When the woman in your life is crying… reprise

Excuse me for revisiting an old blogpost, but it’s one of my favourites, and today I came across a fascinating article in the Independent which supports it very neatly. It includes the great quote:

“In truth, crying isn’t weakness, it’s a relaxation system in the human organism,” says Hodson, “In order to function, we have to function with our emotions, not against them. You cry when tension needs to be dissipated. If we don’t use this system we’re not being very intelligent.”

So with no further ado, allow me to repost my 10 tips for men on what to do when the woman in your life is crying…

  1. Don’t panic. You are not going to drown. Your girlfriend/wife/partner is not going to dehydrate. The only really important difference between someone upset with tears in her eyes and someone equally upset without tears in her eyes is that the first scenario tends to make many men freak out… it’s just salt water, guys!
  2. Do not attempt to get her to stop crying. This will happen in its own time, but more haste, less speed. The problem is not that she’s crying, the problem is that she’s upset. Focus on trying to understand why she’s upset.
  3. Establish reassuring physical contact – hold a hand, give a hug, find a tissue. Best to keep it non-sexual at this point though – chances are fairly high she’s really not in the mood. Kissing away tears may be a very sweet gesture, but a woman will generally appreciate it more after you’ve attempted to talk about what’s going on.
  4. Talk about what’s wrong. No, wait: ask, and then listen, and then talk.
  5. Never, ever, ever tell her that she has no reason to be upset or tearful – this will make her feel so much worse that it is an incredibly bad idea unless you want to prolong the weeping.
  6. Provide sympathy, not solutions. Do not attempt to solve her problems or feel under pressure to do so. After crying, most women will get on with sorting out what is wrong, though it’s always good to offer to help if you can and want to. But this is far less important than giving her time to express the emotions she’s feeling, and letting her feel that she has been heard and understood.
  7. If you’re feeling upset or uncomfortable because she’s crying or because of what she’s said, say so and say why. A solid and dependable rock is useful at times but it’s often nice to have something a bit softer to cry on! Important caveat – try to avoid giving the impression that what you really mean is, “I’m in an even worse situation than you and look, I’m not crying”.
  8. Try to remember that she’s almost certainly not doing it just to make you feel bad. It’s easy for a woman to underestimate just how difficult a man can find it when she cries, particularly at the moment when she’s actually crying! Yes, I’ll admit that some women do use tears to manipulate men by making them feel bad, but do give her the benefit of the doubt until you notice a consistent pattern. It may help to bear in mind most women can’t stop and start their tears on demand! Also, tears only succeed as a manipulation device because men tend to ignore points 1, 2 and 6, and get so desperate that they’ll do anything to stop the tears flowing! So this advice should work either way.
  9. Remember that tears can be triggered by a lot of different things – from serious trauma to mild frustration to hormones to a sentimental film!
  10. Crying in someone’s presence is also a sign of trust and openness. So if you care about someone, try not to make her feel uncomfortable about crying in your presence. Nobody likes their partner to be upset, but if she is, would you really rather leave her to cry on her own?

Disclaimer: These are sweeping generalisations based on grossly oversimplified gender stereotypes. My only claim to expertise is my own experience, but that has given me grounds to think that these suggestions might be useful to a few people out there….

(Photo – Tear!, originally uploaded to Flickr by ::: *TearS* :::.)

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10 responses to “When the woman in your life is crying… reprise

  1. Brian… of course they do, and it’s unfair that that’s so often frowned upon or seen as a sign of weakness.

    I did think of calling this post “when the person you love is crying” – but freaking out when someone is crying seems to be almost exclusively a behaviour of men faced by weeping women, including a particularly striking example from my own experience, hence I went with the current title!

  2. You mean the ‘What’s wrong?’, ‘What did I do?’, ‘Should I come back later?’

    😀

  3. mhmm, all the way up to “you’ve traumatised me by crying in public and I don’t want to talk to you for the foreseeable future!”

  4. I only cry with people with whom I feel loved and accepted and who i trust. And yes, men do cry too, usually when amongst loved ones or persons with whom they have established an empathic bond. I cry infrequently, but when I do it is to reach a place of homeostasis and let off tension, not to manipulate. Music makes me cry, a certain combination of words, when I am happy in the extreme, and i find when i cry it is good. But it is not my everyday behaviour, just reserved for special occasions when something has moved me in the extreme. My husband cries beautifully – it is a privilege to see him express emotion in this way. G

  5. Dear G – thanks for bringing out the importance of trust.

    For me one of the few things that still hurts about that old relationship is that I really did trust him – I trusted him with my vulnerability, my honesty and the full flow of my emotions which occasionally led to tears – and he respected none of this, but instead used it as his reason for rejecting me.

    I hope in the future to find someone who can accept my tears as part of my self-expression, and feel free in turn to cry himself. Someone who would genuinely rather be there to hear my tears than leave me to cry alone.

  6. That is all wonderful advice but I think you might have forgotten, 11, Open a beer and turn the football on. haha, sorry,

  7. Paul, thanks for proving my point… ;D

  8. Great set of tips for anyone who is in the presence of someone crying. I remember in several silent retreats I attended over the years, people will cry. They’re delving into deep areas, and many people in the presence of a crying person will try to console. Natalie Goldberg helped us just be. Just allow someone to cry. Don’t try to soothe it away. It’s our own discomfort with someone else’s crying that we’re responding to.

  9. Just wanted to thank you for this bit of insight. I sent it to my boyfriend and I hope that he’ll get something good from it. I like the honest, compassionate approach you’ve taken here, not only for women but also men. They’re emotional creatures, too, but with much less ability (socially granted ability, that is) than we to express ourselves emotionally.

    Thanks again, and thanks for what appears to be a very interesting blog!

    – K.

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