Why Women Cry
One thing about women that is difficult for many men is when we cry. Often for a man he feels powerless in the face of tears and as discussed in my previous blog on when men lie, they feel like a failure in the face of this liquid demonstration of their failure to make their partner happy.
Crying is complicated for women. From a bio-chemical-electrical perspective of our physiological system it releases tension – sometimes sadness, sometimes anger, sometimes frustration, and sometimes joy. No wonder it's confusing to men because it can be confusing for the women too.
A confession here: I cry lots, my family knows I cry lots, and they use it as a barometer of my happiness and sadness. I cry when I am angry and frustrated. I feel disempowered by it, but can’t stop it. I cry when my clients express sadness and success (quietly of course, so they don’t usually notice). I cry out of one side watching sad movies, if I don’t want others watching to know I am crying. I cry for the national anthem, and seeing people authentically pulling together (I think this one is for pride). I cry for joy when I see a loved one I haven’t seen for a while, when my grandchildren succeed, when I am grateful for all the blessings in my life. I cry when I am touched by awe or beauty.
I cry a lot. I used to hide my tears and cry in solitude. I will be 65 this summer. I grew up in an era when we were told to stop crying or we would be given something “real” to cry about. Most of us learned to swallow our tears (and this especially includes boys and men). Most of us felt ashamed of this perceived weakness and vulnerability. I was about four years old when I decided I had to deal with everything silently, by myself, that it wasn’t safe to let others know I was hurt or afraid. We live in a culture where tears are not honoured. Where people aren’t allowed to have their hurt and show it. I am glad to see that this is changing in our culture as strong men and women cry openly in the news.
Crying for everyone is complicated and can mean many different things. Your job as a father/mother; son/daughter; and/or lover is not to make the tears go away, but to be curious, listen, validate and comfort your loved one, whether friend, son, daughter, partner, wife, or husband. Tears are our bodies’ way of saying, pay attention, this is important. If you can be with us in our tears, then you become trustworthy and create a harbour of safety for us to be completely authentic.
Many people in my office are embarrassed/ashamed of their tears and apologize. The roots for this go far back into our childhoods. Even the best parents sometimes don’t know what to do with their children’s tears and try to shut them down because the parents feel uncomfortable and a failure, They believe by shutting down the tears they are teaching children to be strong and not vulnerable. Clients are often surprised that after a good cry with me they feel relieved, lighter, calmer. I say, trust your body’s wisdom, this is part of your human heritage to mend wounds and create genuine connections.
Many people fear being manipulated by another’s tears. Due to their own discomfort they try to shut them down. Whether by shaming – don’t be such a cry baby. Or minimizing – it’s not so bad as that. Or withdrawal – you’re too emotional so I’m not going to deal with that part of you. Or blaming - don’t give me your crocodile tears as I refuse to be manipulated by you. When any of this happens, it creates a serious disconnect in the relationship, as one tries to power over the other to prevent any connection with the vulnerability of oneself or the other.
For relationship bonding and human authenticity the antidote to our discomfort with tears is to show up for each other. We can say: I see your pain. I am willing to share it with you so that you might find relief. I don’t need to fix it. Like a storm it will pass and there will be beauty and clarity afterward. Even if the only way a person knows how to reach us is with tears, be kind, curious, and present until there is no need for tears anymore.