See, women talk a lot about their feelings. I know we have a reputation for not saying what we mean but I think our signals are quite obvious even when not voiced. And more often than not we do voice our feelings. In fact, women are also accused of talking too much about feelings, even as they are stereotyped for not saying what we mean. (So, which is it?)
Men are portrayed as a straightforward, easy-to-read bunch who pretty much say what they mean. I believed this too. Men definitely don’t talk feelings as much as women do.
But not articulating their feelings is not the same thing as not having them. I’ve discovered that men’s emotions can be pretty complex, more so because they are quite often in denial about them, even to themselves. Because most men don’t go about analyzing their feelings in the way women do, they present a calm and unruffled surface. Then suddenly, and many a woman in a relationship will have experienced this, they explode, taking their bemused partner by surprise.
I think men’s emotional landscape is more mysterious because not only do they not say what they mean, they don’t say anything at all. Unlike a woman who might give some hint by her words of behaviour that she is miffed, men adopt this stoic pose that cannot last forever.
I also think that men are as capable of being as emotionally manipulative as women. It’s just that they’re not so vocal about it. It’s presented as something passive like laziness. For example, showing less interest in the woman’s side of the family or friends so slowly, the woman being ever the pleaser, begins spends less time with them and it all seems to happen quite seamlessly as opposed to how a woman might do it, by drawing attention to her lack of desire to meet her husband’s family by making petty-sounding comments.
Moreover, by not examining their feelings too closely, men can perpetually coast by on the “I didn’t realize” or “I didn’t mean to” defence. In law, ignorance is not a permissible defence but in relationships, living in a state of denial seems to be. By not probing the depths of their own emotions and owning up to their motivations, men give off this air of guilelessness which serves to excuse them from their own complexity. By facing up to their emotions and frankly sharing them, women it seems have got the bad rep.
In older, more traditional marriages, I have seen the classic case of the wife acting as the expression of the husband’s negativity. The husband tends to nag and grumble in private, this plays on the wife who then tends to remedy the situation in public, thus earning her the rep as the evil one.
Thus, while acknowledging since I have been so told that men are very capable of staring into space for minutes on end without a single thought running through their head, this does not mean that no thought runs through their heads ever. Rather, they tend to sit on unpleasant thoughts and let them stew where they aren’t seen, until they emerge at some surprising moment in a most inexplicable way. I really don’t see why this is preferable to plain old honest feeling and saying what one is feeling.