For the majority of my twenties, I didn’t cry in front of a woman once. I was terrified to.
I had taken on the conditioned message that ‘boys don’t cry’ and a belief that told me that women felt repulsed by men who felt their feelings.
These years of emotional constipation turned me into a suppressed, irritable shell of a person.
Over the last few years, I have made friends with the full spectrum of my emotional self, and accepted it all once more.
My sadness and I are now good friends. So are me and anger. And grief, and joy, and all of them. My emotions are all welcome at my proverbial dinner table… and I couldn’t be happier about it. Why? Because we can’t selectively numb our feelings. If we put a lid on our sadness or grief, then we also put a ceiling on our ability to feel joy.
To continue to heal my perception of how women interact with male emotionality, I decided to ask some of my most eloquent, wise friends, colleagues, and family members how they felt when their male partners cried in front of them.
The exact question I asked them was:
“How do you feel when men cry in front of you?”
This is how they responded…
“When a man cries in front of me, be it my partner or not, I receive it as a huge honour. He is showing me that not only does he trust me with his heart, but that he also trusts in himself as a man to show his emotions. Men who break free of their conditioning to not cry are the furthest thing from weak, they are courageous.
I believe crying is a doorway to intimacy, once it is open the other person can walk in and see who we really are – a perfectly messy and beautiful expression of human love.
Besides, sadness – like happiness and every other emotion -is purely energy that needs to move. It’s not something to be ashamed of nor is it something we need to hide!
Men who lead with vulnerability are an example to others that its safe to do the same. At the end of the day we all want to feel seen, heard, understood and loved for all that we are. What a gift.”
– Heather Pennell
“Having been raised in a society where I have been taught from a young age that simply: girls cry, and boys don’t. At first I haven’t quite known how to be there for him in those moments. It’s heart breaking. I have always felt deeply and had big emotions, which I have definitely sub-consciously associated with being a woman. To see my partner break down and cry has always been a reminder that he feels just as deep as I do. He just maybe hasn’t been encouraged to access those parts of himself that he has repressed, because of messages he received growing up.
My wish is to hold space for him, in the best way that I know how. To show my partner it is safe for him to express the depths of his sadness when it needs to come up. In no way does he appear “less of a man”, or weak to me. The idea that, that is what can be associated with men who express their emotions makes me sad and frustrated, because I believe it to be the exact opposite. When men cry, I only see strength and bravery.”
– Alissa H.
“Compassion. Beauty. Love. An almost instant removal of all story- past, present, future- ..an instant removal of any barriers or blockages I had been holding over my heart… an instant removal of talking or needing to prove or judging… and a loving softening into a depth of presence and the motherly love archetype inside of myself. It draws me to the now moment, where all we have is our two beating hearts… together. I feel closer to him, I feel safe… knowing he’s really with himself and his heart, and I feel even more feminine, able to hold space and nurture.
I think there’s a fear that men carry that if they show tears, they show weakness from their masculine. But tears are a release of built up energy… they are a surrender.. a let go.. a death … and there is massive (very androgynous) power in that. As a woman who naturally holds myself when I cry… and often… I find great service and pleasure in giving that level of resonant love and nourishment to my man.”
“The more comfortable I become with my own tears, my own vulnerabilities, and my own displays of emotion… the more comfortable I become with seeing everybody else display those things, no matter who they are.”
“There was a point in my life when I would have said seeing men cry did make me uncomfortable. I didn’t like seeing men cry in movies, and I especially didn’t like seeing my dad cry.
At the time, I was also extremely uncomfortable with displaying my own emotions. From the ages of 9-12, I was on a boys’ soccer team and largely socialized with boys. I constantly was trying to prove I was just as tough as them, just as cool as them, and I used to sit there and pinch myself to keep from crying. From then all the way through high school I valued my male friendships much more than I did my female ones. It took trauma plus a friendship with a very emotional roommate to make me start to become more comfortable with my own emotions.
I think I had (and still have, in some ways) a lot of internalized sexism, and I emasculated men pretty often.
However, I think it’s important to note that even with all of these things… there was still never a point when seeing my partner cry made me uncomfortable.
Years ago, before I had ever really thought about any of these things, I broke up with my boyfriend and he completely broke down in tears. Like, a sobbing, inconsolable, snotty mess. And all I wanted to do, instinctively, was pull him toward me, lay his head on my chest, and tell him everything was going to be okay.
I think that the difference for me was that I loved my partner so much that I wanted him to feel safe with me. I didn’t want to see him hurt, and I wanted to make him feel better. And I didn’t, at that time, have that love for men in general — and so I think the “rules of society” applied to men in my head, but went right out the window when it came to my partner. I think this distinction is interesting, just because I think it makes it more obvious that it’s a learned behavior, and also because it makes it more likely that most women probably feel this way.
Over time, I’ve noticed the more comfortable I become with my own tears, my own vulnerabilities, and my own displays of emotion… the more comfortable I become with seeing everybody else display those things, no matter who they are. I’ve seen grown men crying in public, and it makes me want to run over to them and give them a hug. I don’t hold back emotions anymore, and I don’t want anyone else to do so.
