Relationship Fitness

S22 E5: Feeling Safe Enough to Cry

In this episode of Relationship Workout for Men, host Vince Vasquez and Dr. Rivka Edery explore the importance of men feeling safe enough to cry, addressing societal expectations and personal beliefs that hinder emotional expression. They discuss practical strategies for embracing vulnerability and fostering genuine empathy to strengthen intimate relationships.

Vince Speaking:

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner and being a better partner to the person they choose. Season 22: Emotional Alchemy: Turning Trauma into Connection. I’m speaking today with Dr. Rivka Edery, who’s a highly respected psychologist deeply committed to advancing mental wellness and guiding individuals through the intricate journey of trauma recovery. We’re in episode five: Feeling Safe Enough to Cry. In this episode, we’re going to discuss how men can overcome obstacles that prevent them from digging deeper into their emotional landscape and showing true empathy for their partners. Welcome, Rivka. What do you think about this topic?

 

Dr. Rivka Edery Speaking:

Well, firstly, thanks so much for having me on your show again. It’s a pleasure to be here. You know, men deserve to feel safe enough to cry, and often, because of childhood trauma and because of the expectations and the treatment and social expectations around masculinity, there are several key obstacles that prevent men from digging deeper into their emotional landscape and showing genuine empathy for themselves and their partners. So let’s first look at the function of crying. So what happens when a man cries and there’s a release. There’s grief, sadness, things that are held inside, and that release is honoring the parts of the man that have been wounded, hurt, shamed. There are a lot of men that are walking around with profound wounds of shame where they just don’t talk about it, they don’t process; they just need to get on with the business of living. Be a tough guy or turn energy into sports or shut down or be aggressive.

 

But men need to feel safe enough to cry. Just like women do.

 

Expressing genuine empathy can be challenging for men because of societal expectations, how men are conditioned culturally, and personal beliefs.

 

I would also add their protector parts. So what kind of protector parts are formed to shield or to keep those vulnerable exiles from coming out of hiding or to be hurt again? These protector parts don’t want these exiles to be hurt again.

 

It’s essential. However, that vulnerability, that being, that ability, that willingness to make space for emotions and then communicate that with your partners.

 

So let’s start with recognizing emotional unavailability. But what that means here is that you have very strong protectors that are active and that are center stage. If you’ve been told you’re emotionally unavailable or distant, acknowledge it without self-judgment, pause, and try to imagine how hard your inner protectors have been working all these years. Understand that emotional awareness is a very necessary and rewarding goal for men in therapy. Reframe the situation; instead of catastrophizing it, recognize that change is possible over time, especially if it’s done 1% at a time.

 

The next is to challenge false beliefs because we act on what we believe in. Men and women, males and females, will act on what the belief is. Beliefs are extremely powerful. If you look at the placebo effect studies in science where a group will believe that this little pink pill is going to reduce their migraines by 50%. And they’re given a sugar pill, and it happens to reduce their migraines, we can see that one’s beliefs are so powerful that a non-drug can have the same effect as a drug. That’s the placebo effect. So addressing beliefs is very powerful. It’s very important.

 

Men often see themselves as rational, logical, or problem solvers first. Most of my male clients and their counterparts will say yes, he wants to fix it. There’s a problem; jumping into fixing it, and that’s not bad or good. That’s an approach. Recognizing that being emotional doesn’t mean overwhelming emotions. It doesn’t mean you will cry forever. Although a lot of men are afraid if they start crying, they’ll never stop. Emotional attunement can be as simple as describing what you experience moment to moment.

 

The next is embracing self-awareness, like we talked about in earlier episodes, to carve out time for introspection and reflection. Explore your emotions, thoughts, and reactions to different situations with a sense of curiosity, a sense of none of my feelings or my thoughts are bad or good. I’m curious about them, and I want to give them space.

 

Be mindful of distractions, busyness, and boredom. Okay? Because this hinders emotional connections.

 

Understand empathy differences. Research shows that women tend to recognize facial expressions of emotions better. Empathy involves both recognizing another’s emotions and expressing sympathy. Men may appear less empathic due to differences in emotional expression. So here is where tuning in to parts of you, your protectors, and your exiles with empathy, with curiosity that leads to openness, bridges the man to shift from problem-solving mode — So going from I must fix it to let me take time out and notice and name what I’m feeling. If I’m too scared to cry, what’s the function of that? What will I gain if I don’t cry? And that’s usually avoiding vulnerability.

 

So let’s talk about normalizing vulnerability.

 

So we talked about how males are socialized to be a certain way. What is and isn’t acceptable. If men can recognize that vulnerability is a strength and not a weakness, that women will respect and appreciate seeing that human side of their partner. You as the man can allow yourself to be emotionally vulnerable, and that bridges that connection and that growth in your relationship.

