We all know women are more emotional than men, right? Turns out this is not the case. Recent research indicates men have stronger emotional reactions than women do, but they suppress their emotions better. The result makes it look like men are less emotional.
Studies of men’s faces show they can have a stronger initial emotional reaction than women do. However, in a couple of seconds his face changes to hide his emotion, or even show the reverse of the original emotion.
Why do men hide their emotions? The most popular theory is necessity. When men go to war or go hunt food for their hungry family, they must stay focused on the goal. Emotions could cost them their life, or the lives of their family. Likewise when negotiating something vital, emotions can interfere with getting a good deal. For most of history, it has been important for men to be able to suppress their emotions, and it has become a social standard. Boys understand and enforce this even at a young age. Boys who show emotion become the target of bullying and harassment. This pushes those boys to learn to suppress their emotions.
It seems the male brain is wired to make emotion suppression easy. When women experience stress, the part of their brain that reads faces and emotions becomes more active. When men are stressed, the same parts of the brain become less active. Stress reduces a man’s ability to read other’s emotions. He loses empathy, making it easier to fight or take advantage.
Hiding emotions is a difficult habit to break. Even when we know it is okay, showing our emotions is hard. This is especially true for things like fear and sadness. Many men learn to cover “negative emotions” with something they see as more acceptable. Anger is the most common cover emotion, and it can become so automatic he is not even aware he does it.
Don’t Argue When He’s Stressed
Because stress shuts down his empathy, it is a bad idea to discuss things when he is stressed. If you can discuss difficult things when he feels relaxed, it will be easier for him to hear you and respond as he would like to respond.
Along the same lines, it is wise to avoid difficult discussion when either of you is hungry, tired, or feeling overdue for sex. Wisely choosing when to have hard talks will benefit both of you.
~ Paul – I’m XY, and “being emotional” got me hurt in school more than once