Hey Guys! Why’s It So Hard to Open Up?

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2014-10-01 23:49:30 -0500
Started 2014-09-04 16:10:31 -0500

You might remember the “strong, silent type” of guy from the movies in the 40’s. He’s the self-reliant guy who with the poker face who never let anyone know how he was feeling. Instead, he was all about taking charge. Well, guess what? A lot of guys are still walking around holding in their emotions. And it’s not helping them, nor is it helping the people who care about them.

What about you? Or for you women, what about the guy in your life?

It’s not easy opening up about your emotions when you’re a guy. I know I’m making a generalization here. Lots of guys have no problem talking about feelings. But it seems to me that most guys do. And I’m not just hearing that from the guys themselves. More often I’m hearing it from the women in their lives – their wives or partners, their children, their parents.

Human beings have emotions. Swallowing them or pretending they aren’t there doesn’t make them go away. And when men won’t talk about emotions, they miss out on the opportunity to connect with their loved ones, to be supportive, and to get support.

What I tell the men I speak with is that holding in their feelings isn’t helpful. It can affect you physically. It can lead to stress. And it can place a wedge between you and the people around them.

Here’s a link to an article I wrote about helping men to open up about their feelings:


So guys, what keeps you from opening up about how you feel? And opening up isn’t hard for you, how did you get to that point?

And ladies, do you have a guy in your life who keeps his emotions to himself? What’s that like for you? Anything you have tried to help him open up more?

32 replies

Katiespace 2014-09-08 15:34:14 -0500 Report

Wow I have a great relationship with my husband and 3 children. They would be upset. If I kept things from them. My husband goes to Dr. Appt.s with me. I am not whining when I share things with them. I guess it's how you growup. We all share our demons with each other. And this site is for sharing and feedback, nobody forces you to voice concerns to each other it's our right if we choose.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-09-10 14:28:25 -0500 Report

Hi Katie,

Great to hear this. It sounds like you and your husband are in sync on how to keep emotions front and center when you need to. And I agree, you have a choice. What's important is knowing that if you want to talk about feelings, you can.

Thanks for sharing this!


Phoenix Eye
Phoenix Eye 2014-09-06 16:33:36 -0500 Report

Dr Gary opening up and sharing your fears and emotional feelings is not always welcomed with open and comforting arms. I was bitten in the face by a pit bull that ripped open my mouth from my lip to my inner nose. I could not speak without slurring. My food would dribble down my face and I now had what looked like a cleft lip. Everyone started to look at me like a freak. No more secondary eye contact. After the first look no more eye contact and disgust would radiate from their faces. My ex girlfriend was an old skool bitch. She didn't see me, but when I opened up she ripped into me calling me a baby and not a man. She flaunted how her ex husband was tough and never complained. Neither did her father complain. I told her, her father and her ex-husband did not trust her enough to share their true feelings with her.

Now I know I am not weak. I am that martial artist who laughs at guys who hit padded bags. I built my bridges, forearms and shins, to hit steel and solid wood. I asked the most viscous and violent men to test my bridge all the time. Those huge body builders and especially swimmers are very strong but have WEAK bridges. They did not stimulate their bones to take harder impacts. So just because a guy can bench 500 lbs doesn't mean he can take one hit. I am not strong, but my bridges are solid and make even the largest of men scream in pain complaining why their bridges are swollen and bruised after hitting this fat little guy.

My point is I knew I was tough and did not need the reassurance from others to prove it. However opening up about a life changing event to the wrong old skool person doesn't work.

Now as a husband and father I need to take care of my nuclear family and parents. I don't open up to them about my worries because I don 't want them to panic. I need to be their rock. I have always been the fixer. I don't tell my mom the LA County Sherrif's are pushing her into retirement because she did no recover enough from her stroke. I don't tell her about all the political games I must play with them ALONE. I am the only child and have to fix it.

I once had a garage door hit my back. I lied down on my aunt's driveway and yelled for help. My mom stayed in the car just sitting there. My aunt just walked back into the house. I knew I was in trouble and called a friend who came five miles away to help me up and bring me ice for my back. Obviously I don't trust or need to open up to my family. As the only child, son, I am supposed to handle everything. My friend asked me why my family didn't help me or call for help. I said because they don't care. They survived Mao Ze Dong and I needed to figure things out myself. Luckily I had a good friend, but he saw enough and knew that there really was no point to discuss things that were too complicated to get into.

