The Trouble With Sensitive Men

November 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Call them girly-men, metrosexuals or sissies. Call them anything you like. The fact is women crave sensitive men. But do they really know what they’re getting into?

Women are often torn when it comes to sensitive men. In short-term relationships, women seem to be attracted to the macho, bad boy, John Wayne types. When faced with the prospect of a life long partner, most prefer the more feminine/sensitive man. This theory was put to the test at the University of Saint Andrews in 2007.

Researchers gathered 100 women and showed them a series of photos of men. Some were enhanced digitally to either appear masculine (square jaw, large nose, small eyes) or feminine (small chin, raised eyebrows, large eyes). What they found was most women preferred the feminine looking men when searching for a lifetime partner. Some researchers proposed that women are discriminatory with masculine males, because they consider them unfaithful, domineering, and poor parents.

The same findings were duplicated in a similar study at the University of Aberdeen, two years later. This is where it gets interesting. Women were attracted to masculine men over the short term. Which brings us to the trouble with sensitive men. It actually has nothing to do with a man deciding to nurture and amplify his sensitive side. It’s when he decides to forgo his masculinity completely in favor of sensitivity that the problems arise.

Women appreciate men who can write love quotes, won’t brag to friends about their sex stories and racy photos, and aren’t afraid to say, “I Love You.” In this scenario, a sensitive man is thoughtful, caring, considerate, and aware of his partner’s thoughts and feelings. It’s when men go past this point that they become too sensitive.

When this happens, or a guy gets pegged with this perception, other actions ensue. A guy will get overly nagged, henpecked, and chastised for being unable to make his own decisions. Many women have a difficult time respecting a man like this.

What if men were masculine for a reason?
The question of innate versus learned behavior is always a hot topic. Most researchers cannot deny that if you put a boy into a room with other boys, they will automatically begin to play rough with each other, showing clear signs of masculine tendencies. While these behaviors appear to be innate, they learn an unspoken message from society that men must also hide their emotions, ignore pain, and never show weakness. Between what society teaches men and what they hear on Oprah, they can become rather confused about their identity, responsibility, and role in a relationship.

Men who are buried too deep in their masculinity have a hard time expressing themselves and communicating effectively. Men who are too sensitive, express themselves too much, to the point of being perceived as weak or “wimpy.” Neither of these traits are particularly attractive to most women. Men must become masters of both these domains in order to foster a truly, healthy relationship with the opposite sex.

The overly sensitive male needs to be independent, make decisions, and learn to take responsibility in satisfying his partners needs, rather than just feeling sympathetic towards them. His partner needs to openly let him know that this is what she expects from him. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the overly masculine male needs to learn how to express himself and be vulnerable sometimes.

A lot of therapists recommend dealing with masculine men by using action talk. Many men have a much easier time talking about changing their car’s oil, playing sports or building a bird house then they do their own feelings. The key is to get them comfortably talking about these sorts of action events. Then you can gradually lead them to communicating about their feelings.

Men need reassurance. They need to know it’s okay to share their feelings, problems, and concerns with their partner. But at the same time, they also need to stand on their own two feet when it comes to supporting their partner.

The perfect man may be hard to come by, but the good news is most men already have all the ingredients. They just need guidance, patience, love, and understanding to help mix in the right quantities — and qualities.

Want to learn more about how men think?

More on: Eric J. Leech
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