My Problem With Men

Lately I’ve been noticing a strange thing about men. If I get upset by something they say, even if they are simply imparting information and not saying anything to purposely hurt me, they respond, “I shouldn’t have told you.”

Huh? Just because I don’t like the news doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have told me. Just because I get upset is no reason to keep me in the dark. Are men so fragile they can’t handle anger, tears, heartbreak, even if it’s not directed at them? Or even if it is directed at them? (To tell the truth, I’m not sure I could handle anger or tears if they were directed at me, but if I did something to provoke those reactions, I sure would do something to try smooth things over.)

I seem to have lost the ability to deal with men, assuming I eCowboyver had the ability to begin with. I’ve lost a friend who was dear to me because he couldn’t handle my emotional reactions. He didn’t seem to think I had the right to be angry or feel hurt by anything he did, or maybe it was just that he didn’t like my show of emotion. For a while, I thought my problems with him were more of a personal nature, but now I see that the problems stemmed from a basic conflict — he is a man and I am a woman. We might not be from Venus or Mars or whatever planets we are supposed to be from, but there is a distinct difference in the way we see things.

Today, another man told me that my neighbors were hurt by my not telling them about my father’s funeral, though I had done so. They had been shunning me, turning around and walking the other way when they saw me or when I spoke to them, and even though I was upset by what he said, I needed to know because his words explained their actions. When I made the comment that it was my father who died, I got tearful as I always do now at the reminder of death. He immediately said, “I shouldn’t have told you.”

So what if I was upset? So what if I cried a bit? So what if I was momentarily angry at the unfairness of it? It’s not like I’m going to spend the rest of my life agonizing over the neighbor’s snubbery. (My word processor doesn’t like my making up words. It keeps changing snubbery to snobbery.) Luckily, my emotional reaction passed as quickly as it came, and luckily he was reasonable so we were able to get beyond our differences.

My real problem with men and emotions comes when I interject my emotions into the middle of a story or explanation. I don’t know whether it’s the interruption that upsets men or that the interruption is emotional. (I never notice this with women.) I don’t deny that my emotions are close to the surface now, and they pop up when and where they will without waiting for the end of a tale. I suppose I should try to cap my emotional responses, but I’m not sure I want to. It’s easier to get beyond life’s sad/bad parts if I can emote a minute (or a lot of minutes) and then let go.

There is a lesson in all this, though I’m not sure what.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

14 Responses to “My Problem With Men”

  1. Wanda Hughes Says:

    In my experience men are undone by women’s emotion. Men, in general, seem to have a need to fix every situation. So if they give us news that upset us they wish they hadn’t. If there’s a situation that is uncomfortable they want to fix it or if they can’t fix it they want it to go away and quickly. I don’t mean to bash men and there are certainly exceptions of course. But in general women’s “bad” emotions bother the hell out of men. They don’t like us to be anything but happy. Anger or sadness or irritation or well, any other emotive state is hard. I don’t know the answer just thought I’d share my experience.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m always glad to get your wise input, Wanda. It’s good to know this is not just my own experience. It seems strange that I never noticed this with Jeff, but I wasn’t as emotional back then, and we were different — not man and woman so much as just . . . us.

    • beasleygreen Says:

      If at first you don’t succeed then don’t stress yourself and put it behind you; seems like a sound strategy to me. Then again, I’m a man 😉

  2. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    I can tell you for a start that men are taught from an early age not to have emotions. And one of the teachers is usually the mother. Of course not having emotions is impossible but you learn how to hide them. Hence coming face to face with the raw emotions of someone else, even a woman who according to custom has every right to display emotions, can be daunting. It is a question of how to respond when all your life you have simply hung tough with your own bad times and hoped others would do the same. Trying not to be emotional, or even trying to be so after a long spell of being the wooden log you are supposed to be, can be quite difficult. How to respond even if you wanted to and how would the other party take such a response anyway? Men do not want to appear weak especially in front of women they may like and admire. Hence bombarded with someone else’s emotions and feeling their own personal shield collapsing they really want to either end the conversation and be elsewhere or steer it away from emotional content. I write because this is where I am happiest dealing with emotions.

