Seth and Avery came in for their first counseling session with Bob. It went like this… (names are fictitious to protect privacy.)
Seth: I knew we had problems communicating and sometimes we’d argue, but I was shocked when Avery said she wanted a divorce.
Avery: I’ve been telling him for years that I was unhappy and he never got it, until now, when I said I was done. I just don’t feel the connection. I love him but I am not “in love” with him anymore.
Seth: Is that when you started to talk to your old boyfriend on Facebook?
Avery: Yes, but nothing really happened; we just texted each other and met for lunch once.
Seth: 500 texts is not “nothing!” And meeting up for lunch! How would you feel if I met up with my old girlfriend for lunch?
Avery (to Bob): You see. I can’t talk to him. All he does is get angry.
Bob: What do you think is under his anger?
Avery: I don’t know.
Bob: He is hurt. He feels wounded because you reached out to another man.
Avery: He doesn’t get hurt, he only gets angry.
Bob: It may look that way because men don’t show their hurt the way women do. Women may say they feel sad or cry, but when men hurt they stuff it and withdraw, or they cover it up with anger so they don’t feel vulnerable. It’s often difficult for men to express their pain, but that doesn’t mean it is not there.
Often in our practice we see women who don’t understand that men share the same capacity for feeling deeply wounded and hurt. It’s vital to understand and respond to your partner’s pain.
Here are three tips for responding to your man when he is hurting:
- Believe that men do feel hurt, just like women. Although he may not talk about it or openly express his feelings, or cry when he has emotional pain, he hurts every bit as much as you do.
- Ask him what he is thinking about, not what he is feeling. Generally men have an easier time expressing their thoughts as opposed to their feelings so drawing out what he is thinking may work best to get the conversation started.
- Vocalize and validate the feelings for him. Reflect the feelings you believe he is expressing, e.g. “I can see that I really hurt you.” And empathize with his pain.
Watch this video to hear us talk more in depth about men and hurt in relationships.