Tag Archives: empathy

Ask Steve

Q.  I’m a 29-year-old male and my girlfriend is 26. We’ve been dating about six months and I want to get married right away while she wants to wait another six months until she feels more secure about the relationship. We’ve argued several times about this in the last several weeks, but she doesn’t seem to get it. The other night we had another argument about setting the date and I actually began to cry and begged her to marry me sooner. I thought that when I cried it would show her how much I cared about her and that I was a sensitive man who could openly express my feelings of sadness and disappointment, but it had just the opposite effect. It seemed to shut her down and she became more aloof and we had a hard time continuing the conversation. What gives? I thought women wanted a man who was sensitive and could show his feelings.

A. When a woman says she wants a sensitive man in her life, what she is really asking for is a man who is first and foremost sensitive to her and her feelings. A woman feels most cared for and understood by a man who is sensitive and open enough in ways that take her feelings and needs into consideration as well as his own. We call that empathy. Empathy is the ability to “connect with” and “feel with” another human being. She is not asking for agreement as much as she is asking for her feelings, emotions, and ideas to be heard and acknowledged by him. To her, this signifies the qualities of a sensitive man.

Most likely, when you began to cry and beg her to marry you, in spite of
how she felt, she began to feel overwhelmed and turned off in two important areas. First, that somehow you really were not sensitive to her feelings in this matter and that she didn’t feel heard again.

Second, when you bring your girlfriend your tears and make her feel blamed for them, you are asking her to carry your emotional burden as well as her own, and that can be very overwhelming for a woman dealing with her own issues, fears and concerns. In that sense, it is about a man giving a woman a part of his emotional life that he has no business giving.

In order to resolve this issue, I would suggest that you begin to listen and learn more about your girlfriend’s true feelings and why they are important to her, and blame no more. Also, it seems to me that there are some strong emotions behind your tears. I would begin to look at what fears and wounds lie in your tears.

One way to do this is by working with a therapist or a men’s support group to help you uncover and resolve the feelings of anxiety and fear which come up for you around your girlfriend’s disagreement with you about the date of your wedding. Then, if you need to share your feelings of sadness and disappointment with her, you will be able to do it in the context of helping her understand you better, based on what you’ve learned about yourself, instead of making the problem about her.

Steve Mandell is a therapist at the Apex Westland office (734-729-3133).

“Why Women Feel Guilty & Men Don’t Care”

As taken from the Scottish news, the Daily Record.

New research shows men feel much less guilt than women. Whether it’s something like forgetting an aniversary, or a bigger transgression,  men are less likely to feel remorse, sorrow, empathy or anger.

Women will tie themselves in knots of regrets and shame, for the slightest failing.

Researchers questioned almost 300 people between the ages 15 and 50 about common situations that made them feel bad.

The results showed, generally speaking, that men were more self-centered with their biggest feelings of guilt coming from over-eating or drinking too much, rather than how their behavior affects others.

Women worry far more about hurting people and while men shrug mistakes off, women turn their guilt or shame into anger at themselves.

Itziar Etxebarria, of the University of Basque County, said: “Educational practices and a whole range of socializing agents must be used to reduce the trend towards anxious-aggressive guilt among women  and to strenghten interpersonal sensitivity among men.”

Such is the female nature that in the battle of the sexes, even if women were winning, they would feel bad about it.

Traditionally, women are hard-wired to care for others while men concentrate on their own wants and needs.

And while the male and female roles in work, family, and society may appear to have changed, it’s a surface difference.

Acceptable behavior may have changed, but feelings haven’t. One expert believes it could take hundreds of years for men to “emotionally evolve.”

Dr. Cynthia McVey, head of the department of psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “Historically, women’s behavior has been under scrutiny. Sexual behavior, maternal behavior, drinking behavior and so on have been monotiored by society. That means there’s a history that’s meant women have  felt shame and guilt.

“Men haven’t had that kind of scruitny because society thought, ‘boys will be boys.’ Women are the nurtures and have been reared to care and be sensistive to the needs of others.

“Men have, up until a few years ago, have been the ones who were nurtured. They were the breadwinners and women were more responsible for looking after people, making them feel good and feel better.

“To have that evolve out of somebody’s psyche would take many years, if not centuries.”

Dr. McVey says exams show the differences in basic psychology between men and women.

She said: “If a woman fails an exam and you asked her why she failed, she’d say, ‘Because I’m stupid, I just can’t do it.’

“Ask a man the same question and he’ll say, ‘The room was too hot or the room was too cold or someone upset me on the way here.’ That’s a very different perception of fault.

“Women probably worry too much and probably go over and over things in their mind afterwards. Guys just deal with it and get on with it.”

Women, she believes, are governed by what society thinks and made to feel guilty, which is a destructive emotion.

“The problem is, it doesn’t get you anywhere,” said Dr. McVey. “The best thing you can do is say I’ve made a mistake, how can I remedy it?

“If you can’t remedy it you have to move forward but tell yourself you’ll learn from it and won’t repeat it.”

She believes in coping strategies, such as telling a friend, going for a walk, or listening to music, can take the edge off anxieties.

“Don’t feel guilty. It’s bad for you and can make you ill.”

Do you worry too much? Take the test:

Decide whether you are more liketly to agree or disagree with these scenarios.

1. You promise to meet an old friend for lunch but cancel at the last minute. The feeling that she’s annoyed is keeping you awake.

2. You work through your lunch break to leave the office on time.

You snap at a friend who asked if you wanted anything when she went for a sandwich.

You feel bad for being stressed.

3. You and your partner have the first weekend off in months but he spends Saturday in the bar.

When he gets home you shout at him and feel guilty.

4.  A friend is ill but after work, picking the kids up, running errands and seeing your parents, you didn’t have time to visit. You feel you’ve let her down.

5. You’ve stopped going out with friends because you don’t think you’re good company.

If you agreed to one or more, you are worrying too much and should take action to remedy it.

If you answered no to all of them, you’re a man.