 

So remember that emotional attunement and empathy are essential skills both for yourself and your parts and for your partner in order to nurture a fulfilling relationship, a skillful relationship. It’s okay to feel and express emotions. It doesn’t diminish your masculinity; It only makes you human. Trust that showing vulnerability can deepen your bond, can deepen your connection and the trust with you and your partner, and strengthen your overall marriage, or home, or love relationship. Does that make sense?

 

Vince Speaking:

Absolutely. I wanted to click in a little bit to a point you made. So as a man in a marriage or in a relationship — but speaking of the role of being in a marriage — one of our roles, if you will, is to keep the family safe. Can you talk to the experience of the partner: what are her feelings, and how is she going to look at her husband crying in the spirit of he’s supposed to keep the house safe. Isn’t him showing that vulnerability showing to his partner that he cannot keep the house safe in that moment? Is He showing that he’s somehow broken or somehow not able to fulfill that role of keeping the house safe?

 

Dr. Rivka Edery Speaking:

So that’s a good question. You know, I have never in my many years of couples counseling, I have never had a woman berate or be worried that her husband couldn’t continue their protective role. There’s always been that. Wow. Like I haven’t seen him cry in X amount of years or this is the first time I’ve seen him cry since our wedding. Or she asks me: How did you do that? If a man ends up crying all the time and they can’t function, obviously that requires professional support; In IFS parlance, you know, that’s the protectors relaxing and allowing these exiles to come out and get some air.

 

So if the partner can reframe it in that way, you know, he’s finally feeling safe to cry, and this is a sign of feeling safe, then the man is on the way towards a healing journey. Because usually, after a set amount of time, you wrap up the crying and then you go back to you know the protectors come out again and they’re like alright, you know, we’re back, you know you had your time, you know you’re not gonna cry forever. So that’s my take on it.

 

Vince Speaking:

Absolutely. So I guess the takeaway there is that there really isn’t a downside to being more genuine. I guess it’s finding your more genuine place, you know, and it’s okay to show those vulnerabilities; it’s okay to show that more genuine side of yourself to your partner. Your wife, for instance, I think would appreciate knowing the more genuine person that you are. You could go through life, and your wife doesn’t really know you that well if you keep those emotions bottled up.

 

Dr. Rivka Edery Speaking:

Exactly. And I can tell you from working with so many couples what you just said, that the wife would always appreciate that, in my clinical practice. That’s been the case. I don’t know what goes on when they go home behind closed doors, but on my couch, when men finally feel safe enough to cry, it’s a real shift changer.

 

Um, I’m thinking of a particular case where I thought it was absolutely — I don’t want to use the word hopeless — but the husband, I don’t think he shed a tear since he was five. He was in law enforcement, a tough guy, really tough guy, and they were basically heading towards divorce. I mean they were done because he was very shut down. He wouldn’t talk about his feelings, and we did some good work together, and he started feeling safe, and he just spontaneously talked about how long he knew his wife and how long they were married. These are very standard introductory questions. And he got very emotional, and he said how much he loved her, and he was fighting his tears, like fighting and denying he was crying, and the wife just softened. They softened, and they kept coming back and doing the work. Well, you know, I’m pretty hands-on with exercises and homework, and the relationship transformed; there was no more talk of divorce. They were talking about building a loving family and their son and the future children they were going to have. And the shift, the pivot, happened when he no longer fought against himself from crying. And this is one of numerous examples, numerous examples. As soon as the wife tells me oh don’t bother, he, you know, I haven’t seen him cry since the wedding day, I know that to me what goes off is he hasn’t felt safe to cry. Because if you’re sitting on my couch and you’re here for couples counseling, you must love and care for something, whether it’s your spouse, the kids, the marriage, trying to do better; you’re caring about something. And so that’s just one example. But there are many examples of men feeling safe enough to cry and what that’s done in their marriage. The pivot, it’s not everything because the skills-building, learning how to do that dance of intimacy takes time and vulnerability. But a pivot point is when the woman could look in the man’s eyes and see the vulnerability, see the care, see the emotions, and at least in my experience, you know, I know there are numerous fantastic couples therapists and therapists, and you know they may have a different take. But this has been my experience, and it’s touched me and inspired my practice tremendously. So I hope that answers your question.

 

Vince Speaking:

What great insights. Thank you. We’re gonna wrap up this episode, Episode five. Excuse me? Episode five. But thank you again, I’m just, I’m, you’re leaving me thinking about a lot of stuff. So I really appreciate the insights.

In the next episode, episode six, we’re gonna talk about practicing empathy but when you’ve cheated.

Dr. Rivka Edery is a highly respected psychologist deeply committed to advancing mental wellness and guiding individuals through the intricate journey of trauma recovery. With over 15 years of hands-on experience, Dr. Edery is a steadfast beacon of support for those on the path to healing from trauma. Her unwavering dedication to the field of psychology is underscored by her remarkable accomplishments, clinical expertise, and profound philosophical perspective.

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