I value an emotionally open man. I value emotionally open people in general. But it’s true that I have my own set of perceptions and rules for emotional openness. I think most people do. Though I’m sure they vary vastly from person to person. I myself respect honesty and emotional communication and sharing of emotions when it is within reason. By within reason I think I am saying without drama.
I’m still pondering aspects of my recent link post from The Good Men Project regarding women who request their men be more emotionally open but later reject them for doing so.
I could talk for hours with someone who calmly and rationally talks about their thoughts, and feelings, fears or dreams, etc. My patience is greatly diminished when it becomes dramatically charged. I’m not saying tears are off limits by any means but there is a difference between showing emotion and gushing theatrics. Likewise I don’t have a high tolerance for volatile anger, never ending self pity, manipulation, emotional blackmail, or emotional vampire like personalities. We all know at least one emotional vampire who sucks our strength simply by being in their presence and having to endure their drama.
But what of this hypocritical stance of asking a person to be more vulnerable then withholding respect when they do so because you then perceive them as weak? That seems harsh and a little bit mean but the more I thought about that article the more I could start to see how woman might do that very thing. Why? Because many women at their very core desire both a deep emotional bond AND long for strength and protection.
Well now, there we have it. I have just admitted to all men that we women are highly irrational creatures! But wait, before you pounce, consider this……. it may not be SUCH an irrational desire for us to have. Maybe some percentage of women want both extremes and are unable to accept anything in between or possibly some women (like some men) just don’t know what it is they truly want. Maybe they don’t know themselves well enough and thus they hold someone else responsible for completing them and giving them happiness. When this is the case nothing will ever fulfil the needs they have because simply put they are clueless about what it is they need. Have no idea what they themselves should take responsibility for and thus expect someone else to fulfil them and their lives. Certainly if this were the case it would be difficult for that person to accept that nothing the other person can do, ever really pleases them. Or only pleases them long enough for the fantasy or illusion to wear off.
BUT….. I think it’s possible for many women to realistically want both emotional closeness and strength from their mates. By realistic I mean not an unreasonable thing to desire from a person you choose to commit your entire life to and make your partner ever more.
So how does this work, this desire for emotionally open, soft and tender men and the craving for strength as well?
I think the clues lie in how a person defines the two terms of emotionally open and strong. That made me stop to think about how I define those two terms that I want in my life from my partner.
To me it’s pretty simple. Be honest with me. Don’t lie, don’t manipulate, don’t blackmail me or hold me hostage to your emotions. Tell me what you like, want, and feel. Tell me your dreams, tell me what you are afraid of. Tell me when you feel emotion for me and don’t just tell me I love you. Tell me the things that spring into your mind when they occur. If you think I look nice say so. Better yet, go one better. Tell me WHAT you see that you like or how it makes you feel. When a woman hears the words you look nice, it makes us feel good. When a woman hears the words I love it when you wear your hair that way, the way wisps of hair fall down your neck and on your bare shoulders, it makes me want to kiss your neck. Like this….mmmm. You better believe that’s a MUCH bigger impact on our emotions.
Tell me when you are angry. I’d rather know you are angry than deal with all the little subtle or not so subtle things you do when you’re angry. When I know why you are angry I learn about you. When I know what you want from me to make it better, I know how to correct my mistake. Don’t be vicious, don’t be sarcastic, DON’T withdraw and sulk. Say to me, That really makes me mad when you do …… it makes me feel like……. I’d rather you …….. or why did you….?
By being emotionally open you reveal who you are, what you want, what you need and what you don’t like. And when we are emotionally open together, respecting each other as two very individual people then we learn how to interact with less conflict and more joy, more fun, more passion. Playing games takes energy and that energy has to come from somewhere. Most always it comes from the one thing we truly want. The energy we have for loving each other. If you want more love, feed more energy than you suck out. I think it’s pretty much that simple.
For me personally, strength is subtle. I admit that even though I’m a very independent woman, self reliant in most every way, I still like many women long for a strong protective man in my life. For some this means physical strength or toughness, or it means status and financial gains. I have witnessed some more needy women interpret their partners violence as strength. In some cases even setting him up to act it act. For instance flirting with another man in a bar to evoke a fight in the parking lot where he “fights’ for her. To me, this seems ludicrous and childish, but my mind works differently on this.
Strength as I said is in the many small details. In fact, in many ways emotional openness can also be one and the same with strength. A man who is secure enough to be emotional from time to time is in my eyes very attractive.
So what do I mean when I say that I long for a strong and protective man? Well I happen to think that nurturing is very strong and sexy when it comes from a man. To feel like a man is taking control and taking care of you, say when you have the flu, is a very good feeling. Why? Well for one, it shows love and selflessness. It says you are important and valued. But it also reminds us that we don’t always have to be the strong ones, the coordinators, the ones who keep things clicking and ticking and on schedule. When someone is willing to pamper and nourish me it tells me that I am allowed to be human because my partner is ALSO strong enough to take care of the daily routines or willing enough to put himself on hold to attend to me.
What other ways do I hope to be protected and experience the strength of a man? Attention to details. When a man leaves all the details, especially those details related directly to him, to a woman….a perception of weakness and ineptness grows inside the woman. We love to nurture and to help and to support but when we cross over to the role of mothering and reminding and get forced into the role you later refer to as nagging, we resent it and men might not realize that when you put a woman in that role rather than taking responsibility in your life, her ability to also be your wild impassioned lover is severely damaged and squashed dead. Women do not make love to their children. It’s a pretty simple analogy to understand.
The following are some of the other qualities I find to be indicators of a strong stable character which makes me perceive strength and protection from a man.
