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).