What if He’s More Emotional Than You Are?

Are you tired of hearing how women are more emotional than men? Some intriguing research* suggests this is not the case.

What if He's More Emotional Than You Are?

It may be that men are just better at stuffing their emotions. This is likely not a surprise to many of you. 

It’s easy to blame the whole “big boys don’t cry” mentality, but the issue runs much deeper. For much of history, men had to be tough so they could do tough things. Hunting food requires being able to suppress your emotions. Not just the whole “shooting Bambi” thing, there’s the very real difficulties and dangers of stalking food with a bow when there are other animals who see you as food. Then there’s the reality that taking an emotional time out during a war is a good way to take a permanent time out from life. These things have certainly shaped how men expect other men to behave. I would expect God to have wired us so we could do and survive these things; things women have not traditionally had to do.

The one emotion men seem to feel far more strongly than women is a reaction to heart-warming things. I find this interesting because it wouldn’t be an issue during things like war or hunting. In one study* fifteen men and fifteen women watched various videos while skin electrodes measured their physiological responses. For videos that were blissful, exciting, or funny, men showed slightly stronger emotional reactions than women. But for heart-warming, men showed twice the response women showed.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I always tear up when the underdog overcomes adversity. 

* Most of what I can find is small sample sizes and not yet reproduced. But a growing body of research is bringing common assumptions about men’s and women’s emotions into question. This news article mentions the study that found men were more moved by heartwarming scenes.

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12 Comments on “What if He’s More Emotional Than You Are?

  1. It’s an interesting subject; personally, I think that a study has to include other common factors like spiritual and social background.

    As a Soto Zen Buddhist (and Christian), I simply ‘see’ things differently from most. My emotions are skewed about 45 degrees from those of my wife, and about 60 degrees from most of the people in my middle-class Christian social group. What others find heartwarming I often find cloying, and in what many see as coldly formal I see – or think I see – nuances of very deep feeling.

    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 205 – Patient FailMy Profile

  2. Just an interesting observation:
    My husband had heart surgery several years back and one of the things he had a hard time dealing with was his uncontrollable emotions. He would start crying watching a movie or suddenly become very sad for what he thought was no reason.
    It drove him crazy because he felt he had no control over himself or his emotions.
    I just smiled and said, “welcome to the female world.”

    He has since talked with others who have had the same experience post heart surgery.
    No one has an explanation as to why that happend but at least he got a feel for the female emotional condition. He can now relate a wee bit. .
    He is SO glad he wasn’t born female. But, I know it’s in him :)

  3. I’ve thought for a long time that men were at least as emotional as women, if not more so, but the cultural pressures to hide them turn our perceptions upside down. One problem is that men are expected to keep feelings that indicate “softness” inside, but we are allowed to express negative emotions like anger, because that indicates “strength.”

    The exception to this has been men in the arts. In my own field of music, it’s okay, even expected, that men can be “expressive” through the music they compose or perform. But even there, such expression doesn’t mean the man is emotionally healthy. In fact, history is replete with stories of artistic men who had stormy, emotionally unstable live, were antisocial. went insane, or were at least rather neurotic. Nowadays, if a man shows emotional sensitivity through his art, he’s assumed to be effeminate or homosexual.

    I’ve had a hard time getting my wife to believe that our older son isn’t an unemotional cold fish. He feels things very deeply but is afraid of losing control, so he hides his emotions.. I, for one, am tired of the stereotype of the strong man who is a loner, hiding his emotions and hardening his heart (think “Desperado” by The Eagles).

    I also had open heart surgery almost 7 years ago. I didn’t find that I was losing emotional control, but I did find that staring death in the face changed the way I looked at life, so my priorities were rearranged, and I learned to let things go that would have made me angry before, as well as acknowledge love and beauty more, because I nearly lost it all.

    • Couple of thoughts:

      1. I find it odd that many men (not all) who claim they don’t want to lose control of themselves emotionally do just that with their tempers. Apparently, anger and rage are “manly” and “powerful” enough emotions for a “real man” to express.

      2. A man being vulnerable enough to lose control of his emotions is akin to a man wishing his wife would be vulnerable enough to lose control with an orgasm during sex. He’s uptight about emotions and feels expressing them is feminine and weak. She us uptight about sex and feels expressing herself sexually is unfeminine and weak(perverted).

      Think about it.

      • What we have to remember about our emotions, as well as our rational thoughts, is that we are fallen creatures in a fallen world. All of these things that show emotions out of whack, like men with out of control anger or women who can’t express themselves sexually or any other example of unhealthy emotions, are really the result of the Fall. Human beings consist of spirit, soul, and body. And the soul is usually defined as the mind, the emotions, and the will. The will in rebellion against God will always choose wrong thoughts and actions.

        Emotions are things that happen to us, hence they are often called passions, because we are passive. But the will can choose to act on emotions in ways that are sinful or holy. We are called to “take every thought captive” to God. I think we are also to take every emotion captive. We tend to excuse a lot of sin by claiming an emotional basis for our actions.

        It’s not really a male/female thing. It’s a fallen human thing. And as we walk by the Spirit, we are gradually conformed to the image of Christ. That will include men not stuffing emotions down or exploding in rage. And it will include women who are able to express themselves sexually with their husbands. And it will include every kind of emotion we experience as we hand them over to God.

      • @libl – I think you are dead right on the second point. At their roots, the fears are the same.
        And yes, many men feel okay or even good about letting their anger run free. And often it’s the only way they have of keeping the “unmanly” emotions in check. Feel sad, in danger of crying? Get angry and yell!
        Paul Byerly recently posted…Are Trivial Arguments Destroying Your Marriage?My Profile

  4. I’d say this is definitely true for my guys (husband and son). They both cry in movies, and in real life, about animals, crimes against people, injustices, etc. etc. etc. I love this about them!

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