulnerability, into feelings like anger or pride – feelings more socially acceptable for a man to experience.

I remember a couple who came to see me in distress because they had recently learned their teenage daughter had been assaulted by her boyfriend. A major conflict arose because John was threatening to kill the boyfriend, upsetting his wife and daughter tremendously. They worried he might actually seek revenge and end up in jail. With some work, I was able to help John express his true feelings: he cried, stating that he felt responsible for what had happened – as though he should’ve been able to protect his daughter. He felt terribly sad that his daughter was going through such pain, and he fell justifiably angry. After he expressed the full range of his feelings, he no longer threatened to kill the young man and was better able to support his daughter in ways that were helpful.

Men may shift their feelings into another arena. Men may express emotions only in places where they feel safe, and where the expression of feelings is considered acceptable. Just look at how men act at sports events. It’s not uncommon to see men in the audience express great exuberance and affection, giving each other hugs and high-fives. Football and hockey players, probably some of the most macho men around, appear quite comfortable expressing their feelings with each other during the game. Where else would you see men slapping each other playfully on the butt? Put these same men in another situation and you wouldn’t see the same level of openness and comfort with showing emotion.

Men may experience their feelings through physical complaints. It’s not uncommon to see men experience their feelings through things such as headaches are backaches. You may know of a man who gets headaches only on the weekends, or become sick on vacations. Why does this happen? Because as long as men are working, they can cut off their feelings. Without the structure of work, however, their feelings and needs surface, and may be expressed through physical symptoms.

Men are in a double-bind when it comes to expressing emotions. Although men may not always know what they’re feeling, there’s one thing they’re sure about: they’re convinced they’re in a major double bind. Women tell men to express their feelings, but when they do, women are often petrified, if not horrified. Women want men to show their feelings, but only certain feelings, and only in doses they can handle.

In fact, results from numerous research studies, as well as clinical experience, tells us that men may be right to be wary of women who implore the to show their true feelings. Men who deviate from the traditional masculine norm by being emotionally expressive and talking about their fears are often judged as being poorly adjusted.

Men’s feelings may take everyone off guard.

Part of the problem may be that men have silenced their feelings for so long, that they haven’t developed resources for handling them when they do arise. Such unplanned for, unexpected emotion can often prove overwhelming. I worked with one couple where this was the case. Rob had taken a new job several hours away. Emily stayed back, trying to get their house ready to sell. They were arguing about whether or not to get a dog. Emily argued that a dog would provide her with some needed company, and would also make her feel secure when alone in their home. In his logical, analytical way, Rob gave her every reason why the timing was not right for a dog. How could you show the house with a puppy running around, peeing on the floor? On an intellectual level, Emily knew he was right, but her heart insisted she would be happier with the dog. They went through several weekends were all they did was fight about the dog issue. Emily thought Rob was being cold and unfeeling. Rob thought Emily was being unreasonable.

With much coaxing, Rob agreed to accompany Emily to the local animal shelter “just to look” at dogs. When Rob saw all those rows and rows of dogs in cages, knowing that most of them would probably be put to death, he began sobbing. Emily said she had never seen him cry so hard. She had been thinking to herself that he didn’t have any feelings, when nothing could be further from the truth.

My own observation has been that many men experience intense emotions; but, lacking the training and support to make sense of their feelings, they are left with few options but to bury them deeper. It’s only when men are taken off guard (such as when Rob visited the animal shelter) that their feelings are free to surface.

So no, it’s not that men are unfeeling. Rather, men are trapped in the confines of a socialization process that tells them it’s unmanly to cry, to hurt, or to express the myriad other motions we all experience as a result of living fully as human beings.


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April 7, 2014   No Comments

Boundaries Make Freedom Possible

Boundaries Make Freedom Possible

Boundaries are an essential part of life. They delineate and maintain needed borders and separations, making differentiation possible at every level. Boundaries both contain and preserve the integrity of what they are safeguarding, be that physical, psychological, emotional, social, or spiritual. Without them there is no relationship and therefore no development, no evolution. But despite this clear truth, we often fall into the trap of believing that boundaries hold us back, preventing us from being free or realizing nondual consciousness — whatever untroubled, idealized state we may aspire to. If we thus equate having boundaries with being limited and if being limitless is a cherished goal for us, we will tend to view boundaries as a problem, an obstruction to freedom, something to overcome.
Real freedom, however, is not about having no limitations; rather it is about finding liberation within—and also through—limitation (as when the apparent constraints of committed monogamous relationship actually enrich and deepen the relationship). Real freedom does not mind limitations and in fact is not limited by them.
Boundaries make freedom possible by clarifying what must be worked with, not just personally and transpersonally, but also interpersonally. Since everything — everything! — exists through relationship, it is crucial that we learn to work well within relationship, both with others and with our own needs, states, and identity. This work is not possible if our boundaries are not clearly delineated and skillfully maintained.
Whether our boundaries are collapsed, blurred, abandoned, trampled, disregarded, nurtured, overpoliced, cemented, or honored, they determine our edges, limits, borders. Boundaries may be overdefined, underdefined, or ambiguously defined. What really matters is what we do with our boundaries: Do we use them to fortify our ego or to illuminate it? Do we lose ourselves in them or hold them in healthy perspective? Do we use them to keep ourselves from love or to deepen our capacity to love? Do we concretize them or do we keep them flexible? Do we allow them to be overly permeable or do we allow them to be as solid as circumstances require? Do we use our boundaries to isolate ourselves or to create and deepen connection?
Without healthy boundaries, we cannot have healthy relationships.
Without healthy boundaries, we stunt our growth.
So what are healthy boundaries? They are steadfast guardians, serving both to contain and preserve the integrity of what they are safeguarding. Boundaries don’t just hold space; they make and honor space by keeping it appropriately compartmentalized. They keep particular aspects of us enclosed until they are sufficiently developed. A premature rupturing of self-encapsulation (as when we are forced into adult responsibilities when we are young children) interferes with our development, leaving us with leaky or otherwise dysfunctional boundaries.
A healthy boundary is a psychophysical presence — a kind of energetic membrane — possessing the necessary firmness to protect us from invasion, intrusion, violation, and other dehumanizing or life-negating forces, as well as the resiliency to soften and open to what is beneficial for us.

