I’m picking up where we left off from the “Men and Openness Survey” series by unpacking question number 4 from the survey …
What outside sources have been hindrances to you opening up and sharing your feelings with your wife? (I let the men choose all that applied.)
55.56% – The poor example I saw in my parent’s marriage growing up.
33.33% – The cultural stigma I feel about men being open and vulnerable.
25.93% – My parents discouraged me in childhood from opening up and being vulnerable.
20.37% – Write-in responses—see below
18.52% – My friends’ negative attitudes towards being open and vulnerable.
3.70% – The religious beliefs I hold or was raised with discourage this.
I picked a few of the write-in responses that I thought were intriguing and quite “telling” –
- Nothing could stop me from opening up and sharing my feelings with my wife—not even her requesting me not to. (I laughed when I read that one!)
- Men are men, roll with Gods design. (This one made me smile as well!)
- Childhood experiences. Bullying. Being ridiculed for crying or being sensitive. (So sad!)
- My actions/feelings not being acceptable or “ok” when dealt with by parents (dad). Loved and accepted with strings. (Doubly sad!)
I think there is such a stigma for men in sharing their feelings especially in marriage. Our culture has made great strides in this, but in my opinion, there’s still a long way to go.
I’d say that one of the biggest hurdles my husband and I have had to overcome in sharing our feelings constructively with one another has been the poor modeling we saw in both our parents’ marriages—not that we’re blaming them at all! It just “was what it was” and to avoid acknowledging that damage is not productive or honest.
I also know that we, Gary and I, have certainly hurt and negatively contributed to our own young adult sons’ ability (or inability) to communicate or resolve conflicts. #regrets
So it’s a sad and constant reality that we all must live with as we try to navigate the twists and turns of marriage with baggage to boot!
That’s the harsh news, but here’s the good news …
Nothing is wasted in life, when we allow Christ—the great Redeemer—to help us learn and grow from our hardships and deficits.
The thing I noticed the most from these results was … the difficulty of rising above some of these hindrances and wounds in our pasts. I think this is true not just for men, but for women as well.
Here are two simple suggestions for ways to learn and heal from any damage in your life (based on what I’ve done to help heal and correct these issues in my own life and marriage) …
1. Forgive your parents (or those who wounded you in this way as a child).
There are lots of ways to go about that. In fact, if you haven’t subscribed to Messy Marriage yet, do that! Because you can snag my e-book, Forgive U that has lots of ideas on what forgiveness is and isn’t, as well as how to forgive. 😉 Look in the sidebar for my subscriber box.
2. Talk with your mate about the wounds of your childhood.
Use this Reflective Listening Guide as a tool for your spouse to fully listen to you on this. If you stick with the rather rigid format, your mate (as the listener) “can” increase his/her ability to empathize with you. Trust me! And when your mate empathizes with you on this issue, he/she is much less likely to reoffend you in that same way going forward.
What would you add to my suggestions for bringing healing and growth to the wounds we all bring into marriage?
How have the negative impact of your parent’s modeling or societal stigmas hurt your ability to open up with your mate?
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