I’ve noticed that most of the discussion is from the female perspective. Probably because most of the people who participate are women, so that’s understandable. But I hope to shed some light on the male side of things the best I can.
Usually when a woman is in emotional pain she needs to vent, and it really helps if that place to vent is as anonymous as possible.
Women are made differently than men.
A man will usually retreat to some place of quiet – some place where there is nothing going on at all – where he can regroup – somewhere where he can think and sort everything out. Like when Teddy Roosevelt lost his wife and mother in the same day – he went to the Badlands alone and spent time in the wilderness thinking things through. He was there for several months.
The more the man is in pain the more that he will pull away from the world. He may seemingly look like everything is ok, that he’s functioning fine because from the outside it doesn’t LOOK like he’s in distress. That doesn’t mean he isn’t distressed.
It makes little sense to tell a man how he needs to vent when that’s not his nature to do so.
The problem is that whatever his escape is can be either good or destructive. That’s why so many men have trouble with alcohol, etc. some will go to the wilderness or art or whatever.
Sometimes you may not have any idea at all he’s struggling, because men are so caught up with being respected that they aren’t likely to go around seeking support.
The only men who seek support are the ones in the most critical of situations like the man just lost his whole family in a car crash or something.
Men are so vulnerable to addictive behaviors because all this stuff is inside of them, but they aren’t aware of their own feelings.
I’d say in general (but not always – a lot depends on a person’s personality and temperament) women are all about feelings and men are into thinking and reasoning.
Talking about feelings to a man usually makes no sense. It’s not that we don’t feel, we just aren’t in touch with how we feel for a long time, not without much thinking and reasoning, where a woman is immediately in touch with her feelings.
I did not cry after my spouse died until 17 months had passed.
Men feel – it’s just delayed. If you ask a man how he feels, he can’t tell you right away. He has to think for a while about it. Studies have shown this.
If a woman asks a man how he feels it takes him a good 10-15 minutes to think things through before he can give her an answer. That’s how we’re made.
I don’t think women in general understand this. And it is very hard for a man to understand why a woman jumps to conclusions without thinking and reasoning things through first.
But we’re different and we need to learn to understand how people are different so we can be more understanding of them. Each person has their own unique temperament and personality.
So when it comes to recovery it makes no sense to talk about expressing our feelings – especially when you have nobody you can trust to share them with and you don’t even know how you feel.
It does make sense for a woman who needs to vent.
See what I mean? It isn’t ok for a man to express his emotions – it comes across as weakness and other men will start to think poorly of you.
I’m a man that has a feeling personality I find this is not normal for most men, and I’m pretty much a fish out of water when talking to other men, because I’m more in touch with how I feel than most men, but then it isn’t ok to express my feelings with them.
Nobody would allow me to express even one hint of sadness when my wife died. My standard reply was – if your wife dropped dead wouldn’t you be sad?
But still it isn’t ok.
Just because men internalize everything doesn’t mean they don’t have any trouble.
When a woman loses her husband she cries and cries and cries and the whole world knows how much pain she’s in and women get lots of support.
But a man doesn’t say anything and goes about his life like nothing happened. And people think he’s over it and isn’t having any trouble, but he’s profoundly affected by it.
So, because the man retreats into his hole, he doesn’t get a lot of support because he isn’t seeking it. I’d say it takes much longer for a man to recover than a woman.
Women seem to feel all this very intensely but they get it all out while the man internalizes it all. And keeps swallowing his pain and all and he wonders why his blood pressure keeps going up.
It’s just different, but in terms of recovery we have to take these gender differences into consideration. I have heard of couples who lost a child and the woman had all kinds of support and nobody said a word to the man. They just assumed he was ok. Not a word. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this.
When my wife died, nobody from my church called me, nobody said a word to me. They just told me to go find another woman.
Oh, ok. Like, I lost a toaster or something. It doesn’t happen that easy or that fast. I mean the day she died the other men I knew told me to go looking for another woman.
It’s like it isn’t ok to be a single man I guess.
I’ve heard of situations when men lost their wives, nobody said anything to them at all until they were remarried and then people came back and everything was ok.
I think this is pretty lousy.
Like when things are good then there’s people there. To me those people are no better than an animal who comes when you have food and they leave when the food is gone.
I think when things are hard people tend to revert to their more animal instincts and they normally don’t arise above that. Which is sad.
People suffer and people die but we can learn to love others in their time of need. The best thing to do is just do whatever you did before
And don’t change.
I don’t know everything, but I’ve learned a lot.
Lots of love.
From an ACOA e-mail list post