Home Concepts Adult Development THE VULNERABILITY OF MEN: SWIMMING UPSTREAM TOWARD INTIMACY

THE VULNERABILITY OF MEN: SWIMMING UPSTREAM TOWARD INTIMACY

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Men learn from a young age that when it comes to deriving emotional support, they should steer clear of other men (Bowman, 2009), as being emotional jeopardizes their masculine image and puts them at risk of being ridiculed and even excluded from membership in male groups. However, being emotional around women is considered acceptable. There are few exceptions where men feel they are allowed to turn to other men for emotional support and such circumstances typically involve the consumption of alcohol as a prerequisite to disclosing any emotions (Emslie et al., 2013). Alcohol within the environment of bars and similar settings represent a sort of “free pass” which men allow each other to use in order to “let loose” and be themselves for a period of time (or at least until they are sober). This is where emotions are allowed to be expressed amongst males, including physical expressions such as hugging, verbal expressions (e.g., “I love you, man”), and even crying that would be considered unacceptable in other circumstances.

Men tend to connect better with women, in the emotional sense, because they feel that they can, in essence, be themselves and freely express themselves around women. Actions and behaviors around other men are characterized by a façade that must be maintained in order to appear strong, manly, masculine, and competitive.

When men are able to relax and be themselves around other men, they are then able to experience emotional closeness (Wagner-Raphael et al., 2001); however, this experience with other men is rare and is more often experienced when men are with women.

Men carry an unconscious or, perhaps, subconscious hope that women (e.g., wife, daughter) will be their catalyst for change or their reason for letting go of the heavy emotional burden that traditional masculinity creates in their lives. Women provide the stability and balance that men seek and desire. Relationships with women provide the much-needed relief that men seek. There are great benefits to receiving emotional support from male peer groups; however, the masculine norms that men have been socialized to believe are what interfere with the development of these relationships (Chu, 2005).

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