The Heart of a Man: Finding Balance in Sensitivity
Man with his daughter, tender moment

Man with his daughter, tender momentIn light of Father’s Day being in June, I wanted to give the same amount of attention exploring the special gifts of men as I did for women last month. I initially pondered and explored with several women what the analogous title would be for men. I couldn’t call the title for this entry “The Beauty of a Man” since, as a society, we tend not to address men this way. So, what is it that makes men so unique and attractive to the women who love them? I asked one of my personal-training clients, Julie Gowell of Dunwoody, GA, this very question. She thought for a few seconds, and then softly said with tenderness in her voice, “You should talk about the heart of a man since men are really very sensitive and carry a great responsibility to provide for the families they love.” She went on to explain how grateful she is for her husband who is always mindful of providing for her and their two daughters, always willing to give her a break from motherhood when he can, and always taking the time to make her feel special no matter what their schedule entails. I found her words resonating with my own life, having a husband who has been a solid rock for the vast demands and growth of our family.

I have encountered many stories providing further anecdotal evidence of women feeling a tremendous amount of gratitude for their men. One woman recounted the hardship she and her husband endured throughout infertility treatment, which lasted several years. She explained that their friendship and respect for each other grew stronger due to her husband’s patience and empathy during this stressful time. I have observed similar bonding scenarios while providing couples therapy. Men have been tearful while expressing fear about losing their wives during difficult times and how fiercely dedicated and loyal they are to the marriage–even when their wives discuss leaving the relationship. Many men have sat in my office hanging on to my every word of guidance and encouragement while demonstrating a courageous willingness to change behaviors that contribute to their child’s problems.

After reviewing these stories of gracious men, I googled the words “men and sensitivity” to see what entries I would encounter. I stumbled across a website, by Lawrence Mitchell, which discussed this very topic. The corresponding entry was entitled, “SNAG — crazy buzz acronyms going around — Sensitive New Age Guy.” He inquired why people focus so much on whether men are sensitive, and if they are a rare species. He claimed that men can be sensitive or insensitive and that this personality trait is merely individually based. He tried to set the record straight–and rightly so, in my opinion — that men are just different from women with regard to what they are sensitive about. He reported, “Some things do not merit the amount of attention and energy our women demand of us . . . that some things are better left alone . . . and men have a better capacity to let things go.” These personality traits, which may be more functional in life, are perceived as being insensitive in the eyes of women.

The lessons drawn from the selected women’s stories mentioned above compel me to conclude that men may appear as if they don’t care when their female counterparts discuss the “small stuff.” However, when life-changing issues arise (as with infertility, rebellious childhood behaviors, and possible divorce and separation), many men seem to be fully involved. Instead of media’s criticism of men for not being sensitive enough, maybe, as women, we can learn from men how to find balance in sensitivity — particularly when the issues at hand can be heart-breaking.

  1. Your point about male sensitivity makes some sense. We should pick our battles and not make so much out of fluff. On the other hand, some issues are quite worthy of attention, and seem to be largely ignored until they get to the larger issue (divorce) which could possibly have been avoided if they hadn’t been. If there is an issue which is truly damaging which is being ignored, should we just start with an ultimatum so that we can get their attention and get it over with?

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