Cry like a man: How women really want their men to show emotion

When men cry, only 29 per cent say they confide in their partner, a new survey shows. Marjan_Apostolovic/Getty Images

Despite what men may think or what “social norms” may still exist, women actually do prefer a man who isn’t afraid to wear his emotions on his sleeve, a new survey has found.

According to the survey of 1,500 people by Elite Singles, 95 per cent of women say they prefer a man who is open about his emotions, while 97 per cent say they find that men crying is considered either strong, natural or healthy.

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Yet one in six men still believes that women don’t want to see them show their emotions, despite the finding that men are more likely to cry because of love than women (13 per cent vs. 11 per cent, respectively).

“This disparity between how men imagine women perceive their behaviour, and how women actually perceive men certainly goes a long way to explaining why many men feel they shouldn’t cry or show strong emotion,” the survey reads. “Further, among women with partners who took the survey, 81 per cent stated that they would like their partner to show more emotion.”

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The survey also found that 27 per of male respondents admitted to crying at least once every few months while 14 per cent said once a week. Two per cent said they cry every day, while six per cent say they never cry.

The majority of women surveyed, however (47 per cent), admitted to crying at least once a month.

The most common reason both men and women cry is because of sadness, the survey reveals (58 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women). This is followed by happiness (11 per cent of men and 10 per cent of women) and pain (six per cent of men and eight per cent of women).

But one thing both genders agree on: society makes it difficult for men to open up.

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The results of the survey aren’t surprising to relationship expert Chantal Heide of Canada’s Dating Coach.

“Men have been conditioned to not only hide their feelings, but to then cover up how much they’re covering up their feelings,” she says. “All this leads to profoundly sad statistics – that men will suffer more depression, alcohol and drug addiction, and suicide rates than women because they don’t feel comfortable opening up and letting it all out.”

In fact, according to Statistics Canada, the suicide rate for men was three times higher than the rate for women in 2009 (about 18 versus 5 per 100,000).

The much higher rate of male suicide is a trend that Canada has been experiencing for over the past 60 years, Statistics Canada says.

“The fact is, men and women don’t share the same emotional world,” Heide points out. “But all feelings can become dysfunctional when we’re afraid to face them. This is why women yearn to see men cry – they understand at a fundamental level how healthy that really is, even those choosing to be stoic themselves when faced with their own sad emotions.”

Heide says she believes the disconnect comes from a combination of things: men’s natural instincts to shelve anything that doesn’t serve to be hard working and functional, while being influenced by a culture that says strong people don’t cry.

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“Many men who work hard to be the providers of their households will shelve emotions in order to ‘get the job done,’” she says. “Their No. 1 focus is ensuring that their family has security, and anything that would get in the way of functioning at a high level on a daily basis is put aside until ‘it’s more convenient.’”

This means emotions can go years without being addressed because too often, men fear that opening the doors to their feelings could leave them emotionally and physically spent, Heide adds.

But being open about one’s emotions and the willingness to cry in front of your partner is important, Heide says, as it’s a big display of trust – not weakness.

Because of this lack of understanding with both men and women, no one is fully opening up their feelings and as a consequence, not fully delving into what it means to love and support one another, she says.

“Emotions that are suppressed have damaging effects on our mental and physical health,” Heide explains. “And too many suppressed negative emotions can lead to depression. Real, loving and intimate relationships are those that take place in real life, meaning we journey together through ups and downs. But this is nearly impossible if long repressed negative emotions are interfering with today’s exchange.”

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It’s important that people, especially men, be taught how to talk about their feelings, she adds, but couples don’t often know how to go about gaining that kind of honest exchange.

So that’s why communication – both talking and listening – is important for both sexes.

“Remember that anger is the byproduct of hurt, and unless we address our core pains, we’re doomed to stay in anger forever, continuously blaming each other for the pain caused by deeply-rooted wounds,” Heide says.

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