Emotional care between couples is vital to a healthy happy relationship. It is also strikingly absent in our society. We seem to raise boys into men who are like emotional vacuums. Millions of adult men are unable to express their own emotions, and unable to help their partners or children when they need emotional support. Relationships break down with extraordinary regularity under the pressure of this level of emotional inequality.
This is one of the many things cited by feminists, that feminism aims to improve for men. Boys should be able to recognise emotions and have support to face them. Men should be able to express emotions in healthy ways, without fear of criticism or derision. Their relationships should not be threatened by their inability to empathise with their partners or wives. Patriarchy is damaging to men as human beings.
But the greatest damage is not to men, it is to women. Time and time again we see women who are totally bereft of emotional understanding and support with their partners or husbands. Husbands who find it easier to get angry at their wife when she reaches out for emotional support. Anger is the one emotion young boys are routinely socialised to express, and as such they express it in place of other emotions, and to the detriment of our entire society. Testosterone fuelled anger is the root cause of countless violent crimes.
In countless support groups you will hear women talking about how their partners say things like:
“You’re too needy”
“You’re too clingy”
“All you do is cry”
“Stop pushing me away”
“You’re too emotional”
Men say these things to desperate, lonely lovers all the time. They say it to women who are longing to have an emotional connection with them. And whilst it’s all well and good to blame their upbringing in a patriarchal society, the problem can not be fixed without their cooperation.
By the time a man is in a long term relationship, it becomes his responsibility to work on the emotional health and wellbeing between him and his partner. Nothing and no-one else is responsible for the way he acts by the time he has three children and a decade long marriage.
Once a man is being told repeatedly by his wife or partner, that she needs him to step up emotionally, he can not blame her for being “too needy”. He can not blame anything else for not having developed healthy emotional responses, because he is an adult. He is responsible for the maintenance of the relationship just as much as the woman.
Emotional needs are real needs. Patriarchy may have convinced enormous portions of our society that women are too emotional, and that men are sensible, and rational, but that attitude is failing us dreadfully. With a one in two divorce rate, we really can’t deny that modern relationships are under enormous pressure. Clearly that’s not entirely down to emotionally unavailable men, but it surely plays a large role.
If a woman is sad it’s not hard to give her a hug. If you upset someone, it’s not hard to give them a hug and say “I’m really sorry”. If you love someone, you should want to see them happy and content. You should do what it takes to help them be in that state, or sit with them through sadness, even if it takes you outside of your comfort zone a little bit.
Women participate in emotional relationship maintenance all the time. It comes naturally to us. Not because it’s some XX chromosome thing, but because of how we are socialised in early childhood and onwards. If our society can teach a two year old girl to be emotionally responsive, surely grown men can work it out for themselves.
The time has come for men to take equal responsibility for the emotional wellbeing of their relationships. Many of them do a brilliant job of working outside of the home to financially support their families. Growing numbers of them participate more in the childrearing and household chores. Men can also support their wives and children through emotional upheaval, and behave in ways that are responsible, and not harmful to the emotional wellbeing of their families. You don’t have to be a genius to be emotionally available, you just have to be a human being who wants to have a relationship with another human being.
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