I also think that if a woman is uncomfortable with you crying, that’s probably a good indicator that she is someone you don’t need to be with. Because you cannot fully express yourself to her.
Today, seeing men cry makes me feel like I love them even more. Crying is therapeutic. It’s a good thing.”
“I believe there is no shame in crying, but society has led many men to suppress their tears, in fear of appearing weak. That’s unfortunate, because I often find it endearing when men cry. There have been many times during our 37 year marriage when my husband has cried in front of me.
Sometimes his tears are in response to a happy life event, maybe a proud moment in the life of a loved one, or it could be over sadness or fear about a health concern, his own or someone else’s.
He is just as likely to shed tears over an emotional scene in a TV show or movie, which to me shows great empathy.
My husband has always been compassionate and comforting when I have cried, and I love that he trusts me to be the strong one for him when he needs support. It shows that he is comfortable in his masculinity, and that he trusts in our relationship enough to be vulnerable.”
– Jane G.
“A letter to my partner,
When you cry my heart cracks open. I soften to the vulnerability that fills the room. It’s beautiful to both be witness to a powerful display of true masculinity and be given the growth opportunity of learning how to love and support you better when your heart hurts. I believe that in order to fully show up in the world you must know and trust all facets of yourself within the human experience. When you cry, I trust my heart with you. When you cry, I trust my love with you. I trust that you will be honest with me about how you are feeling and in your capacity to love me with your whole heart. I trust that this is raw and real and deep in all the ways partnership needs to be. When you cry I melt and strengthen at once, and the space I create to hold you is created for a king.”
“When I’m in the presence of a man who drops into his vulnerability and allows me to witness his emotional expression, my immediate thought is “Wow, this guy is brave, he’s a true leader and I am honoured to be in the presence of such honesty.” For me, I see men’s expression of vulnerability as strength. I immediately feel safer in their presence, because I know on some level a man who’s in touch with his emotional inner landscape, who is strong enough to be witnessed in it, and aware enough to powerfully and respectfully express his inner world, is a man I can trust with the expression of my heart.
In other words men like this often have the skills, emotional attunement and respect to hold the truth of my vulnerable expression because it’s terrain he’s already explored within himself. I consider men who are responsive to their emotions as more trustworthy (as long as it’s authentic and not being used as a tool for manipulation-which can sometimes be the case- and as a woman connected to my intuition I can feel the difference immediately). As a woman, to hold that very sacred space for a man is something I cherish. The men in my life who have blessed me with the gift of seeing them fully, I can full heartedly say I have the deepest respect and adoration for.”
“Context is everything, but generally speaking I recognize that most men grow up with the cultural conditioning that tells them, “boys don’t cry”. So if my man chose to come to me for emotional support (alongside his community and any professionals he’s seeing), then I would feel deeply honoured to be in the presence of his growth… and a man doing his inner work is sexy AF.
It takes fucking balls (or ovaries) to challenge our conditioning. As a social species we all have core needs for love, safety and belonging. Think back to ancient times; we wouldn’t last long without our tribe. That’s still imprinted in our nervous system today. So when we choose to go against our early programming, our bodies often react in a way that feels like facing the fear of death if we’re rejected or ostracized… especially by those we love! It can be intense.
So how could I not see the strength and courage in his tears? It becomes an opportunity for me to embody compassion, not shame his humanity. In his vulnerability I can feel his heart.
It can also be deep in my feminine nature to want to care take and soothe, but I’ve found that simply holding space is all that is needed (similar to how I want to be treated when I’m feeling emotional). I do my best to recognize it’s not my job to fix him, save him, or mother him till he feels “better”. Because nothing is actually wrong with his tears. He’s just moving energy through his body as humans naturally do and it will pass. He’s strong and empowered enough to feel it. All that’s required of me is to witness him from a state of acceptance, safety and love, which is how the actual healing occurs. And what a gift it is to be able to provide that space for each other when needed.”
– Amy Meraki
“I would love there to be a societal shift where crying (particularly for men) isn’t seen as something that is weak, feminine, or hormonal. Rather, simply seen for what it really is, a release of immense emotion.”
“I believe it’s a beautiful honor to witness the feelings of another.
To be trusted to share in the depths of someone’s happiness, pain, grief, sadness, or bliss can be incredibly bonding.
As a deeply feeling person, relationships and communication have always been easier for me with men who feel deeply as well. Knowing that my partner could “go there” with me, even if only occasionally, built an element of trust and a much deeper level of connection.
I’ve had partners in the past who’ve been able to cry freely in front of me. Those were some of the most memorable moments in our relationship and times I felt closest to them. It was as if I had been gifted access to an extra special layer of their being and was able to understand who they were at the core, so much more.
I’ve also had partners that seemed unable to feel much at all. Not by any fault of their own – mostly thru the conditioning of how they were raised, and an almost insurmountable need to be/feel/seem like the tough guy that could handle anything.