Healthy boundaries serve our highest good. They are akin to the loving parental hand that holds our hand as we take our first child-steps along a seaside wall or a playground ramp, gripping us neither too tightly nor too loosely. That touch, so reassuringly solid and steady, gives us the courage to venture farther afoot.

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January 25, 2014   No Comments

Things that are not meant to be said to your Beloved…

One of my clients, let’s say his name is George who has been together with his wife “Susan” for almost 20 years now and both have created a loving, vibrant, and heartfelt relationship.  On my quest to expand my repertoire of relationship skills, I asked George what is the one thing he does with Susan that keeps their marriage so healthy and alive.  To my surprise, George answered, “For me, the most important skill is to practice not saying limited things to Susan every day.”  I was baffled.  What was he talking about?  Was he withholding important information?  Perhaps he was living in denial or even lying?

“No,” he clarified, “I practice not saying certain things every day that might hurt or upset her.”  Later realizing that he was talking about the sort of things that we might say to our partner in a heated moment unconsciously, or something that spills forth from our lips without thinking.  Perhaps some criticism, or an unkind word, something rude, disrespectful, or potentially hurtful.  This made complete sense to me.

As much as I’d like to think of myself as a great communicator, I still find it challenging to practice Not Saying Things to my beloved every day that may insult her and or hurt her in some way or another.  It is a powerful reminder to take a breath first before speaking, to speak from the heart, to express myself with consideration and love as much as possible.  In a nutshell, this practice is really about being more aware in our relating with others.


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January 21, 2014   No Comments

About being Lucky or Deserving

Have you ever come to a time in your life that you’ve almost lost everything, to include coming close to losing your life? Then you were given a second chance, and later a third chance, and much, much later a fourth. Would you say that’s being lucky, or deserving?

In this Toltec Heart Wisdom teaching we value four stages of human growth: Awareness, Transformation, Acceptance and Deservedness. Deservedness is the acquired stage of life for human beings and as the highest level of any organic being on planet earth, humans deserves everything unlimited in life. Unfortunately, most human minds, mostly due to fear, will not allow that deservedness to come to them. Many resist what’s due to them, and continue living in the “less than,” the not deserving, and not loving one’s self.


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July 21, 2013   No Comments


The 5 Best Supplements For Men

By Kimberly Flynn
The 5 Best Supplements For Men

 A multivitamin. It’s not exotic, but it is a must for everyone who doesn’t get enough fruits and vegetables. (That’s you, and up to 80% of other men.) Rather than megadoses of nutrients, look for one pill that provides 100% of your daily requirements for as many different vitamins and minerals as possible. (Amounts exceeding 100% are generally a waste.) And make sure you buy a men’s formula, without extra iron. Excess levels of the mineral could increase your risk of heart disease (a condition called hemachromatosis), says Doug Kalman, M.S., R.D., director of clinical research at Miami Research Associates.

 Protein powder. You can get plenty of protein in your diet, but protein powder has other advantages: It’s convenient and generally lower in calories than an entire “high protein” meal. Drinking a protein shake after every workout speeds muscle recovery and supplies your body with the amino acids needed for muscle growth. There are two widely used proteins: whey and casein. Whey is absorbed more quickly by the body, while casein is digested slowly-providing the body with a longer-lasting supply of muscle-building nutrients. (That’s why many researchers recommend taking a mixture of the two to help sustain the release of amino acids into the blood for as long as possible.)

 Creatine. This synthetic version of an energy source produced naturally in the body is stored in the muscles for use during exercise. And it works! Multiple studies show that creatine does help speed recovery and the growth of lean-muscle mass after a workout. Manufacturers used to agree that new creatine users should start with a weeklong “loading phase” of 20 grams per day; however, recent research shows that this isn’t necessary, according to Chris Mohr, Ph.D., R.D., adjunct professor of nutrition at the University of Louisville. You can start taking creatine at the normal dose of three to five grams per day after a workout. (You can even mix it directly with your protein powder.)

 Green tea. If we haven’t beaten you over the head with the findings enough in the last year, here’s a recap: Green tea fights fat. Animals who are given the extract in studies gain less weight and burn substantially more fat than animals getting a placebo. You can drink the tea-experts ideally recommend about eight glasses a day-or go the easier route and just take a supplement. (Aim for 90 milligrams three times daily.)

 Fish oil. Most guys in their 20s and 30s aren’t thinking about their hearts. But if you have a family history of heart disease, you ought to start thinking about fish oil, the best protection available against the disease. Experts recommend taking at least one to two grams a day. Be aware: This is not the time to scrimp and save money. Cheap fish-oil supplements taste like fish and can leave you hiccuping herring all day. Higherquality brands are more expensive, but they have much less of a fishy taste. There are literally thousands of pills you could be taking at any one time. Forget them. These are the five every guy should be taking in order to fight disease, counteract bad genes, and simply live as long as possible.


Men’s Fitness, December eIssue 2012, by Kiberly Flynn

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December 20, 2012   No Comments