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A common relationship issue couples coming on “Temptation Island” have is that women feel their men can't cry or show them their emotional side. In Season 4, for example, both Iris Jardiel and Ashley Rodriguez note their significant others, Luke Wechselberger and Lascelles Lagares, aren’t able to show them their vulnerable sides, which makes them feel like they’re not getting to know their partner completely.
“That is a very common complaint for women, to feel like their [partners] aren’t expressing emotions, not telling them what’s going on in their heads,” licensed psychotherapist and life coach Tess Brigham told USA Insider. “[They're] kind of keeping everything inside until things blow up.”
Brigham noted that typically when a couple is experiencing problems with men not showing vulnerability, it's more symptomatic of a larger communication issue between them.
“When [women] feel like they’re not getting the emotion out of the partner, it means different things to different people. For the most part, it means, ‘You’re not showing up in the way that I want you to show up,'” she explained. “Usually it means something along those lines.”
Often, women who desire more emotion or vulnerability from their male partners put all the onus on them to make a change. However, there are certain steps that must be taken on both sides before any change can begin.
“All the reports and studies have shown, when you are more vulnerable, you do live a more enriched life. We do want people to be more vulnerable, but you can’t have vulnerability without trust and you can’t have trust without vulnerability,” Brigham said. “These two things go hand-in-hand. You can’t just say to him, ‘You need to be more emotional, come on, get it together,' and just expect him to miraculously do it.”
Additionally, there are societal pressures that may have nothing to do with either partner or their standing in the relationship.
“I would say we still have a big issue in this country around men and crying and I think a lot of women will say, ‘I want my partner to cry, be more emotional, be more vulnerable’ and when he is … sometimes women can really support that and sometimes women really don’t,” Brigham added.
Dr. Daryl Johnson, a professional psychologist, licensed couples therapist, and relationship coach agrees. She noted that men may shut down that part of themselves when women or other people in their life make it a comment on their masculinity.
“A lot of the time men are just socialized, little boys are socialized to ‘man up’ or ‘be tough’ — in a sense just ignore the other uncomfortable emotions that we all experience as humans. They just end up pushing it down.”
Still, at the end of the day men who feel these pressures or are learning to give their partner what they want in terms of vulnerability have to start somewhere. Johnson encourages her male clients to begin by simply opening up a little more to even simple questions like “How was your day?” Ideally, it would be with their partner, but anyone they currently trust will do.
“Of course, you wouldn't start to open up to your barista at Starbucks that you just went through a horrible breakup or a family member is sick, but to your partner or a really close friend? You can start to have that shift in the dialogue,” she said.
Johnson believes that will set men on a road to shedding those ingrained apprehensions, allowing them to exhibit some of the vulnerability the women in their lives are asking for. What are the benefits to their relationship if they do? According to both Johnson and Brigham, it not only breeds trust but offers a significantly deeper connection with the person they choose to show those emotions to.
“It is that emotional intimacy that allows us to feel that much more connected," Johnson said. "You reach a different level in your relationship when partners are able to do that.”
At the end of the day, experts seem to agree there are plenty of benefits to men showing more vulnerability, such as building a deeper emotional connection and creating a dialogue of trust. However, it’s not something that can be demanded by a woman or ignored by a man. It requires both parties to step up, take the time, and make a change to achieve.
“Emotions just aren’t happy, sad, and angry,” Johnson concluded. “There’s way more to it. It’s a full range of emotions. I think it’s healthy for people to be emotionally intelligent when it comes to that and understand who their partner is, where they’re at right now, and what has shaped them.”
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