Instead of concentrating on retelling all the negative. We should instead spend our time talking about happy things and times. Retelling bad shit just traps us into reliving our hidden horrors as we keep retelling them. Let it be and use the time you have left to grow and learn. For some of us we must create our own happiness. If you are not happy you must seek out your own joy. I know I always have and will. My scars healed and are not as visible. Which made it easier for me to find a beautiful wife. I don't talk about my scars as much now. It's over and I want to use my remaining time to be happy.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-09-07 18:12:25 -0500 Report

Hi Phoenix Eye,

Thanks for jumping into the discussion. It's nice to meet you.

It sounds like you have been through a lot in your life. And that you haven't didn't get a whole lot of emotional support from your parents. Each family has their own way of dealing with emotions.

I just to have to say that sharing your feelings doesn't have to mean sitting around whining and complaining about life. Sharing feelings can also mean saying a few kind words to someone you care about, letting them know how you feel about them, what they bring to your life. Being there for each other.

Stay in touch with us!


ladybugsluck9 2014-09-06 20:53:29 -0500 Report

I wish you peace & much happiness phoenix! It seems you have overcome some of your buried 'troubles' but I sense there is still hurt down in there. Good Luck

Tony5657 2014-09-05 05:55:21 -0500 Report

Thank you Dr. Gary! Your article is very meaningful to me and I got some great ideas from it. I grew up in the brush country of south TX and was alone much of my early childhood. My tendency is still to just "stuff it" and try to work things out myself. Lately my wife & I are going through many serious challenges and what helps us is to talk about them, then pray together to God about them, praying for wisdom, discernment and even miracles. I've actually seen, experienced 4 instant miracles but we have need for some more. We've learned we can't meet these challenges on our own, so we share our concerns then we turn to a higher power, God. Matthew 19:26: Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Thanks again for a great article…ol' Tony in New Braunfels, TX

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-09-07 17:37:42 -0500 Report

Hi Tony,

Nice to see you! And I'm glad to hear this was helpful to you.

It's always interesting to me how life experiences provide us with an opportunity for growth. Life asks us to be more, to step outside of our comfort zone. And it sounds like you and your wife have taken some important steps in your relationship and are connecting at a deeper level. And Matthew 19:26 guarantees that you have a strong foundation!

Thank you!


Stuart1966 2014-09-04 20:10:39 -0500 Report

While in the generic, I appreciate the basic gist of your article, I have (IMHO) meaningful questions in many respects.

Is it necessary to share ones "challenges"? Some burdens are never "soup" to be poured into anothers bowl(s)? I love my wife, my family, many others, but they have no reason, nor are most candidly ENTITLED to things whatever it may be which I choose not to share.

It is MY disease, they are entitled to a seat at this table, should I choose to share it, or if they have intimate first-hand experience(s) with my "dragon". A right earned by sharing, and participating in our "near death" experience(s).

But first and last, my diabetes is mine, and mine alone.
If we choose to struggle, fight this reaking beast without sharing the "darkest demons" whether it lays them at our feet from time to time, or builds in our soul over decades, lifetimes. I ask why is this knowledge "candy" that must be shared with others?

Why is it required or remotely helpful to hint at much less give others true depth of our living night-terrors I ask aloud?

If it's just the same to you, think I'll keep all the ghosts, the demons all to myself, and spare you (whomever) the living agony I live and possess. I like you, think I'll spare you my incredible living anguish, my suffering thanks -grim brief smile-.

The dragon is ours alone… in my humble opinion. "Sharing" is a gift neither freely, nor easily given (with excellent cause) in my experience. Without the disease, one is lethally handicapped to comprehend it.

Most Respectfully…

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-09-07 17:27:20 -0500 Report

Hi Stuart,

What's important is knowing you have a choice. That you can hold your feelings in if that is best for you. But also giving yourself permission to share your feelings and ask for support if you choose to. Too often, guys don't think sharing their feelings is an option.

