What Distorts and Damages Men’s Openness? And Linkup

Nothing WastedI’m picking up where we left off from the “Men and Openness Survey” series by unpacking question number 4 from the survey …

What outside sources have been hindrances to you opening up and sharing your feelings with your wife? (I let the men choose all that applied.)

55.56% – The poor example I saw in my parent’s marriage growing up.
33.33% – The cultural stigma I feel about men being open and vulnerable.
25.93% – My parents discouraged me in childhood from opening up and being vulnerable.
20.37% – Write-in responses—see below
18.52% – My friends’ negative attitudes towards being open and vulnerable.
3.70% – The religious beliefs I hold or was raised with discourage this.

I picked a few of the write-in responses that I thought were intriguing and quite “telling”

  • Nothing could stop me from opening up and sharing my feelings with my wife—not even her requesting me not to. (I laughed when I read that one!)
  • Men are men, roll with God’s design. (This one made me smile as well!)
  • Childhood experiences. Bullying. Being ridiculed for crying or being sensitive. (So sad!)
  • My actions/feelings not being acceptable or “ok” when being dealt with by my parents (dad). Loved and accepted with strings. (Doubly sad!)

I think there is such a stigma for men in sharing their feelings, especially in marriage. Our culture has made great strides in this, but in my opinion, there’s still a long way to go.

I’d say that one of the biggest hurdles my husband and I have had to overcome in sharing our feelings constructively with one another has been the poor modeling we saw in both our parents’ marriages—not that we’re blaming them at all! It just “was what it was” and to avoid acknowledging that damage is not productive or honest.

I also know that we, Gary and I, have certainly hurt and negatively contributed to our own young adult sons’ ability (or inability) to communicate or resolve conflicts. #regrets

[bctt tweet=”I confess: we’ve modeled more “what not to do” than “what to do” for our sons! #parentingfail #doover” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

So it’s a sad and constant reality that we all must live with as we try to navigate the twists and turns of marriage with baggage to boot!

[bctt tweet=”Unfortunately, no one is immune to this faulty heritage. Find out what the good news is about this at MM! #parenting #influencers” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

That’s the harsh news, but here’s the good news …

Nothing is wasted in life when we allow Christ—the great Redeemer—to help us learn and grow from our hardships and deficits.

The thing I noticed the most from these results was … the difficulty of rising above some of these hindrances and wounds in our pasts. I think this is true not just for men, but for women as well.

Here are two simple suggestions for ways to learn and heal from any damage in your life (based on what I’ve done to help heal and correct these issues in my own life and marriage)

1. Forgive your parents (or those who wounded you in this way as a child).
There are lots of ways to go about that. In fact, if you haven’t subscribed to Messy Marriage yet, do that! Because you can snag my e-book, Forgive U that has lots of ideas on what forgiveness is and isn’t, as well as how to forgive. 😉 Look in the sidebar for my subscriber box.

2. Talk with your mate about the wounds of your childhood.
Use this Reflective Listening Guide as a tool for your spouse to fully listen to you on this. If you stick with the rather rigid format, your mate (as the listener) “can” increase his/her ability to empathize with you. Trust me! And when your mate empathizes with you on this issue, he/she is much less likely to re-offend you in that same way going forward.


What would you add to my suggestions for bringing healing and growth to the wounds we all bring into marriage?


How have the negative impact of your parent’s modeling or societal stigmas hurt your ability to open up with your mate?


Joining with my friends at Giving Up on Perfect, Wifey Wednesday, A Little R & R Wednesdays, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, DanceWithJesusFriday and Wholehearted Wednesday.

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17 responses to “What Distorts and Damages Men’s Openness? And Linkup”

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    This is a seriously difficult subject for me, because there was nothing in my “parents’” example that I would have wanted to remember. Forgiveness is simply not in the cards.

    I think that one important factor in addressing the wounds we carry is not to sentimentalize them, our our past, through excessive media…see too many Hallmark movies and you’d think that all parents are really doing their best and deserve a second chance, for instance, and it’s just not true.

    Personally, I think that sentimentality has destroyed a lot of lives and hearts, because it sets up false demands and expectations, unscalable walls upon which we are tempted to throw – and kill – ourselves.



    1. I realize that any subject having to do with your past and horrendous childhood is anathema for you, Andrew. I had bad parenting but not bad parents, so we are worlds apart on that issue. However, I kind of take issue with your words that I’m suggesting “to sentimentalize them.” That’s not what true forgiveness is or does. It deals with the harsh realities of those who’ve hurt us. It does not dig them up only to sugar-coat them in some way. To do so is just continuing the denial that suppressing those woulds began. Remember forgiving someone is about releasing you from the anger and “stuckness” (for lack of a better word) and not necessarily doing it for the benefit of your offender. It’s simply what God commands us to do because He knows how much unforgiveness hurts us and our relationships. Perhaps you don’t want to let go of the anger–since they were such horrible people to you. It just doesn’t seem right or fair. I can understand that you might view it that way, but I think it is doing more damage to you and your present day relationships than it is helping you in any way.

