Let’s talk about crying. Specifically, about the awkward dynamic that occurs when you’re crying hysterically and your boyfriend is sitting there looking trapped, but not in a “bitches be cray,” kind of way. He’s looking at you like he’s scared because he loves you and he wants to help you feel better but he’s not sure what to do. Only you don’t want any kind of help, all you want is comfort — especially if you’re in the throes of a hormonal crying jag. Those are the worst because they come on suddenly and can be set off by something as small as running out of toothpaste and make you feel inordinate amounts of embarrassment. I’m crying and I have no idea why!?
Trying to figure out why only makes you cry harder and then the boyfriend feels more helpless, because even though he may be a super sensitive dude, the only time he cried in the last decade was when his grandmother died. It’s not that he doesn’t feel crappy enough to cry. He just expresses it differently. Crying, for him, is a last resort type of thing and it’s always pegged to a specific event. He doesn’t get that crying for you, is like cleaning gunk out of drain –if you don’t do it every now and then, the drain will get clogged. So there he is getting frustrated by how inept he feels and you end up having to comfort him. No really, I’m fine, just leave me alone and let me cry my fucking brains out. Sound familiar?It probably does. What he needs a step-by-step guide for how to handle you when you’re in the throes of a crying jag. We thought we’d help out.
Step 1: Don’t freak out. As we mentioned in the intro, we know it’s scary to see someone you love so upset, but it’s even scarier to have two people freaking out. Try not to get too caught up in the intense energy of the moment. Stay calm but warm. This is a very vulnerable moment, and more than anything we just need you to make us feel safe and validated.
Step 2: Comfort. Men often confuse “comfort” with “try to fix everything.” We know your intentions are good, but the truth is that in the midst of an emotional breakdown, even if you come up with the most brilliant, logical solution to the problem, your words are just white noise. Sometimes people just need to let their feelings out. Try to resist the urge to fix, and focus instead on offering pure comfort. Rub her shoulders. Gently remind her that this too shall pass. Let her cry.
Step 3: Broach the heart of the matter. Once you’ve let the crying happen without trying to make it stop, you can move onto the part where you help her understand why she’s crying. Because yes, maybe the toothpaste started the whole thing and the engine that powered it was her hormones, but the cry was not unwarranted. There is always something underneath. The best way to help her understand her own emotions is to ask some gentle, open-ended questions. What’s going on? Anything you feel like talking about? If she does feel like talking, and she probably does, she’ll throw you some breadcrumbs. Don’t try to do anything, just follow the trail until you get to the gingerbread house. It might take a little bit because seriously, she might genuinely not know why she’s crying, she’s not trying to be coy if she says that. Just consider yourself on the mission with her, to get to the heart of her distress. Then listen. Again, try not to fix, and just let her say what she needs to say. It might take 5 minutes, it might take an hour, but try to be patient, and know that she will absolutely return the favor for you next time you need to talk out every detail of a stressful situation.
Step 4: Offer a tissue. At this point we’re probably done with the most intense part of our crying outburst, and becoming aware of the fact that there’s snot in our hair. Feel free to help her clean up a bit, in a completely non-judgmental way of course. Just hand her a tissue.
Step 5: Help her move on. You made it through without fixing anything. See? Her sobs have subsided. She’s gone through a few tissues and she probably wants to put her crying jag behind her. She has some stuff to think about now. Like, how she needs to work on not overcommitting herself. That will take time to process. In the meantime, offer things that you know make her feel good. Make her laugh, pour her a glass of wine, pop in her favorite movie and just chill with her. Don’t try overly hard to cheer her up, focus rather on mood-lightening.
Step 6: Cuddle. As Ami always says, “SNUGS [AKA snuggling] is the life force.” After an intense crying fit, which was probably a bit awkward and confusing for both of you, reconnection and reassurance is so important. The easiest way to do this? Get your cuddle on while watching her favorite movie on the couch and let the intensity and sadness fade into the past.