Ever since I can remember, I have always been surrounded by men. Before the age of around 11 most of my friends were boys, from the ones with whom I’d play wrestling and football to the ones I’d persuade to play house with me and my dolls, which to be honest wasn’t that difficult.
From my experience with men, I got to see that they actually can be deeply caring and very gentle. Even more so, I have observed that the toughest, rock-solid, scary looking guys have this tender, child-like quality to them too, which no extra-large bicep, dark tattoo or hoody could conceal.
- Men, just like women, are sensitive.
- Men, just like women, seek connection and love.
- Men, just like women, deserve to be treated tenderly and honoured for these innate qualities.
Sadly, and no different from women, men build up layers of protection to keep them ‘safe’ from this world full of social ideals and expectations that are not configured to let them live their sweetness, their sensitivity and their delicacy.
So often we as women take the men in our lives for granted, focussing on all of the things they do, rather than who they are on the inside.
We blame men for treating us poorly and for not appreciating us as women. However, do we ever pause to consider that we might be doing the same to them? So many of us dive into our ignorance and arrogance and choose not to be open in relationships with our partners, not to mention the games we play. Why? Because we can. Because ‘he’s a man,’ or worse, because ‘men don’t talk about feelings,’ or perhaps the worst, because ‘men don’t understand.’ Yet, have we tried?
Have we truly given the men we know, and the ones we don’t, an opportunity to open up to us by being transparently open towards them first?
Why do we think that women have the right to express their feelings but men do not? We know that repressed feelings can lead to self-abuse in all of its varieties, yet we praise men for doing exactly that – quashing their sensitivity.
In our 21st century society men are by and large marginalised, based on the wage they earn, how tall they are, or how defined their six pack is. Men are demonised for the pay gap between the genders, yet still many women are 100% happy to exploit men for their money and avoid paying for dinners, movie tickets, travel, etc.
Men are blamed for being indifferent and hostile, which they can be, yet the root cause of these behaviours is not sought.
As women, so many of us have become incredibly hard and unbelievably tough in our mission to be the perfect wife, the best mum, the top employee, the greatest friend, ideal neighbour or the sister from heaven. We constantly try to reach our unrealistic pictures of what we, our partners and our children should be like, completely losing touch with our most wonderful ability to be the ones who can best support the quality of tenderness to flourish in men.
But this can’t come as a surprise to us when we women are not living that same tenderness we came into this world with!
Our young boys are taught to be the tough soldiers who never cry or, God forbid, show their vulnerability, because if they did, the big bad world would crush them. We indoctrinate them from a young age that their role is to protect the women around them and serve as the backbone of the world. So much pressure on those young shoulders…
But what if by dismissing and denying men’s tenderness, we are effectively rejecting them for who they truly are? This must create very deep pain, making men even more sensitive to rejection, because when we are shown that who we truly are is not good enough, we get hurt beyond imagination and thus become desensitised, indifferent and in the extreme –hostile.
Men really can be beautifully tender, gentle, and caring. They have great depths of feelings, a capacity for understanding, nurturing and the ability to be great listeners. We as women have an amazing opportunity to encourage, support and respect these very qualities in men (and in ourselves) that we crave more than any chocolate bar on earth.
Granting men permission to be who they truly are, their amazing selves, will doubtless contribute to a decrease in men’s depression and the current alarming suicide rates, as well as curb the devastating rise in substance abuse among men.
And consider for a moment the wonderful effects that this in turn would have on women!
Next time an opportunity arises to express your love and appreciation for a man (any man) in your life, be that at dinner at your neighbour’s home, your boss’ birthday or a nephew’s graduation day – or even better, for no special reason at all – say it with half a dozen red/white/yellow or pink roses and watch the glee in the man’s eye thanking you for acknowledging and honouring the tenderness and preciousness he truly is. And should such a gesture make him appear awkward in expressing his appreciation of the gift, let that not be a reason to hold back from doing so again – for men also need to get used to the fact that they are tender and precious.
By Viktoria Stoykova, Project Coordinator, London, UK