      This is where I can’t imagine forgiving someone who abused me–like it seems your parents abused you–without the help, clarity, and power of Christ to walk with me through that pain. He is the only One who can truly relate to your pain and the only One that can take the damage your parents inflicted and use it to heal, refine and redeem your life and experiences now.

      So sorry for touching on a nerve, my friend. It was never my intent! Praying for you!


      1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

        Beth, please forgive me…I did not for a moment intend to suggest that you advocated sentimentalizing the process of forgiveness.

        It was ‘Hollywood’ that was my target, because the cultural feeling that I should be able to forgive in a ‘group hug’ way…and my failure to do so…hurt me more than I’d like to admit.

        Your words on forgiveness are spot-on, and I completely agree that it’s necessary. I just lack the moral courage to do it.

        Again, please accept my apology. I feel terrible, that my words were that clumsy, and my thoughts so ineptly expressed.


  2. Bev @ Walking Well With God Avatar
    Bev @ Walking Well With God

    “Men are men; roll with God’s design”…hmmm 🙂 Your post made me think of the very poor modeling we did for our children (I was in a verbally and emotionally abusive marriage for 25 years). This is when I truly wish I had a “do over” button. I don’t, but God does. Your reminder that God can redeem any situation or circumstance gives me hope. Hope I need when I begin to dwell on all the “don’t do’s” that we modeled to our kids. Thank you for a very telling post!


  3. I am so glad you are writing about men opening up today. I find it to be a top quality in men personally. There is something about vulnerability, honesty and openness that will deepen a relationship when done in love and grace. I look to my own sons and think about how I raised them and for a time when they had a male role model. One son is more vulnerable and the other is not and I’m not sure if I can pinpoint why. However, both understand the importance of a healthy relationship and that is a blessing. You have given us much food for thought. I will be sharing this one with my sons. Thank you as always!


  4. So well said! Thank you so much for taking the time to address this- I really needed it. I often wonder how to get my husband to really open up, but perhaps I have it wrong and need to listen to the commenter and “roll with God’s design.” It’s not my place to change my hubs 🙂 Thanks for the insight; can’t wait to read more from you!


  5. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    If I may be allowed another observation…I think that Hollywood is partially to blame. (This is a sort of specific case for social expectations, I guess.)

    * Men think that women want someone like Tom Hanks or Hugh Grant.
    * Men also think that they should be like Clint Eastwood
    * And when men look in the mirror, they fail to recognize that Homer SImpson is looking back at them.

    The pervasiveness and primacy of superficial image is terrible for relationships, because it engenders constant role-playing and posing…and the reality is that a man’s wife does not WANT Tom, Hugh, or even Clint.

    She knows full well that she married Homer, and just wishes he’d be himself, if only for a day.



  6. In-to-me-see creates deep bonds with all our loved ones. Not always easy for sure. I am single, and have a lot of single male friends who are very open with their feelings, sharing their failures and struggles. Just makes me pause for thought-why the difference? Maybe single and married men can mentor each other in building deeper relationships with the woman in their lives.


  7. […] Monday, Monday’s Musings, Titus 2sdays, Titus 2 Tuesday,  Worshipful Living, Wedded Wednesday, Whole-Hearted Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Little R&R Wednesdays, Women With […]


  8. […] Wedded Wednesday, Whole-Hearted Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Little R&R Wednesdays, Women With Intention, […]


  9. Praying for your spouse is instrumental in their healing! But I know you knew that;) Taking the risk to be vulnerable with each other is important. It’s not like the feeling of trust comes first all the time. Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zone in order to begin to trust.


  10. Anastasia Safee Avatar

    Oh yes, I can totally relate to the parent thing (even though I am not a man!). I think my past and therefore, current reactions cause my husband not to want to share some things. Definitely an area needing improvement!


  11. In my family “light” emotions were fine. But not deep ones. My husband is rare in that he is very open with his tender feelings. He’s helped me a lot. I am blessed!


  12. “Nothing is wasted in life, when we allow Christ—the great Redeemer—to help us learn and grow from our hardships and deficits.” – Amen!!! Love this, Beth! Thank you for another fabulous post and fabulous link up!


  13. […] Monday, Monday’s Musings, Titus 2sdays, Titus 2 Tuesday,  Worshipful Living, Wedded Wednesday, Whole-Hearted Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Little R&R Wednesdays, Women With […]


  14. Beth, I learn so much from your blog. I’m so very encouraged and reminded to help nourish my marriage without beating myself up for my mistakes. I consider it a blessing and “divine hug” that I found your site. Please don’t stop writing any time soon <3.
    Thanks for sharing this over at Coffee & Conversation last week – our readers decided you're something special, too, so we'll be featuring this post tomorrow!
    Have a wonderful week, dear lady…


  15. […] my Men and Openness Survey results (see post here on how old wounds impact men ), to the many emails that my oldest son and I have been exchanging lately, to where I find myself […]


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