Men have a hard time asking for help, but talking to someone is healthy
The research is pretty clear that talking to someone, even a friend or family member, does help with almost everything we might struggle with from stress to depression, etc. Some studies have shown that talk therapy is as effective if not more effective than medication for many issues.
We aren’t taught to express our feelings. Sometimes we are actually taught to hold our feelings in, that crying is weak or for girls. Many of us were raised to be tough and strong and never show weakness. Often the only emotion we’re encouraged to show is anger and aggression, which is very functional and somewhat essential for sports, but not for relationships. Some strengths come from this, but there are also huge downsides that usually start to show up in adulthood, especially in our relationships with significant others. If we’re taught to not show feelings and to push down any unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings, we don’t learn to even know what we’re feeling. How can you express what you’re feeling when you don’t even know what you’re feeling?
Men aren’t good at talking about their feelings or problems, but they feel better when they do.
We men are lousy at knowing how we feel and at expressing our feelings. This usually creates problems in our relationships with women since women generally want their partners to be able to express their feelings. Saying how you feel is especially hard when you don’t know what you’re feeling. Or maybe you mostly feel anger.
Often what pushes guys to finally get help is their wives telling them they have to.
Though it’s a gross generalization, guys often say something along the lines that they are happy as long as they’re having sex and their woman isn’t complaining. Women tend to be much more complex than us, though, so for though of us who want to be in relationships with women, we have to get better about this. Sometimes for guys the hardest thing they’ll ever do in their lives is the work necessary on themselves to be better husbands and better fathers. But it’s worth it.
Men and Depression
Everybody gets bummed out, including men. Male depression can look a little different than female depression, with guys sometimes being more likely to feel angry and irritable than sad. Guys tend to fall into the unhealthy habit of not talking about how we’re feeling, which generally makes us feel worse. Men are raised to hold their feelings in and not acknowledge sadness. We’re also taught to not ask for help, to not reach out. This is a recipe for trouble when a guy is feeling down. Usually talking actually helps, even if it might be uncomfortable at first.
Sometimes men use alcohol and drugs to avoid feeling their feelings. Sometimes alcohol or drugs create problems of their own.
Even for guys who don’ have addictions, substances can be effective, at least in the short term, at numbing feelings, at making it so you don’ have to feel the uncomfortable feelings like sadness and loneliness and grief.
And sometimes alcohol and drugs create problems. For example, if you only have anger issues when you drink, the problem may not be anger. It might be you have a problem with alcohol. Whenever I hear a guy tell me he only fights with his wife or is only verbally abusive when he drinks, it makes me want to look at the possibility that alcohol is the primary problem. Or sometimes men will only experience deep sadness when they drink, in which case the problem may not be depression but is actually alcohol.
Men, Relationships, and Fidelity
Men sometimes struggle with relationships and fidelity in ways that women don’t and in ways that women have a hard time understanding. Men evolved over millions and millions of years to seek out lots of sex with as many partners as possible. Men are naturally wired to find other women attractive regardless of how much they love or are attracted to their wives. This shouldn’t be an excuse for infidelity, but it’s also something men shouldn’t be ashamed of. It also explains why men often want to be intimate more frequently than their wives, and it’s common for this to be a source of tension in male-female relationships. Usually, this is something couples have a hard time talking about and that men are frequently made to feel ashamed of. As a male therapist who’s worked with male clients for decades, I understand and can relate.
We just aren’t as good at relationships as our wives and girlfriends are. They were raised differently. They were raised to express their feelings, to think about the needs of the people around them, to put work into relationships. Frankly, it’s easier for them and they’re usually better at it than we are.
You may have some questions or concerns about therapy for men.
Do I have to talk about my feelings all the time?
No. You don’ have to become a woman. You don’t have to change who you are; but you can change your behavior. Getting better at talking about your feelings, especially during a hard time, will make you feel a lot better and give you the skills you need for the future.
But I want to continue being the strong man I’ve always been.
And you will. Asking for help and expressing your feelings actually take strength – more strength than it takes to keep pushing your feelings down. It actually takes a strong man to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a sign of true strength.
Am I going to have to talk about my childhood?
Not unless it’s pertinent. Sometimes your childhood experiences have absolutely nothing to do with what’s going on in the here and now, in which case it would be a total waste of time to talk about them. But sometimes there’s a direct connection between childhood experiences or relationships and the issues guys come to therapy for.
Talking can help
If you're ready to talk, call me at 512-590-9868.