- Some level of organization
- Remembers what he needs to or writes it down rather than constantly forgetting details and relying on you to remind him.
- Does what he says he will do and doesn’t have a list of excuses for why he doesn’t. (obviously there are exceptions and valid reasons for them but they should be just that, exceptions, rather than predictable events)
- Financial responsibility on all levels. Someone who would not jeopardize our security through carelessness or risky actions or lack of taking responsibility. This is not about the size of his paycheck, this is about how he manages his finances, his credit, etc.
- Keeping things in working order. That is not to say men should be able to fix all things. But at least SOME things, and being proactive about hiring it done when neither he nor I can fix it ourselves. My partner is extremely talented at carpentry and landscape work and I find that very sexy.
- Good active involvement parenting.
- Be protective. It says you cherish me. My partner has a horrible habit of leaving doors unlocked. If he leaves for work and doesn’t lock the door I follow behind and assure it’s secure. Otherwise I could wake up to the realization that my child and I slept the entire night in a house open to anyone who might choose to turn the knob. When he locks the door on the way out I feel content in the thoughts that he is looking out for us. I like it when he gets up and checks the doors before bed rather than stumbling off to bed with no thought at all to whether the garage door is still open and the doors unlocked, leaving me to make the rounds. I know it’s small but I did say subtle didn’t I? Something this small can play a big role in whether I feel protected or feel like I am the protector. Another example we heard recently while watching some relationship tapes was of a man insisting to stop and fill up the car with gas during a trip in which his wife was driving him to the airport for a business trip. The wife first brushed him off. No, no, I can do it. I’ll be fine. But he insisted and eventually she relented when he said, this isn’t the best neighborhood, it’s dark outside and I want to get on that plane knowing that you are safe. She leaned over in the car and in her own words said to him….I find that very sexy! Most women I know will understand why that was so damned sexy. His desire to protect her said more than his words did about how much she means to him and how seriously he takes his role as her partner in life.
- Be healthy. Most men are highly motivated by appearance in their women. They want them to look GOOD. They are disenchanted by our flaws because more now than ever, they are conditioned to want sexy fantasy women. Women have a similar need. Though we will seldom find our man any less attractive when he sprouts grey or thinning hair or even acquires a softer rounder belly. Yes, we can also see the fantasy men of the world on TV and in magazines and yes, they are nice to look at. But they don’t define a man for us or what we need from a man. Health on the other hand does. If you smoke like a chimney (this spoken by a smoker struggling to quit. Even most smokers understand how bad it is) drink like a fish, eat nothing but junk, drink a case of soda a day, take unreasonable risks with your body through work or hobby with little regard for longevity or injury or in general just take lousy care of yourself, this becomes a problem of security for us.
You might ask what your health has to do with our perception of strength and protection. Aside from the obvious factor that healthy bodies project strength more than unhealthy bodies, the real factor here is not physique. It is that unhealthy lifestyles are a liability. I will use my own situation here. I have many health related issues in my family. My father died at age 56. Much cancer, heart problems, and other issues in both sides of my family. These things have impacted my life greatly. The thought of committing my life to someone who might soon impact my life in the same heart wrenching ways is difficult. No one can predict where life will lead us or what the power of the universe will hand us. But to work hard to build a life and see it shattered or cut short simply because there has never been any regard for your health is a sad thought. And what about financial burdens? In my case I have worked my entire life for stability, for building up a trust to support a special needs child long after I am gone, and for the hopes and dreams of retiring young enough to enjoy some travel and maybe a small business that is nothing more than a labor of love. My partner has not always built the same foundation for a future. If he ends up with serious medical problems because of bad habits and seldom evaluating risky behaviors, we could lose all of that security in a short time. What if he goes out on the race track one day, wrecks a car, breaks his neck and is paralyzed. Everything worked for now changes in the blink of an eye because the risk was more important than the outcome.
It’s true you can not live in a bubble. I don’t suggest that we do and never take risks. I don’t suggest people don’t pursue passions such as skydiving or racing or mountain climbing. I’m just suggestion that there are stages in life when you might want to evaluate whether those passions still make sense when weighed against the rest of the future you are trying to create or whether other passions might not be just as good. It’s true that I’m a smoker struggling to quit and I acknowledge the hypocrisy on that topic, but at least I’m trying. I’m saying that when one takes good care of their health and also encourages their partner to do the same, it builds at least a little more security or at least hope of security and that equates to feeling protected rather than feeling at risk.
- Confidence. I find confidence extremely strong and sexy. Confidence, not bravado or inflated egos. Just general confidence. And not even confidence so strong that there is never any self doubt. Self doubt is normal! The confidence to admit to it, and overcome it…. that is very attractive. AND inspiring.
- Inspiration. I also find inspiration to be a very strong trait. When my partner helps me to see a new vision or when he demonstrates his own ability to overcome a hardship it makes me want to rise to the occasion with him. It makes me believe in him even more and I love that feeling!! Inspiration may seem completely unrelated to strength. I disagree. It’s a very effective way of making someone know they are secure in your presence. That you won’t crumble under the weight of life and that you can clearly see beauty and wonder in the world around you.
It all comes down to how a woman defines their expectations for emotional openness and a strong man but I still believe that wanting a man to be emotionally open with you and wanting him to be a strong protector of your life together and your mutual well being, is a reasonable, realistic combination. I don’t believe its a contradiction.
However, no one person can be everything to us so I think it’s important to accept that we have a responsibility for our own happiness as well. It’s also my belief that no woman has the right to expect her man to be both emotionally open with her and to be a strong protector unless she herself is willing to open up with him and to become his fierce protector as well.