Some men may disagree with what I am about to write, but I suspect most women will say I'm accurate in my view.
Guys, I believe we men are more emotionally dependent than woman but less able to express our needs for nurturing. I know this contradicts the stereotype that men tend to be more independent and women more dependent, but I base my conclusion on two facts: the research which suggests unmarried men don't do as well psychologically as unmarried women and the differing experiences of the sexes during childhood.
Traditionally, both males and females first bond with their mothers. Around age five or six, however, males must begin to weaken this bond to identify with father. It's okay for a girl to be a Tomboy or to be Daddy's girl, but it's definitely not acceptable for a boy to be a Momma's boy. Those apron strings have to be loosened for a male child to find his masculine identity. By contrast, a girl can remain close to her mother throughout her youth.
But father may be physically absent or psychologically distant. The man with whom the boy must identify often does not have as strong a bond with his son as a mother does.
These different histories then produce two effects in males:
Our emotional needs for nurturing are not as well met as girls during childhood. We're close to our mothers initially but then have to create some distance from her.
We're not as secure in our psychosexual identities as women are. Our first bond is with an opposite-sexed parent and we then have to identify with a role model who's usually not as available as Mom.
This insecurity often results in behaviors opposite to what we're really feeling, however. We may act tough, macho, independent, etc. - the classic, John Wayne, go-it-alone profile - because we're afraid to express our dependent longings. We exaggerate the so-called masculine traits to hide our deepest needs.
As more fathers become involved in caring for their young children, this scenario will probably change in the years ahead. Children who are well parented by both Mom and Dad are more secure than children parented primarily or only by one parent.
Another false stereotype is that men are more rational and women more emotional. We men feel emotions just as strongly as women but don't express them as easily. Sometimes, the only emotion which is acceptable to men is anger, beneath which reside loneliness, hurt, fear and sadness. Ironically, our anger just drive others away, so we're even less likely to have our emotional needs met.
It should be obvious by now how all this affects our marriages. Most wives want us to be emotionally intimate with them, to share our feelings as easily as they do with their female friends. Research shows the more a man can be comfortable with his emotions, the more satisfaction his mate expresses in the marriage.
So loosen up, guys. It's okay to feel sad, scared or lonely, and to want your wife to comfort you at times, just as you went to Mom for comfort a long time ago. Real psychological strength lies not in the rigid control of emotions, or in expressing anger only, but in letting our emotions our in a safe and appropriate manner.
As I sometimes ask my male patients, "Are you man enough to cry?"
J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and author of the book Loving Isn't EasyCopyright 2002 J. Bailey Molineux and http://selfhelpbooks.com, all rights reserved. This article maybe reprinted but must include author's copyright and website hyperlinks to http://selfhelpbooks.com.