Men Who Fear Emotional Honesty

My recent article about emotional honesty in relationships received over 2,100 comments. Clearly, it pushed a lot of men's buttons. The unmistakable, but never-mentioned, common denominator in many comments was fear. My goal is to allay that fear and encourage men to stretch beyond their existing relationship boundaries.

Fear is a powerful emotion, and a man who feels that being emotionally honest with a woman will result in his being disrespected, taken advantage of or dumped is coming from a place of fear. A man who insists I must live on another planet because I encourage men to embrace emotional integrity fearlessly and unconditionally is speaking from a place of fear. While I recognize the power of fear, I don't honor it and never acquiesce to it. To react out of fear is neither manly nor authentic. Living in integrity is the moral high ground, and men needn't aim lower than that.

So what are these guys afraid of? The answer is simple: women. The irony is that men who fear women give them power that they don't really have or want. Instead of rejecting the notion of emotional honesty with specious arguments or simply out of hand, these men might do well to just address their fear of emotional honesty honestly. All the bluster about women not wanting emotionally honest men and taking away their manhood and dignity is simply a smokescreen for this fear.

These men are often easy to spot because many mask their fear with anger. They slander women as "feminists" and, as women achieve more social and professional equality with men, the louder these guys shout. This is the 21st century, and women aren't going to magically turn back the clock and become subservient. They're moving forward and these men are living in the past.

I obviously don't believe that men's fears about women's reactions to emotional honesty are justified. Behaving like a man doesn't mean behaving like a woman, and emotional honesty doesn't mean just being emotional -- a guy sobbing out his pain to a woman and being rejected by her. Women respect a man who has the courage, confidence and skill to articulate his feelings clearly and with a cool head.

The way a woman responds to a man's emotional honesty determines whether or not he'll feel safe enough to be emotionally honest again. No one wins when the truth gets beaten up, and women who insist they want honesty and then trash a guy who shares his true feelings are just playing their own version of the relationship game. For that reason, I urge women to listen with respect and without judgment if they want to continue hearing a man's truth. Sharing on an emotional level isn't second nature for most men, and women can nurture this emotional honesty by meeting it with their own emotional honesty.

Contrary to what some of my readers suggest, I don't believe that men need the truth soft-pedaled to them. They deserve nothing less than unfiltered honesty, and it's partly because men have failed to challenge each other's dysfunctional behavior that so many feel justified in clinging to it.

None of the men I've worked with over twenty years fears, disrespects or blames women for his issues or needs a woman's approval to be honest. All engage in emotionally honest dialogue and all are in healthy relationships. And this could be you, too. So if this doesn't describe your relationship, you might want to take a closer look.