Style and Substance

Sally Meisenheimer and Michele Armani"Ask Style and Substance" 

Dear style & substance,

My partner never cries. I know he is having a really hard time right now but will not talk about it and will definitely not cry. I am hoping to have some insight into how to help him just let his emotions out by talking without embarrassment.

Crying is a natural human response to a wide range of emotions; sadness, grief, joy, and frustration. We are taught early in life about expressing emotion, yet very often crying is associated with weakness. Crying has also been linked to femininity, not masculinity, without simply honoring the humanity of this expression. We say waa waa to that. Crying is good for you! It soothes, it de-stresses, it releases toxins, it garners support and understanding, it informs both the crier and the listener, it causes others to feel deep emotion, and in the end crying can actually lift spirits.

In 1913, German psychopathologist, Karl Jaspers likened the inability to feel as “the feeling that one doesn’t have any more feelings, the subjective blocking of thought.” Never crying can be linked to the inability to truly feel and speak of any negative emotion. This bottling up stifles one’s self but also prevents intimacy and closeness in relationships. We think you are looking for this intimacy of better expression and dialogue rather than tears alone.

It takes courage and self-awareness for the non-crier to break free. It takes encouragement, patience, listening and support to stand by and allow this to happen. Be there to talk and clarify (not fix) his emotions with him. When people aren’t used to expressing; they generally have three go-to emotions; happy, sad and mad. Clarifying takes the black and white of these three and puts it into living color, allowing the emotion to take shape and intensity. When we organically allow this conversation to flow and evolve, so much more is said and understood.

We believe in equal opportunity for all emotions. Healthy expression of emotions takes much less energy than holding onto emotion. It may be helpful for him to know that when he does not share, you don’t know how he is feeling and you naturally make up your own story to fill in the blanks that he is leaving in your relationship. It is also valuable to know that we don’t need to unpack and live permanently in this unhappy place that crying may bring us to, but need to clear the air and ‘rain’ a little just as clouds do when they become too ‘heavy’.

In changing any learned behavior, it’s important to acknowledge that we are programmed by our past. Our teachers or parents may have had the best intentions but also may have been misguided in demonstrating healthy emotions. We can appreciatively thank these trailblazers for the positive impacts they have had but be willing to recognize the traits that can use refurbishing. It is never too late to shed those learned expectations and become your own unique emotional self.

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