Emotional midwifery

So, I tend to date or be friends with guys who are a) not as adept at identifying their emotions and b) not as adept at talking about their emotions as I am. I have plenty of examples of this becoming an “issue” in my relationships, but my favorite illustrative example comes from a friend of mine. She was once dating a dude who started crying during an intense discussion. He actually said, and I kid you not, “Sometimes when I’m sad, my eyes water.” My friend politely informed him there was actually a name for this, and it was called, crying. Holy. Shit. I’m serious.

Okay, so my taste in men is a bit higher on the emotional awareness scale, but I still tend to be attracted to fellas who are attracted to me, in part, because I’m more facile with my emotions. I’m not bragging here. I happened to be raised female in a culture that teaches girls to pay attention to their emotions, and further, was raised by a therapist mom and a dad who has been to lots of therapy (i.e. paid a lot of money later in life to learn how to talk about his feelings.) When people were sad in my family, we sat down and talked about it. A lot. Is it any wonder that when the guys I’m in relationship with now feel stuff, I help them figure out what they’re feeling and how they might talk about that, and further, how they might take steps to feel different? Whew. I’m exhausted just writing that.

I recently brought this pattern up with my therapist–who is a man–and he said, “It’s not that you date emotionally stunted men. It’s that you date men. We’re all socialized to be less equipped with our emotions.” You can see why I like this guy…he thinks about gender a lot.

So I could date women and maybe have a better chance of finding an emotional equal (I know lots of them aren’t particularly facile with their emotions, too). Turns out, I’m mostly attracted to dudes, so I’m trying to learn how to have boundaries in my relationships so I don’t end up exhausted or bitter at helping guys I love figure out their emotions all the time. I’m also hoping to someday raise a boy who is adept at naming and managing his own emotions. This is some of the major undone work of the feminist movement.

When it comes to guys and their emotions, a revolution would be grand. It would certainly lead to less emotional midwifery on the part of devoted girlfriends, partners, wives etc. I expect to, and in fact look forward to, having emotional intimacy in my relationships (talking about feelings, helping each other work through various shit etc.), but I do think there is a dangerous line that a lot of women cross between being a partner and becoming an unpaid, untrained therapist. The fact that few guys have learned to have these kinds of conversations with one another makes the emotional weight on women’s shoulders even more intense.

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