Glad you shared your feelings on this topic! :))


ladybugsluck9 2014-09-05 22:23:22 -0500 Report

Stuart, I hear what you are saying, completely & felt that exact same way 20 yrs. ago when I was diagnosed with brain cancer, I was told to join a cancer support group. That it would be good to hear other people's struggles. So I did, but what I found out was that they were all dealing with different cancers so we had nothing in common but the word. But with diabetes, WE all share the same frustrations of blood sugar control. Those unexpected spikes! And hey, if you don't ever get frustrated with cravings or any of that other stuff or simply tired of poking yourself for a drop of blood, than I commend you! You are a stronger human than most! Keep on keepin on. :)

Stuart1966 2014-09-06 17:08:52 -0500 Report

Hello ladybugsluck9
In many respects even among our diabetic peers, those who share the diabetic muds & quicksand(s) we struggle through daily, often in truth as individuals our perspectives radically differ. As you said well re: nothing in common except the word itself I suppose?

I respect Dr. Gary meaningfully. I hope my earlier post explains a perspective possibly (???) addressing his good article, from that "more stoic" (???) perspective, I hope.

I suppose in some respects I question the wisdom of being a very public "diabetes educator" per se, in the sense everybody (IMHV) has "something" they do not reveal easily, and likely many things.

There are some pieces of information, some internal beliefs, views, perspectives that would literally crush someone if we shared them, in any number of arenas. Whether specific to our diabetes or otherwise..

My beliefs tend toward careful, cautious revelations if you will rather than the "bull-horn announcement" with complete strangers, and often loved ones too. Some problems are best left behind, real thick "locked doors". Not implying we can't open them to people, merely that some knowledge can be wickedly devastating. Gotta be real careful what one shares with whom… in my humble opinion. Some beliefs, ideas might, might be best kept to oneself perhaps?

Seeking to explore, probe the ideas Dr. Gary raised. Is keeping silent with ones friends, loved ones necessarily a problem about everything diabetic??? I am not sure it is…

ladybugsluck9 2014-09-06 21:06:07 -0500 Report

I'm on your side here. I do not announced to the world all of my medical problems, nor do I sit down to a meal with a sigh complaining because I can't eat this or that due to my diabetes. But there are people who thrive on doing all of the above simply for attention. Shoot, some will complain about a broken fingernail! You are so right about what you share with people, also.
Take care & be well.

rolly123 2014-09-04 17:26:50 -0500 Report

Dr Gary
That's good subject I'm girl and was raised not open up if u do u in trouble found that true!
I open up to stranger that far away! I have problem open up tony family or friends live with!
I'm trying hard open more other on this site it's easy to do ! Everyone who lets me talk thanks but it hard for women as it's to men I think way u raised !

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-09-07 17:20:36 -0500 Report

Hi rolly,

You make a very good point, my friend. It's not only men who are told to be strong and hold in their feelings. Women can also grow up with this message.

It's great to have you here! So let us know how you're feeling.


robertoj 2014-09-04 16:56:17 -0500 Report

It used to be hard for me. I was raised in a family that believed that things were better left unsaid. I never associated it with the occasional civil war or reluctance to give info to doctors or others until my life pretty much crashed and burned. After changing my life in desperation I saw a doctor for a check up. I found out I had health issues that either could have been avoided or treated. A few years later after fracturing a vertabra I found that I fractured it before and I should have confided in a doctor. My doctor said that I should have been paralyzed by the extent of the damage so it must have happened when I was young and my spine was flexible. I'm open about things now. I was a grandfather before I found out the cause of my aunts death at 26 or that diabetes ran on both sides of my family.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-09-07 17:19:22 -0500 Report

Hey Roberto,

I think a lot of came from families with lots of elephants in the room. So I know what you mean. It's hard to grow up that way. And as you pointed out, holding in your feelings may also mean not talking about physical concerns or pain. It's that "be strong" attitude working against ourselves.

Glad to hear you have moved beyond that. Thanks for sharing this.


