Some guys would say that women can be too needy, high maintenance, or overbearing. Is it really true that women are too emotional?
One of my favourite things to do is explore some of those longstanding and heavily repeated statements about men and women. For instance, is it true that men are only ever after one thing? Or is there really a man drought? Or what does it really mean when someone says they’re not ready for a relationship?
If you know me in person, you’d know I usually like to ask deeper questions around apparent statements of truth. Even on things I strongly agree on, it’s not uncommon for me to try to consider all the dimensions of the statement, including its alternatives or variants, and to try to fully explore and understand more deeply what a particular statement is saying. I think sometimes we just take things on face value (which is fine sometimes) but to truly understand is to know the for and against, and find where the truth actually is.
Today’s lucky contender is the notion put forward by a lot of men that women are just too emotional.
You’ve heard it before, otherwise you wouldn’t be here right now. This is usually a sentence that the guys will get together and talk about, or that they will regularly bring up in conversations where emotions are certainly present.
What’s the official verdict? There are men who would agree with this sentence, and women who would disagree with this sentence. Interestingly, there are also men who would disagree with this sentence, and women who would agree.
Perfect target for a good discussion, don’t you think?
Let’s start from the most prominent reason for this statement.
Men are usually less emotional than women
The main reason the statement has its existence is because men are generally less emotional than men. There are always exceptions to the rule, but on the whole, the majority of men do not express as prominent or as deep emotions as women do. A perfect example of this is when I went to see Les Miserables with two other guys. During most of the movie, a lot of the women in the audience were in tears (and some of the guys too mind you), where we didn’t express things as such. In one scene in particular where a main character dies, sobs were heard throughout the theatre from a lot of people. However, there was also a burst of laughter coming from one of my friends who thought it was one of the funniest things he’d ever seen.
You know, the main counter argument to the statement that women are too emotional is that men aren’t sensitive or emotional enough. Millions upon millions of women have been in conversations either with their man or their girlfriends where they are frustrated with his apparent lack of compassion or relatability.
That’s an exploration for another day (although I did go through this topic a bit in Why Men Don’t Understand and Why Women Don’t Understand) but I think it’s important to acknowledge that we are different, and its more than physical. Our differences are often what lead us to butt heads.
The truth to the statement
With that said, let’s acknowledge the reality that women are often more expressive on their emotions than men. Not only that, there are physical and relational differences that can trigger what appears to be a deeper emotional response.
I guess the one that gets paid out a lot is the time of month. Let’s be real though. Hormones throw everything out of whack. The lady is not the same person she usually is during that time. Every room is hotter, everyone seems to be a lot less patient, and it’s just not a lot of fun.
Hormonal differences extend beyond these times though. A lot of women will say it’s not usual for them to cry without necessarily needing a reason. Sometimes there can be. There are movies that always evoke a tearful response. Songs and performances and TV episodes that call for the Kleenex. Statements and thoughts that can very quickly change what she’s feeling (not necessarily in a teary way).
Not saying guys don’t do these things either, but the frequency is often significantly less.
There’s an old analogy of men being waffles and women being spaghetti. Men usually have a compartment for everything. I have my work box, my family box, my love box, my home box, and all my other boxes. Women, however, tend to be more like spaghetti – everything’s touching. If the kids are going bad, it means that work’s going bad and home’s going bad and parents are going bad and life is just a mess. It’s just because they’re more in touch with everything that’s going on at once.
This has advantages and disadvantages. A lot of my female friends will tell me they don’t even understand what they’re feeling or why they’re feeling it, and often they’ll tell me they don’t usually like the fact that things can so powerfully set them off into confusion or doubt. On the flip side, it makes women relational geniuses. Sometimes I get frustrated at myself as a man cause I’m trying to work out what’s bothering me, and often a woman can pick it up in a few sentences. Like Brian McFadden sings, like only a woman can.
And so for us guys out there, what can we do about this? Sometimes you end up feeling like you’re tiptoeing around a mine field and so close to setting a negative response off again. What’s a guy to do?
Learn to be an understanding man
Man up. What does that mean in this context though?
The Apostle Peter wrote in Scripture that men should learn to dwell with their wives according to knowledge, and treating her as the “weaker” vessel. This is a commonly quoted verse by skeptics and women’s rights activists who label it sexist and wrong.
But let’s look at what it’s really trying to say here.
First of all, dwelling with her according to knowledge. Man, how many jokes we could tell about how little men really do understand about women. But I’m not sure why we let that joke become a reality and a reason not to try. The word used for knowledge here is the Greek idea of “gnosis”, which is essentially acquired knowledge or common sense. In other words, what he’s saying here is: men, research your wives. Learn what makes her tick. Live with her according to what you learn about her.
A lot of guys nowadays just aren’t willing to learn. You see a reaction you don’t understand or don’t like and put your hands up in the air and say “I give up”. We really shouldn’t. There are a lot of things about men that women find hard to understand at times, and even more specifically, you and I as individuals can be even more complex than understanding the whole.
Part of being a man is learning to be sensitive and understanding. We don’t usually come with that technology built in. It’s something we have to work on. But the reward is so great.
The other part of this Scripture is the notion of “the weaker vessel”. This is perhaps better thought of as “fragile”. I don’t take a rose and throw it in the dirt. I don’t take a silk garment and run it through the wash the same way I wash everything else (not like I have any silk garments personally). I don’t take a glass sculpture and knock it off the table.
I respect it. I adore it. I look after it. I keep it safe. I know the things that could potentially harm or damage it, and I do everything in my power to protect it.
Gentlemen, we are called to do the same with the women in our lives.
And this is an idea that extends beyond marriage. Just in general, when you’re with your female friends, your mother, grandma, mother-in-law, daughter, niece, whoever it is. Treat her with great respect and love, because she is precious. If not to you, then to somebody.
But don’t let it be an excuse
I’ve unfortunately seen the above charge taken as an excuse to get away with a lot of behaviour that sometimes really just is too emotional. Heck, sometimes the more accurate word is “mean”. It is a harsh and degrading thing when a woman takes advantage of a man’s kindness.
Pastor Bobbie Houston runs one of the biggest women’s conferences in the Southern Hemisphere called Colour. She regularly tells who she affectionately refers to as “her girls” to be one who brings life to the world around them. She mentioned how easy it would be to become super demanding of her husband’s attention and energy in a way that would cause him to start to run dry.
Proverbs 31 says of a woman of virtue that she does her husband good and not harm all the days of her life. It’s not necessarily a demand, but it is a beautiful picture of a woman who doesn’t take advantage of the understanding or compassion of her man, but equally does her best to esteem and invest in him.
So where’s the line between emotional and too emotional? Unsure. It probably is something that’s kind of a case-by-case thing. I would say though that if you know in yourself that you are playing something up more than it needs to be, or routinely finding yourself distraught and firing daggers and missiles out at every sentence you hear, then maybe it might be time to look inside. And hey, sometimes all of us push things further when we know we shouldn’t.
My deepest desire is to see men and women treat each other with the respect and love they need. As men, to be men who esteem and cherish the women in our world. As women, to be women who honour and respect and speak life into the men in our world. Boy, and don’t we need it.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to share in the boxes below.