As men we often refuse to enter the territory of vulnerability, in sharing how we feel with those closest to us in fear it will diminish our masculinity. Regrettably, this puts us in situations where we push our feelings aside and sit in silence hoping the women in our lives will read our mind and attempt to unearth our hurt. Unfortunately, when we do this the lines of communication crumble before they can be fully established.
A few weeks ago, I was watching an old sermon by Bishop T.D Jakes. He explained that women speak in a circle complete with examples, anecdotes and details, and men speak in a straight line with very little detail or they don’t speak at all. The more I thought about this and recalled past relationships and conversations, or lack thereof, I realized that there is a lot of truth to what he said.
“Honesty and Transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway”
As a man who has learned and is still learning to share and uncover my vulnerability, I want to be able to shed some light on the complexities surrounding men, relationships and our mental health, specifically depression and how the women in our lives can either help or hurt our progress.
To the women reading this, please know we appreciate you. What we need from you is a safe place where we can uncover our coveted feelings without shame or judgement.
When communicating with the man in your life who struggles with mental health and depression there are a few things you can avoid:
- Please refrain from bringing up the past, this will result in us retreating, shutting down emotionally and may undo progress
- Try not to minimize what we are going through, what’s small to you is big to us
- Don’t share what we discuss with friends or other family members, this breaks our trust
“A wise woman knows the importance of speaking life into her man. If you love him: believe in him, encourage him and be his peace”
– Denzel Washington
As men we all navigate through our struggle differently, but the first step is you asking us what you can do to help, this gentle gesture means more to us than you will ever know.
As well consider the following:
- Actively and genuinely listen to us. We know your innate nature is to be the fixer, but what we require is for you to listen openly
- Pray for us and with us
- “I love you”, three words that can wipe out a lot of the negative thoughts we may have
- Educate yourself about depression and other mood disorders
- Make us smile – Laughter helps, heals and will bring us closer
- Don’t panic when you see us cry, you seeing our tears is a sign of progress
My desire is to help men foster healthy open relationships with their friends and family members by creating authentic dialogue. I also want all of us to have healthy, full, loving and empowering relationships with the women in our lives, be it our sisters, friends, girlfriends or wives and it all starts with understanding, honestly, vulnerability and open conversation.