When emotions are stifled, pushed down, or unable to be acknowledged by my partner, it feels like an invisible wall is simultaneously being built up to keep me and others out. As if there’s an unspoken attempt on their part to hide a bit of themselves from the world, perhaps even from them self.
I often realize this isn’t personal, but when in a committed relationship with someone I love, the feeling that I’m being shut out or not getting the true picture of what’s really going on with my partner can be a challenge to intimacy.
The men in my life who’ve been unable to cry or express much emotion have also had a hard time understanding my feelings or those of others – no matter how much they wanted to.
The tears of another could make them incredibly uncomfortable, as they aren’t something these men had ever really learned how to deal with. This, at times when I wasn’t as strong in my sense of self, would make me find it easier to not be fully self expressed or show the depth of my emotions around them. The lack of empathy, understanding, or validation of what I was feeling at the time was often more uncomfortable than the feeling that brought my tears in the first place. This created a vicious cycle of two people squashing tears, feelings, words, and emotions. Within the confines of a committed relationship, this has definitely been a recipe for confusion, resentment, and eventually the crumbling of what we wanted to build together.
I would love there to be a societal shift where crying (particularly for men) isn’t seen as something that is weak, feminine, or hormonal. Rather, simply seen for what it really is, a release of immense emotion. Not only would our relationships with each other likely be stronger, but our understanding of ourselves would be as well.
It’s always seemed to me that the men I’ve known who allow themselves to cry in front of others, or cry at all for that matter, are the ones that appear to experience all of life at greater depths. It’s been my observation that they enjoy everything more. Food, friendships, sex, entertainment, travel, and even relaxation seems a bit more satisfying when experienced by “deep feelers”.
The ones that hold back, or aren’t even all that sure about how to truly feel a wide range of emotions, sometimes seem to be living in a way of “going thru the motions”. They don’t get too mad, or sad, or worked up in ways that would generate tears or alert anyone to a lack of emotional range. But when enough time is spent with them, it can become apparent that they often don’t know the difference between existing and really living. In a way it’s tough to watch someone you love so much be responsible for their own life and emotions, while also knowing they may have no idea what would be in store for them if they stepped outside of the realm of feeling neutral about most things in life, or being in tough-guy mode.
We’re all a work in progress. Everyone is continually growing in their ability to process their experiences and enjoy life to the fullest. However, it’s been my experience that those who allow feelings to wash over them freely, even if those feelings make them cry, these are the ones that seem to ultimately find their way to a happier life the fastest.”
“When my partner cries in front of me I feel a combination of gratitude, responsibility and stillness. Anything else going on in my mind or body goes completely quiet and I want to focus all of my attention on them in a non-intimidating, soft way. It reminds me of walking in a forest and the moment I realize a deer is watching me. I want to appreciate my partner’s surrender so I ground myself, drop into my body, and try not to react too quickly. I hope to let the tears flow as much or as little as they need to before I say anything. I’ll want to hold them and be physically close.
I’ve noticed I’m more moved by when my partner cries than anyone else in my life because I can sense that the tears had to move through multiple layers of resistance to crying at all, and especially in front of me. Just the fact that the tears made it through that assumed pressure to “man up” and to this moment takes courage and feels important. I think there’s strength and beauty in surrender so I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to connect and support my partner on a more meaningful level. The experience also carries a sense of responsibility because I know my partner has been shamed for showing his emotions in the past and I really want to be a step in the positive direction. The more I can demonstrate their feelings are safe and appreciated by me I hope they’ll feel a little more comfortable the next time they consider bringing it to me. Ultimately, I hope my partner will grow to trust all emotions are safe in my presence and by experiencing them in front of each other, we can help lighten the emotional load we carry throughout the rest of life.”
– Elaine K.
“From my perspective, it engenders a lot of respect to see a man who is comfortable feeling anything; even, and especially, what makes him uncomfortable and what affects him most deeply. I think this is profound to see in anyone, not just men. It shows a man has mastered himself to the point where he faces everything he’s got in order to progress through it. It also shows he’s willing to share more of himself, and that he trusts me enough to reveal himself more fully.
What can be frustrating is that if a man never shows how he’s feeling, and tries to keep the lid tightly shut on any emotions he doesn’t feel comfortable expressing, I can feel the incongruence between his actions, and what he is really thinking and feeling. The outside no longer matches the inside. This can create a sense of mistrust because deep inside, I know he’s not being open and honest with me, nor is he being open and honest with himself.”
– Maria C.
The idea that women can’t accept male emotions is completely false. It isn’t that women can’t accept male emotions (it isn’t a gender thing at all), but simply that any emotionally suppressed person will have a significantly harder time accepting someone else’s emotions.
Suppressing our emotions to fit some arbitrary gender-box is a significant factor in what leads men to become suicide statistics, mass shooters, rapists, and murderers. If we aren’t letting our emotions be what they are day to day, then they will mount into an all-consuming erupting volcano of unmanageability.
If this article touches you, I implore you to send this to a man who you think might need to read it.
Dedicated to your success,
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