Men Are Still From Mars
I’m a boomer guy who dated boomer women exclusively and based on what women shared with me over the years I believed it was primarily men who feared emotionally honest dialogue. I’m no longer sure men have the market cornered on that fear after talking at length with John Gray, best-selling author of Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.
How Much Is Too Much?
Among the issues we discussed over lunch was how much emotional honesty women actually want from men. Our experiences suggest women want men to share how they’re feeling with them, but the fly in the ointment is how much is too much?
John Gray counsels couples about emotional sharing and was surprised when some wives he’d counseled said they wanted to divorce their husbands. He asked why after their husbands had complied with their wishes to open up emotionally these women wanted out of their marriages? Their answer was a bombshell. Some felt their husbands had become so overeager that once they began sharing their feelings they couldn’t stop. They felt they’d become their husbands’ therapists because they were sharing all their feelings, whether relevant to their relationships or not. A few mentioned the word unmanly.
Careful What You Wish For
The newbie factor is what makes it difficult for men to modulate their feelings at first. Over sharing resulted when men broke the logjam that held back their feelings and the ensuing flood of emotions overwhelmed them and their wives. Women got what they’d asked for but also got more than they’d bargained for. Sure women want emotional honesty from men but they didn’t want to be drowned in rivers of emotions unrelated to their relationship or the issues at hand.
The culprit isn’t emotional honesty but the degree to which it’s shared. Women want men to talk about their feelings but they also want them to filter what they share so relationship dialogue doesn’t turn into therapy. As men develop this filtering skill they’ll become better able to focus on their feelings in the moment.
In an article I wrote about why men need to be emotionally honest with women in The Huffington Post, the more than 2,100 comments pointed this gender conflict. Nearly every woman wanted men to be emotionally honest, while an equal number of men thought it was crazy to believe men can be emotionally honest with women. The men feared how women would treat their emotional honesty.
Men have a point considering John Gray’s experience with women who felt men were acting more childlike than manly when they bombarded their relationships with unfiltered feelings. I have a few suggestions to end this gridlock that will allow men and women to view each other in a favorable light.
1. Empowered Men
I’ve always advocated for men to become emotionally empowered, which means being aware of their feelings while remaining in control of them. A man in control of his emotions doesn’t need to share all of his feelings with a woman, and specifically those unrelated to the issue at hand. Gray and I are both in longstanding men’s groups that offer men a safe space to air the issues they don’t share with women. What’s discussed is confidential, and the nonjudgmental feedback encourages men to continue exploring their emotions. The friendship bar is set high to achieve unconditional trust.
2. A Woman’s Role
When a woman adopts a forgiving attitude while a man develops the ability to filter his feelings she helps create healthy emotional dialogue. And if she frames the emotions she feels are most relevant to share in the moment she helps the relationship resolve its issues. Boomer men and women can co-create long-term relationships that embrace emotional integrity, allow men to maintain their masculinity, and don’t put women in a therapist role. In Billy Crystal’s words, “It’s a process.”
Ken Solin is a Dating Expert who has written about boomer sex, dating, and relationships for The Huffington Post, AARP, About.com, and Maria Shriver for a decade. Ken believes boomer women are perfect for boomer men as he discussed on The Today Show.
Ken's new book, The Boomer Guide To Finding True Love Online, is available for preorder at Amazon.com. It offers real-life boomer dating solutions based on Ken's online dating experiences and the experiences of tens of thousands of readers who have commented on his articles. His relationship philosophy is simple. "You can't think your way through a relationship. You have to feel your way."