Recently I watched my husband grieve the loss of his father following a courageous battle with cancer. This experience was truly heartbreaking to witness. However, I believe it helped me to better understand just how complex the depths of vulnerability can be for men.
To be vulnerable means to identify and share what is true for us emotionally. From the words of Brené Brown, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
As a therapist I encourage vulnerability; It has the power of truly transforming our relationships, with ourselves and with others. When we show vulnerably in the context of our relationships, it enhances intimacy and connection.
However, I also understand how scary leaning into vulnerability can feel, especially if we have been conditioned otherwise.
There are many layers involved in vulnerability. Safety, trust, attachments with our caregivers, and trauma all play a role. Being a male can also further compound this process.
While the discourse surrounding vulnerability is changing, collectively men have been socialized to remain stoic in their emotions. They may have also been conditioned to believe that showing their emotions is a sign of weakness.
In my roles- not only as a therapist- but as a daughter, partner, sister, friend, and niece- I have observed this pattern of resistance to vulnerability in men.
I believe this reluctance for men to lean into the depths of their feelings, stems from an underlying fear based on this conditioning.
Men may fear that if they open up and share how they are really feeling deep down, they will appear weak or not masculine enough. Whereas women have historically been encouraged to be in touch with their emotions and confide in others. This is really in their favor as it supports countless aspects of health, while deepening their relationships.
Men on the other hand, may not allow themselves to acknowledge or feel their emotions, let alone share them with others.
While my husband and I have a loving and trusting relationship, watching him resist his feelings relative to his father’s passing, further conveyed just how difficult vulnerability is for men. Sure, my husband had safety in me and within the context of our relationship. However, there seemed to be a part of him that did not feel safe fully leaning into his feelings and unpacking his layers of grief.
Perhaps he thought being vulnerable would make him appear weak or less of a man to me? Maybe I’d no longer find him attractive or see him as my source of strength?
When my husband finally broke down, releasing resistance, sobbing uncontrollably with tears flowing down his cheeks, it evoked the complete opposite of weakness. While embracing him and wiping away his tears, I saw a man of courage, strength and fearless love. What could be more sexy?
Allowing himself to be vulnerable in that moment elicited an intense sense of connection and intimacy that we never quite experienced to that depth before. This was also echoed by my husband.
I also noticed a sense of ease and relief wash over him.
To be vulnerable does not mean we need to be fixed or that we are weak. Rather, it is to have the courage to express how we feel, allowing us to cultivate more meaningful relationships with ourselves and with those we love.
While I own that I will never fully comprehend how men perceive vulnerability as a female, I do know that men, just as much as women deserve to fully lean into it.
Lauren is a functional nutritionist and licensed therapist who takes an integrative and functional approach to mental health and overall wellness. Lauren has worked as a clinician/therapist, researcher, and writer in the mental health and functional nutrition space.
Lauren takes a root cause approach to well-being— looking at the body, mind, and responses to one’s environment in influencing health. Lauren recognizes the various factors that impact well-being– including attachments, trauma, ACEs, individual differences in biochemical makeup, genetic predispositions, and largely nutrition, lifestyle, mind-body modalities, and healing relationships.
She is passionate about empowering others to become their own expert relative to their health and overall well-being. Lauren has worked in outpatient and inpatient settings with both men, women and children.