The Strength of His Softer Side

As originally published at Darling Magazine

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I married an emotional man.

From the outside, you would never know it. I certainly didn’t know it when we got married. In fact, I missed it entirely while we dated, I missed it during our engagement, and it took the first year and a half of marriage — with its fighting and its tears and its confusion — for me to even take note. Perhaps “missed” is even the wrong word, “took for granted” is probably more true to form.

I had expectations for my husband; things that I thought were OK for Robert to think and feel, and things that I thought were more OK for me to think and feel. In my mind my husband, as a man, was broken up into different categories. There was a category for his romance, a category for his intellect, a category for his love for God, and one for his affinity for Harleys and cowboy boots. However, I never made room for his emotions — emotions that always surprised me when they surfaced. To me, Robert was a man. He was strong, capable, great under pressure, and could deal with whatever it was that needed to be dealt with … unless what “needed to be dealt with” was me. In that case, he wasn’t supposed to have feelings, he was just supposed to let me have mine.

“What do you mean I hurt your feelings?” – Me.
“What do you mean my tone is unloving?” – Me.

It took a long time, longer than I wish it had, for me to realize what an unbelievable gift my husband’s emotions were. Sure, I always saw and appreciated such sentiment in my friendships. In fact, emotional availability and vulnerability with girlfriends was a must. Yet, I left no room for such things when it came to my husband; all of those beautiful little treasures were completely looked over.

It wasn’t until I gave birth to our son, River, until I watched my husband become a father, that I saw him in a way I had never seen him before. Emotional. Yet, his emotions weren’t outright and barefaced like my emotions were, they were quiet, sturdy. They were hidden in the way that he gently held our baby in his hands. I found them in the moments when I caught him singing River to sleep. Again, they appeared when he scooped up our son, dried his tears, and hugged him after a nasty tumble. His emotions were there. They were always there, I had just never taken the time to appreciate them.

I grew up thinking that men weren’t supposed to be emotional, that somehow it was a sign of weakness. I think many men grow up thinking this very same thing. Our upbringing can hammer it in, our culture can hammer it in, and, unfortunately, sometimes we women can hammer it in. Though I now look at my husband and I realize that it is precisely because he shares his emotions that he is a better husband, a better friend, and an amazing father. He loves me and he loves our son freely and with abandon.

I watch Robert as a father, wrestle, tickle, snuggle, hug, kiss, and say, “I love you” to our son fully and without fear. I watch Robert, as a husband, express his love to me not just verbally, but in the way he does the dishes (because I hate to), when he opens up about his bad day or a situation he wished he had handled differently, in the way he sticks up for me, and even in the way he corrects me. But taking notice of these things took time, and it required intentionality on my part. When my husband became a father, I realized that I was witnessing a part of him unlocking that nobody had ever been audience to before. I discovered a new tenderness and a new strength in him all at the same time. Expectations can ruin our vision and blind us to the realities taking place right before our very eyes.

Husbands can differ in their personalities and strengths, but we can still be intentional about building them up. It may take some searching, but what can you praise your husband for? What positives are being exposed and uncovered in him? What is good and praiseworthy? Tell him! Remind him! Those things are him.

Emotional men aren’t weak; they are the strongest form of a man. It took watching my husband become a father for me to fully appreciate this truth. I can’t even begin to imagine the type of love my son would miss out on if his father chose the “wider path,” the stereotypical road many men feel forced to walk when it comes to sharing emotions. Our men should be praised for their vulnerability when they display their feelings instead of embarrassed by it.

What bravery it takes to expose what we defend so dear; our heart.

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