“Why does everything always have to be about feelings?” he thought feeling exasperated. He took a deep breath to calm himself down. After all, they were so happy to have found out that their offer for their new house was accepted. He didn’t want to ruin the moment.
“Like I said, it’s incredible news!” he said, emphasizing his excitement.
“But that’s not a feeling! Are you happy? Excited?” asked Uma looking for an opportunity to connect emotionally with her fiance.
Mihir wanted to roll his eyes. Instead he just joked, “You women with your obsession with feelings,” as he walked away to get a drink of water.
A conversation on emotions can be frustrating for men and women alike. Women maintain and increase their intimacy by talking about emotions; whereas South Asian men are often raised to express very few emotions. When they get into a serious relationship with a woman, most South Asian men have to learn how to express themselves emotionally as they were often discouraged from doing so at a younger age.
At the same time, South Asian women expect men to be able to express as openly, freely and in the same manner that they do, which is an unrealistic expectation. Aside from the differences in how South Asians raise boys versus girls, males have a different biology when it comes to emotions and emotion express which makes it almost impossible for them to share their emotions in the same way females share with each other.
This does not mean, men are incapable of expressing themselves emotionally. They just have to be encouraged differently than women. If you want your man to express himself more, here are a few tips on how to encourage him to open up to you:
1. Talk to him about emotional issues when you are engaged in another activity. Whether it be gardening, going for a walk, or fixing something around the house, men respond more openly when they are not engaged in a face to face conversation. Instead, they prefer being side by side and being physically active. This helps men reduce their anxiety and feel less vulnerable when they are sharing their thoughts with you
2. Laugh if he makes a joke. Men feel very vulnerable when they are sharing their emotions and often prefer to make jokes as a way to relieve tension. Their self-esteem is closely tied to knowing you find them attractive and desirable. A great way to show that is by laughing at his jokes. He will feel more confident and that will help him to continue to share his feelings with you.
3. Use humor yourself to help him feel comfortable. As long as it is not at his expense or intended to make him feel embarrassed, humor helps men feel more relaxed and reminds them that you are not turning against them to start a fight. When possible and appropriate, make a joke to help him relax into the conversation.
4. Avoid sentences with “You never” or “You always”. South Asian men will become very defensive as soon as you begin your sentences with any absolute worlds like always or never. If you want to say “You never tell me you love me”, try to identify what the real problem is and share that instead. For example, “I know you love me. But we are two different people and I’m not sure how you show me you love me.”
5. Speak in a language he understands. Women have their ways of talking to each other that men don’t understand. If he brings you flowers and you respond with, “You shouldn’t have”. Your girlfriends would understand that you are saying thank you but your boyfriend or husband will start to question whether he did something wrong. Next time, he may not buy you flowers and you will become upset. Expressing themselves through words or gestures makes South Asian men feel very vulnerable. If you want to appreciate him, say thank you. Speak in words that he does not have to translate or seek to find an alternate meaning. Men are not mind-readers. Set them up to succeed not to fail.
6. Model the behavior you want. Children, teens and adults often learn by watching others. If you want your boyfriend or husband to behave a certain way, behave that way yourself. Emotional expression is a strength that women have and sharing it, as opposed to punishing a man for not knowing how to do the same, will encourage him to try and be more open with you.
7. Be patient and trust him. If you are in a healthy relationship, trust that your boyfriend or husband wants to make you happy. If given the right opportunities, encouragement and support, he will become more open with you emotionally. But you must be patient. You have to remember that you are expecting him to do something that he has been told his entire life not to do. Reversing that and learning how to be open will take time. Trust him that he is doing the best that he can.
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