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Ability to express emotion - English & male - double whammy?

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Blobette posted 8/11/2013 19:59 PM

So my WH is British. Stiff upper lip British. Family that never hugged, not at all touchy-feely. WH, OTOH, appears very open. Very jokey, very affable, people confide in him. Cries at soppy films, tells me and the kids that he loves us all the time, very physically affectionate - lots of hugs and tickles. And yet... I've hardly seen him show open emotion throughout this whole saga. I yearn for him to break down and cry. I know he's remorseful and he's done a lot address the issues... Changed jobs (quite a big deal), done IC ( and truly engaged), lots of small things.

Soooo... The question is.... Is this a barrier that needs to be broken down or should I just accept that this is who he is? Obviously a lot of men are like tis... Is it a gender thing?

WH did not have a passionate A. In fact, one of the things that made it so enduring was that it wasn't passionate. So a theme here is avoidance of deep emotion, intimacy. It's certainly something we talk about in counselling a lot.

And how do you get someone to break through this? Any ideas? Particularly from the Brits on here....

Ashland13 posted 8/11/2013 20:23 PM

I'm not British but have a brother who lives there and adores the ways of the people there. He emigrated from the Us and won't ever live here again.

At least to us, he does hug when leaving or first arriving, but beyond that, not much. When he shows emotion it's usually joking and it's usually after sitting a while with wine.

It always feels like being held at arms length. I notice he is not this way with the GF or child they have, though, but have only seen affection with the GF or lack of stone face when they think they are alone.

Nearly ExH comes from a family who cannot stand emotion. He was taught early to handle his feelings himself and that it isn't good to be social when emotional. It's seen as a failure and someone who isn't competent.

I remember a scene he made between us at a family occasion during R, before I knew it was a trick or false R. He made this scene in front of people and I teared up out of frustration and hurt. I left the room, as is what they want and he simply refused to come with me and keep talking. Not only that, but he turned his back on me as I was in tears and returned to the group of his family members and wouldn't face me. One person in the bunch sought me out and it was a family friend, who Nearly Exh called 'stupid' on the way home. I said " She wasn't stupid, she's become my friend." She was the only one to face me when I cried in their group and simply offered me a needed hug.

I've also seen the sisters do it and seen them just about run when there is emotion or talk about personal things. I don't think it's a gender thing, but I think of it as a culture where a person grew up, maybe, like rules in a house or school, where a person spends a lot of time.

If this is something your WH has always done, I don't see how it would or could change, for it's his norm, then. It's a defense mechanism meant to shut people out and I find at least these are people who don't have a lot of experience in how to handle emotion, though are very well educated, some of them. At least Nearly Exh"s bunch think they are in control with the more they can be stone- faced.

I've found, after 20 years of this stuff, that it's a barrier put up on purpose and cannot be broken down. A lot of time and energy is spent on the façade and what I found is that I had to instead determine my own threshold of tolerance for the pain it was causing me.

My parents went through similar things and it finally drove my mother away, as well. My father was raised during the depression and my mother always talked about his parent's not showing or talking about what they feel, so there's another example.

And yes, we do know women who do this, it's a coping mechanism and one of them even told me for divorce advice, "It's okay to pretend things are good and just smile." My jaw dropped at that, for I don't know how.

Sorry for my long reply, for this is a topic that's been part of my whole life.

Kalliopeia posted 8/12/2013 10:15 AM

I had a brit boyfriend for years.

He did cry a couple of times when I was with him, but beyond that, he had a lot of pride. he hurt underneath it and went about sorting things properly but commentary on his actions made him uncomfortable.

Your husband.. you want him to grieve and show remorse in a way you probably won't get. ie, weeping etc.

Don't impose it on him, just like you don't feel good with other people telling you how to feel and show your pain according to their expectations.

ladies_first posted 8/12/2013 19:59 PM

I yearn for him to break down and cry.

This means you would have to be present at the moment he "hit rock bottom."

the marriage counselor actually said he was "sanguine" (funny choice of words) about us.
Unlikely that someone who is happy about you/"us"/M would be crying and breaking down.

However, given that it was a LTA, he probably has mixed emotions about those years.

Blobette -- if you can't forgive until you see the "mascara running (sans mascara) can't catch his breath between wracking sobs" -- then you're going to have to initiate a conversation about *his* pain.

Blobette posted 8/12/2013 21:14 PM

Thanks for the responses. LF, I'm not sure how to interpret your post. WH has expressed deep shame for what he did, and clearly had some kind of mental breakdown that led to DD (he confessed -- which, I know, is huge and constitutes a big display of... Trust? Or something). I know that sometimes he doesn't feel he has a "right " to emotions - he said this re his infertility. (That he knew that I had to deal with the fall-out, ie infertility tx). Anyway, it's a good thought... Will mull...

HurtsBad posted 8/12/2013 22:36 PM

I can speak a little to the English response and a LOT about being male and showing emotions.

Several years back, we met some English relatives at a reunion for the first. After talking for a few hours, the gentleman spoke about his family, his aspirations for his children, etc. He immediately added, "you know, we would never talk to our friends back home about all these personal things."

I think your WH has the capacity to express his emotions, though in his embarrassment, he may be falling back on old habits.

As to being male, I was always able to be alone when the curled-up-in-a-ball moaning sobs came over me. (Most of the time, anyway.) It gave me a tiny bit of feeling in control if I could just hold it back for the time it took me to get to the stairwell at work, or for WW to leave before letting go.

I can't say WH is going through this, but if he is, he will probably be trying not to show it.

boontje posted 8/12/2013 22:50 PM

Blobette, I feel for you. I have often wished my H would break down, fall apart and sob in the ugly way over what he did to me, to us. I mistakenly believed that if did this, then he must be truly remorseful. I waited, and waited. It's just not who he is, or how he shows his emotions to others. Perhaps he has had his private moments of grief, I don't know. What I do know is that he is remorseful, he feels an immense amount of shame, and he hates that he hurt me so deeply.

My H is British, btw, and obviously male...and I don't think either factors play into how he shows his feelings. He is who he is.


ladies_first posted 8/13/2013 11:24 AM

I'm plenty damn attractive enough and it's up to him to earn my love back.
And yet... I've hardly seen him show open emotion throughout this whole saga. I yearn for him to break down and cry.

I don't know about you, Blobette, but when I'm emoting and having an emotional breakdown ... that's the least likely time that I have the energy and desire to woo my partner with grand gestures. The former means I'm a mess; the latter means I'm in love and actively trying to engage my partner in quality time.

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