When I’m explaining expression of emotions to couples, I like to begin with the differences between men and women. Observation of women and men over a few decades has turned up the discovery that there is a significant difference. I bet you have noticed that! There are always exceptions, but generally speaking women are more in touch with how they feel about things than men. Seems like they are better able not only to feel emotion, but better able to express these emotions. It also appears that in most cases, women are uniquely wired up to do this. They don’t need to be taught to do so.
On the other hand, men are most often not very skilled at being able to express emotion. Not that men don’t feel the emotion; but it often comes out in inappropriate ways such as anger, aggression, silence and/or withdrawal. My best guess is this characteristic of a man’s emotional expression (or lack of it) is a result of our culture. In a way it seems generational. When I ask a man about how he learned to express emotion, he almost always describes how his father expressed, or failed to express emotion appropriately. When a father demonstrates emotion in the form of anger, silence or slamming the door on the way to the bar, it’s possible the son will adopt similar ways of behavior.
So, when we’re talking about healthy communication between couples, doing it well is very important. For those people who research these things, its been determined it takes 10-15 positive comments to offset one negative comment. Here’s my suggestion.
For the man – it’s a learning curve. Women have the advantage because as mentioned above, they seem to have been wired up to feel and be able to express emotion well. To keep up, us guys need to learn how to do the same. My strategy comes as a simple version of increasing your EQ, or Emotion Quotient. It’s a three step process. First, take a moment to identify the emotion you’re feeling. Put a word to it – label that emotion. Second, put that word which identifies your feeling into a sentence. For instance; “I’m feeling really frustrated right now.” Say that to your wife or girlfriend. Thirdly, learn to describe the reason why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. Say; “I’m feeling really frustrated right now because the traffic was so bad coming home from work.”
This may sound kind of simple, but try it 2-3 times a day for the next week. Your woman may think you swallowed a emotion pill, but that’s okay. She’ll be grateful that you’re learning to connect with her emotionally.