Ask A Woman: Boo-hoo.
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Today we tackle a topic near and dear to my heart. Crying. Fellas, I’m a crier. Big time. Growing up, my sister and I were taught that it was good to talk about feelings, and if crying came with those feelings, so be it. I may have taken this direction a bit too far, as I spent many of my teenage years in tears…which were usually accompanied by screams about how I wanted to be left alone and I hoped I would die and then everyone would be sorry. Dad, if you’re reading, I’m still sorry about the time you sent me to buy ice for my own graduation party and I went to one gas station which was out of ice, came home, burst into tears, and told you I shouldn’t have to buy ice because it was my day. True story.
Things have drastically improved since then. But I’m still a crier. And I’m married to someone who, when we met, was not at all comfortable with crying. My other half comes from a more stoic family. Crying is reserved for funerals. Maybe at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. So it took us a while to navigate my predilection for crying and my husband’s aversion to it. Sound familiar to you?
Here’s the deal with crying: women cry when they’re sad, yes, but more helpful to know, they cry when they’re angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed. In the course of a normal day, most people are more likely to feel these latter three emotions, than to feel sadness. So we don’t need to experience tragedy or real despair in order to cry. We just need to get a speeding ticket or drop a pan of freshly-made brownies on the floor or have our computer crash at 1am immediately after we’ve finished writing a 15 page paper.
I might agree with Jimmy on this one. But poor Evelyn. Been there, girl.
This is not to say that women are basket cases. Really, it’s not. Most of us have been socialized to know that it’s okay for us to cry. From the moment someone patted us on the back and said, “That’s okay, there, there,” we became programmed to use crying to deal with life’s trials.
Also…science! Crying releases endorphins in the body, which are the feel-good hormones we get from working out and having sex. Scientists have actually collected people’s tears and analyzed the chemical makeup. Often times, cortisol is present, which is the “stress” hormone you produce anytime you’re under duress (job interview, car accident). Guess what crying it out of your body does? Makes you less stressed. People who cry are just very efficient at dealing with stress and anguish, and then moving on from it. Boom, eat it, all you non-criers.
It can be easy to think that when a woman starts to cry during a disagreement with you she’s trying to be manipulative. You, as men, are programmed to think crying only happens when something is really wrong–death, maiming, ninjas jumping out of an alleyway. So why is my fiance crying when we’re arguing about whose family to spend Christmas with this year? Because she’s frustrated. Or pissed off. And this is how we sometimes deal with it. Fine, if your wife cries every single time she doesn’t get her way (but I don’t want to buy the generic brand of peanut butter!), maybe she’s trying to manipulate you. But if your wife is an otherwise decent human being who you love and trust, the crying thing isn’t manipulation. It’s a normal reaction to strong feelings that she has no other outlet for. The appearance of tears is not a signal to you that you need to give in during an argument, or fix the bad day she had at work. It can be a normal part of your communication with your partner. You can still talk about the issue at hand, she just might be teary about it.
If you’re with a crier, it’s probably more productive to get used to the fact that she cries to deal with stress, than to try and change her behavior. After all, it’s a healthy reaction that has actual, measurable benefits. If she starts crying because she’s upset about something not related to you, don’t try to make her stop. Listen to her, be supportive, and just wait it out. If she starts crying during a disagreement with you, carry on the conversation as normal, unless it seems like she might need a break (the same way you might decide to step away from a disagreement because you’re too steamed to think straight and you don’t want to lose your temper). Remember, her tears aren’t a sign that she thinks you’re evil or that you’d be an asshole for not giving in to whatever she wants. It will take time to get comfortable with her crying. Don’t fear the tear!
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