Understanding the male psyche and the resulting behavior is something women have spent centuries trying to decipher. While it can be difficult to know why men don’t always express their emotions, it is even more difficult to try to force them to change. If the man in your life is notorious for bottling up how he feels, it may be more helpful to pinpoint why he doesn’t want to show his emotions. Then, you might be able to begin to effectively encourage him to start sharing. The mind is a very complex part of the human experience, and it is difficult to determine exactly what influences the development of personalities and characteristic traits. People are met with a barrage of influences everyday that shape who they become without even realizing it. Society, culture, people, education, media, all of these things teach us about the world and our role within it. Unfortunately, for many men, these influences teach them to ignore their emotions and deny themselves the right to feel them. This manifests itself in a variety of ways making it hard to cope with stress and connect with others. Here are 15 reasons that might explain why the man in your life is unable or unwilling to share his inner most feelings with you.
15 Problematic Childhood
Childhood is where people begin to form their personalities and learn how to cope with the stressors of the world. When a child grows up in an environment that is constantly stressful as well as inappropriate, it changes their perception of what is normal. They begin to develop their own coping mechanisms, which aren’t usually healthy. With a troubled childhood, people are less likely to learn how to appropriately handle emotions and understand them. It can lead to infantile behavior. When people don’t understand why they feel their emotions and how to deal with them, it stifles their ability to communicate effectively. Emotions are very complicated, and they make up a large part of the personality. Without basic knowledge of such intricate, inner workings, it becomes difficult for a person to know who they really are. In turn, it makes it harder for a person to have a relationship in which they give themselves in complete openness and honesty.
This is one of the major reasons men feel the need to hide their emotions. The fear of being judged for being open about how they feel, often drives them to hold it all in. Most men feel strongly about social norms and how they portray themselves to the world. They grow up aligning themselves with those norms in order to fit in. They fear if they show a more vulnerable side, it will over shadow their other masculine traits. Growing up and trying to fit in is one of the hardest parts of adolescence, and it leads many men to contain their feelings so they may remain a part of the crowd. By hiding this part of their personality, it only intensifies in adulthood. Stress becomes more prevalent, social roles for men become more demanding, and it is harder for men to open up after years of hiding from their emotions.
13 They Don’t Know How
Little boys usually grow up without much direction on how to express their emotions. As kids they are taught to “toughen up”. It might be one of the worst things to repeatedly tell a boy as he struggles with his feelings. By telling them to hold back their tears and hide their feelings, it only teaches them to deny their emotions. When they continually refuse to feel their emotions, it stunts their emotional maturity. They can have a hard time feeling empathy and understanding how their emotions affect every aspect of life from their physical health to relationships. It begins a long cycle in which they cannot identify their own feelings and are unable to express them. If a person has never understood how their environment affects what they feel and how to identify and handle those feelings, then may not even know how to express their emotions or why it is important.
12 Trying to Maintain Confidence
“Fake it, until you make it.” This is something many men do as they try to navigate life. They are in constant competition with other men, and they feel as if all they can do in the face of failure is plaster a smile on their face and power through. This becomes dangerous when they refuse to admit their shortcomings. It causes stress and feelings of inadequacies. This can also be a problem because reaching out to others and asking for advice could be beneficial. Many men try to uphold their confidence with flimsy outward appearances of success or happiness. In the end, this is never good for them or those around them. Learning to reach out and discuss what they are feeling helps relieve stress as well better themselves using the resources in their life. No amount of fake happiness or confidence will fulfill a person which can lead to a very miserable life.
11 Fear of Weakness
“Be a man…” every time males hear this, it tells them to hide their emotions. Expressing any hint of a feeling leads them to believe they are weak. Being a man means being strong through everything and refusing to show any sign of true emotion. This whole idea is engrained in the fibers of their being. It never occurs to them that by sharing how they feel, it might help them relieve stress and allow them to cope with difficulty in a healthier manner. Men want to live up to the expectations of their gender, and if they can’t adhere to the basic ideas of what it means to “be a man”, they often feel like a failure. This stereotype that “real men” don’t cry or express their feelings is terribly unhealthy. It also undermines the complexity of humans and how they connect with one another through the recognition and sharing of emotion.
10 Want to Protect Their Partner
In a relationship, men often feel the need to be the protector and provider. In this role they try to shoulder a variety of burdens which can be stressful. As part of the common idea of what it means to be a man and a husband, they want to make their partner happy and feel secure. This means they hold back much of their emotions in order to conceal their fear, stress, and self consciousness. They want to show their partner they are strong enough to handle everything on their own and that they are capable of being the provider. This can lead to strain on the relationship. A partnership means a sharing of life and all its difficulties. One person shouldn’t carry more burden than the other regardless of the gender. A sharing of responsibilities means more openness and a better relationship. Help the man in your life shed these stereotypes by promoting an even sharing of responsibilities as well as feelings.
9 Lack of Trust
For most women, it is easy to share feelings. It comes natural to us. Therefore, we often share emotions even with others we don’t know well. We might not share deep, dark secrets, but we don’t mind expressing sadness over a recent event or lamenting about a boyfriend or husband to an acquaintance. With men, it is different. Most men won’t confide in someone unless they trust them. Men tend to not read into the actions of others as much as women do; therefore, when they feel slighted or hurt by someone, it is usually for a much larger offense. If they do want to talk about their feelings, they want to share with someone they know will understand and won’t talk about them behind their back. If you happen to be the gossip queen in your circle of friends, it might be why your significant other doesn’t want to share their feelings with you.