PetiePal 2014-09-04 16:53:30 -0500 Report

There's no problem opening up really for me at least but the biggest trouble is the stereotypes of being diabetic. People assume that you're either overweight by choice or developed your diabetes "on purpose" and you can feel quite embarrassed in those situations.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-09-07 17:14:24 -0500 Report

Hi PetiePal, nice to see you. It's been awhile since we have been in touch. I know what you mean here. Diabetics do experience stigma, and it's a shame. Some people can respond to a few words of education from you, others maybe not so much. We can't control the prejudices that other people choose to hang onto. So hold your head up high and stay connected with the people who are most important to you. Gary

jayabee52 2014-09-04 16:43:11 -0500 Report

Howdy Dr Gary
I guess I'll be one of the first guys to open this can of worms.

Quite simply for me I can say that it is learned behavior.

There was this lady on here with whom I developed a friendship and I went to visit her. She expected more of me than friendship and I could not do more than friendship at the time since I was still getting over my loss of Jem. I was so talkative online, but was relatively closed mouth in person with her. She suggested that it was her weight which turned me off, but it was not that, and I looked within to figure the problem.

I have come to believe that it had to do with my ADHD and my upbringing. When a preteen I would say impulsive things, not well thought out, due to ADHD and would get punished generally by my dad for it. Due to my dislike of being punished I learned to keep my mouth shut when around people. It was safer that way. Added to that, was the general attitude among adults back in the '50s and '60s that children are to be seen and not heard.

BTW, I still sometimes say impulsive things, but I am better at "cleanup" of the faux pas than when in my younger days

I have learned how to open up when I feel the need, but in general my default setting is summed up by this saying: "I have 2 ears and 1 mouth and am to use them in that proportion"

God's best to all

IronOre 2014-09-06 10:34:02 -0500 Report

So were you diagnosed with ADHD by a doctor who specializes in it, or you are just assuming that you have it?

IronOre 2014-09-06 06:02:19 -0500 Report

how is your ADHD being treated ?

jayabee52 2014-09-06 12:56:41 -0500 Report

I had been Dx'd by a Dr in 2009 when I was with Jem. I have decided not to take any meds to treat it since I am now disabled and there is no need for me to be on task.

If I ever went back to work, I would need to revisit that decision.

Thanks for asking

IronOre 2014-09-06 13:25:29 -0500 Report

If I had a list of every ailment and condition that you have and brought up here in DC it would be a mile long.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-09-05 16:31:43 -0500 Report

Hi James,

Thanks so much for the honest and insightful post, as always.

I totally agree with you. I do think it is learned behavior. As you said so well, our parents create a climate that can encourage sharing feelings or discourage them. I grew up the same time you did, and also came from a home where children were "encouraged" (to put it mildly) to stay quiet unless addressed by adults, and also taught that boys don't cry.

It looks like you have "unlearned" that behavior, and so have I. We are both fortunate that way. And yes, I have to do some cleanup of my own at times.

And a good idea about the value of listening. Something we can always be aware of.

Thanks again!


Kats49 2014-09-04 16:41:59 -0500 Report

Personally I think it is a generational issue. When I was growing up I was repeatedly told not to share any of the families dirty laundry. My brother was told that boys don't cry. My late husband had difficulty sharing as well, to the point it actually affected him physically, with a heart attack at age 31. He had to have a 4 way bypass to continue to live to age 61. He would only share with his sisters and his wife me. He was as assessor who chose to listen rather than talk. He learned to trust his Heart specialist and his endocrinolgist they both probably knew more about him that anyone else before. In fact we all became great friends. Both of his doctors were married to each other…lol. His endocrinolgist still treats me.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-09-05 16:13:49 -0500 Report


This is an excellent point. It seems to me that younger men are often not as closed down emotionally as older men. That is quite a story. Thanks for sharing it. A really good example of the importance of talking about feelings and not holding them inside where they can do damage.



ladybugsluck9 2014-09-04 16:29:37 -0500 Report

For men, I think it stems from being told while growing up… boys don't cry! Therefore you shouldn't show/share emotions. It takes a lot for my man to open up, but once he does he always feels so much better! I never pressure him to talk, but it seems if I begin to open up on a topic I believe is troubling him, he does start to open up.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-09-05 16:11:09 -0500 Report

Hi ladybugsluck,

I think you're right. You hear that over and over and you start to believe it. It's a shame. I am glad to hear you have found a way to help the man in your life open up. That's much healthier than holding it in.


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