  3. frederick anderson Says:

    It’s because the man’s immediate emotional response is ‘what have I done to make her unhappy?’ Men naturally want to comfort and protect women, and apparent distress not only evokes an immediate protective instinct, but also a sense of failure. I always think men interact with women on a deeply personal level. I don’t believe there is such a thing as mere acquaintance, as there is between females. there is always a ‘relationship’ element, at whatever level.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Good response and something for me to remember in my dealings with men. Thank you. For almost thirty-four years, my relationship with Jeff pretty much insulated me from other men, so I didn’t really have to know these things either personally or in my writing. (He always reviewed my male characters to make sure men would think/act that way.)

  4. leesis Says:

    It’s true that men seem to find it harder to deal with emotions Pat (societal conditioning) but I actually think its a problem for us all. Emotions get a bad rap left right and centre. When someone cries we pat them on the back and say things like “shhh…don’t cry…” Why do we do that…crying is good for us.

    If a child cries more than some imagined line we call them sooks or cry babies. When we are upset about a loved one passing beyond, again some imaginary boundary, people get mad at us. My observations have been that emotions scare the living crap out of us for we cant put them in a logic box and make them all pretty and no matter how much we grow and learn our emotions remind us of how incredibly vulnerable we are. And it is poison this fear of emotions. Absolute poison. Though I know pharmaceutical companies don’t think so!

    Look at all the misconceptions in the comments. Men being seen as “weak” if they cry. Men thinking women need protecting, looking after. Mums teaching kids not to have emotions…I take that one personally because the very first time my son was ever told there was something ‘wrong’ in crying was his first week at school…never by me.

    And for all of those who say…’I don’t know what to do when someone is upset’…do nothing but be beside them!

    p.s. neighbors snubbing you because of…oh whatever. What a pack of twits!!!

  5. beasleygreen Says:

    I’m intrigued; what are you supposed to do with emotions when outpoured? So trying to allieviate the pain/suffering/frustration of those emotions by offering some kind of solution is no good. Offering an aplogetic revocation is no good. A hug or show of effection is ok-ish, but not always appropriate and often uncomfortable if you’re not the touchy-feely type or choose the wrong words. I’ve even tried completely ignoring them but that usually escalates the emotion, or converts whatever it is in rage. How about distraction? I’ve found distraction is quite useful. It works with my daughter, who’s very emotional. Whatever it is that’s making her upset, a little bit of irreverent tomfoolery to make her laugh plugs that hole of emotional outpouring right up. It seems you can’t be upset, angry or frustrated whilst laughing – there; I’ve answered my own question! Oh, but I don’t know whether that would really be appropriate in a bereavement situation. Hmm…

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It depends on the emotion. Anger shouldn’t be ignored and should be respected. (Disrespecting anger does escalate anger. That I know from experience.) Grief needs a touch of sympathy. Frustration could use a bit of understanding as to the core issue. In the case of an inability to distinguish between the emotions, then perhaps a simple, “I’m sorry.” Don’t belittle the pain, and don’t patronize her. Other than that, recognize that it is her pain and not your problem. (Unless, of course, it is your problem.) Or you could ask what she wants from you, and then listen. LIstening is a great panacea for another’s hurt.

      Sometimes continuing on as if the person isn’t emoting works. I remember at the hospice care center when Jeff was dying, I couldn’t stop crying. I wanted them to relieve his pain, and they kept trying to comfort me. I told them to ignore my tears, that I couldn’t help crying. I said I would have the rest of my life to deal with my sorrow, but that at the moment his care was the most important thing.

      If distraction works, then when you are both calm, ask her about her outburst. That way you can talk about the underlying issue without resorting to emotion.

  6. Constnce Says:

    Men are definitely different than Women.

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