8 Stifled by Anger
Men are naturally more aggressive than women, and anger can be an overwhelming emotion. For many men, a sense of fear, vulnerability, or even sadness sparks their anger. It makes them feel weak to have those emotions, in turn making them angry at themselves, then making them feel angry at whatever initiated those feelings. It helps them cover up what they are truly feeling while also restoring their sense of strength. There becomes a sense of comfort in anger. Over time, it becomes reactionary whenever they have feelings they associate with weakness. By becoming angry it helps them cope while also maintaining an acceptable outward appearance for a male. Anger also makes others feel fearful. When a man reacts with anger and others fear him, it reinforces his manliness making him feel as if has the power and control over a situation even if deep down he is the one that is scared. Anger and aggression is the fuel of many sports and it begins influencing boys at a young age, shaping their reactions. While not all men fall into this trap, it is a prevalent problem.
This problem seems to affect many areas of life. An immature, naïve outlook on life has a tendency to cut people off from reality or recognizing responsibility. It also prevents people from expressing their emotions in a healthy, age appropriate way. If a man is immature, he often reverts to infantile expressions of emotion. In this kind of behavior, they don’t process their feelings or see them through the lens of reality. Their reactions express only immediate need and not deep meaningful feelings. If a man is immature, he might also look to his partner to fulfill his needs instead of being self-reliant. His emotions aren’t adult emotions that correlate with complex thoughts and interactions. These childlike feelings make it impossible to have a healthy relationship based upon an equal partnership. They are only thinking of themselves and what they need to have their physical demands met leaving them unable to process the abstract ideas of true emotion.
6 Mental Illness
Mental illness is something that people outside the medical world don’t often understand. Men with mental illness have to overcome a lot to express their emotions in a healthy manner, and it can be a reason that a man has a hard time opening up. The varieties of mental illness can affect how a person thinks, acts, and lives on a day to day basis. It may be the mental illness itself that is blocking a man from expressing his emotion or it may be fear that others will find out they have a mental illness. Medication also plays a major role in the emotions of someone with mental illness. It can stunt their sensitivity to inner feelings and thoughts or the emotions of those around them. Expressing their thoughts and feelings could also trigger unfavorable reactions. They may be comfortable only discussing their inner most workings with a counselor or therapist that is trained to talk to them through managing their feelings.
5 Bad Relationship
“It’s not me, it’s you.” As the old cliche goes, maybe it isn’t his fault that he cannot express his emotions...Maybe it is you. If a man is stuck in a relationship that he wants to be out of, he will be less likely to discuss his feelings. A bad relationship can keep a man from talking and turn him into a very closed off person. If he has mentally already checked out of a relationship but can’t yet face the break up, he may become cold and distant. Men sometimes find it easier to ignore a problem hoping it will go away, maybe even hoping if he pushes you away that eventually it will be you that ends the relationship. Hiding their inner thoughts may be a defensive mechanism to make it easier or even just an unconscious reaction as they avoid a confrontation with someone they once loved.
4 Hiding Something
The best way to hide something is to completely cover up your feelings and thoughts. If a man is trying to hide something, it will be easier to keep his secret if he doesn’t indulge in his inner most feelings and thoughts. By discussing his emotions it opens him up to a potential slip up that could give away what he has worked so hard to chain up in the deepest, darkest corner of his mind. Whether it is something that could hurt a loved one or something that could hurt himself by revealing it, keeping his thoughts and emotions tucked away makes it easier to deny it and keep it hidden. This is usually a red flag in relationships when men begin acting differently and refusing to talk. They might have something they don’t want you to find out, and they will go to great lengths to keep their secrets buried.
3 They Don’t Recognize True Emotion
Sometimes men are so programmed to ignore their feelings that they don’t recognize true emotions. Beyond tired, hungry, bored or angry, they don’t really recognize any other feelings. There are many men content in this kind of simplistic thinking. They don’t recognize deeper emotions and don’t have intricate thoughts about their feelings or how they are affected by their environment. For some men, what you see is what you get. They don’t think too deeply about the world around them - they are happy just being as they are. They don’t feel a need to explore philosophical ideas about life and death. While relationships with men like this are often easier on the surface, it can be more difficult in the long run. They may have a hard time consoling you during hardships or relating to you when you find yourself experiencing something out of the ordinary. However, some women like a good ol’ fashioned man that doesn’t need to bare their soul.
2 Years of Denial Has Left Them Numb
When people spend their life denying who they are and how they feel, it does something profound to their psyche. It can make them feel numb and hollow, and it is as if part of their personality begins to die. When people continually deny part of who they are, it can lead to depression, addiction, repressed anger, and much more destructive behavior. In this, many men also begin drinking or doing drugs in order to cope with their feelings and help them remain hidden. They might not even understand the correlation between denying their feelings and the personal difficulties the struggle through. The worst part of overwhelming hopelessness and worthlessness is when you have no idea how to fix it. For many men, this becomes a reality. They have spent so much of their life blind to the truth behind their problems, and it can continue to spiral out of control.
1 Don’t Understand its Importance
Beyond all of the problems that prevent men from being able to express themselves, when they don’t understand how important it is to feel their emotions and share them, they won’t ever consider changing. If you have no idea what the root cause is of a problem, how can you fix it? This is where many men find themselves as an adult. They have been told all their life to beat down their emotions, to be a man and to fight back against those feelings that threaten their manliness and strength. Why would they go against everything they have been taught and believe about their role in society? Most men don’t understand just how critical it is to their health and the sake of their relationships to be open with their feelings. They think they are fine pushing down their emotions, and if they just keep doing it, their fear, anxiety, and self loathing will go away. The first step to a happy, healthy life is being in touch with your emotions and sharing when they get too heavy.