The Understated Affection Of Fathers


Published:

Men may not be from Mars, but – compared to women – they do communicate in very different ways.

Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the relationships of fathers and sons. Outwardly, many father and son pairs may appear distant and disengaged. A guy who wouldn’t think twice about hugging and kissing his mom might offer his father only a stilted handshake. Dads who shower their daughters with affection may go years without telling their sons they love them. Men are often chided by their wives or mothers for not being willing to show more affection to their dads or their sons.

Such criticisms overlook a larger truth, one that I’ve spent years exploring as a communication researcher: Often for men, showing affection is more about what they do than what they say. Their ways of communicating love can be subtle. And while to outside observers they may seem like weak substitutes for genuine affection, to many fathers and sons they’re every bit as meaningful as words, kisses and hugs.

Different Ways Of Expressing Love

Glenn, a 41-year-old participant in one of my studies, has what many people would call a typical relationship with his dad, R.J. On Sundays, Glenn and his wife often visit Glenn’s parents. While Glenn’s wife catches up with her mother-in-law, Glenn and R.J. watch television, tinker with R.J.‘s car or tackle a household repair, barely saying a few dozen words to each other over the course of an hour.

In many relationships, these behaviors seem cold or distant. But in the case of Glenn and R.J., the two simply favor actions over words.

My research on affectionate behavior has consistently shown that, in general, men are more likely to communicate affection by doing something supportive than by making verbal expressions, such as saying or writing “I love you.”

While I’ve found that this is especially true in their relationships with other men, it’s also true in their relationships with women. With his guy friends, a typical man is more likely to show his affection by organizing a road trip or helping with a roof repair than by saying “I care about you.” Around his wife or mother, he may be more inclined to help with a task that needs doing – mowing the lawn or rotating the tires on the car – than sending a Hallmark card.

It’s easy to devalue these types of behaviors as substitutes for “real” affection. For example, Glenn’s wife believes that Glenn and his father prioritize shared activities because they don’t know how to express the way they feel about each other.

However, Glenn and his dad say that their favorite, most meaningful times together are spent sharing an activity or working on a specific task. To them, that is the expression of love: it signifies and reinforces how they feel about each other.

The Tension Between Intimacy And Masculinity

It’s easy to understand why many dads and sons appear indifferent to each other. At least in our culture, affection is commonly communicated through verbal expressions and also through nonverbal gestures such as hugging.

Both of these are less common in relationships between men, making it seem as though there’s something missing. But what’s really at play is a misunderstanding about the complexity of father-son relationships.

Family communication scholar Mark Morman and I have found that the father and son pair is complicated by the need to negotiate a complex tension between masculinity and intimacy.

On one hand, the bond between dads and sons is a family relationship. People tend to feel closer and more invested in their families than they do in many other social bonds.

On the other hand, the father and son pair is a relationship between two males – one that’s subject to cultural expectations about how men are supposed to act toward each other. Traditional masculinity has tended to privilege qualities like competition, independence and self-sufficiency. This comes at the expense of outward expressions of intimacy, which can convey vulnerability.

Wishing For More

Glenn told me that his dad became less outwardly affectionate toward him once Glenn became a teenager. I’ve found this evolution in the father and son relationship is quite common. At a certain point, many dads and sons will base their relationships on shared activities instead of shared words. Meanwhile, fathers tend not to curtail verbal displays of affection with their daughters in the same way, nor do mothers with their sons or daughters.

Like Glenn’s wife and mother, many women wonder aloud why the men in their lives aren’t more expressive and open. From time to time, even Glenn wished aloud that he and his dad could talk about their feelings for each other more directly.

As I explain in my book The Loneliness Cure, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a more expressive relationship. Indeed, many men do successfully become more verbally affectionate with their fathers or their sons.

There’s an important lesson here, though: Many male relationships are already richer and more meaningful than they appear to be. And the unique way men relate to one another deserves to be honored rather than belittled.

Kory Floyd is a professor of communication at the University of Arizona. His research focuses on the communication of affection in close relationships and its effects on stress and physiological functioning.

This article was republished from The Conversation.

See also:
Why Boys Need To Have Conversations About Emotional Intimacy In Classrooms
What Star Wars Taught Me About Being A Mindful Parent

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

May 25, 2018

Take notes as thoughts and feelings are unusually profound. An early morning trine between Jupiter and Neptune offers a rich communion between minds and hearts. Mental Mercury’s ensuing trine with Pluto deepens curiosity and gives insights into life’s…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2018

Spend a day in conversation with angels! Heal and empower yourself with the energy of angels. You will learn the special healing gift that each of nine healing angels brings and how this relates...

Cost: $111

Where:
Be Well Studios
3358 White Mountain Highway
North Conway, NH  03860
View map »


Sponsor: Pathway Of Joy
Telephone: 207-329-7192
Contact Name: Linda Huitt
Website »

More information

Do you desire more connection and intimacy? Do you want to increase the quality of your intimacy? Does fear of rejection, misinterpretation or expectations hold you back from initiating?...

Cost: $187 per person

Where:
Watertown Center for Healing Arts
22 Mount Auburn St
Watertown, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Conscious Intimacy
Telephone: 415-244-1652
Contact Name: Brynn Bishop
Website »

More information

With Dido Nydick A Restorative Yoga practice to experience relaxation for well-being. Each class will consist of a reclining pose sequence designed to restore the nervous system and help release...

Cost: $25

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-867-3969
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

Sunday yoga is back! Hatha Yoga with meditation to get you ready to tackle your spring intentions. Sign up for series or drop in. 

Cost: $75/5 classes; drop in $17.00

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Center
176 Jackson Rd
Devens, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Dragonfly Wellness Center
Telephone: 978-227-8297
Contact Name: Anita Perry
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

Feel the bliss of opening your spine, while being totally supported and meticulously aligned. Great for sciatica and low back pain! Classes also held Saturday mornings.

Cost: $18 drop in

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Sponsor: Bliss Through Yoga
Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice
Website »

More information

8 Week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course with Erin Woo Tuesdays, May 1 - June 19, 6–8:30 pm *Includes an all day retreat on Saturday, June 9 from 9 am - 4 pm Come explore the...

Cost: $290

Where:
Balance Bethlehem
2087 Main Street
Bethlehem, NH  03574
View map »


Sponsor: Balance Bethlehem
Telephone: 603-869-2125
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

YogaLife studio would like to offer this opportunity to slow it down, step back, notice your breath and sit quietly in community. Join us Thursdays from 5:40-6:30 PM. No Yoga...

Cost: Free

Where:
YogaLife Institute
6 Chestnut Street
Suite A
Exeter, MA  03833
View map »


Telephone: 603-969-8968
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

May 25 - 27 The heroic and shamanic journeys weave throughout human history. Each requires the protagonist to journey into another order of reality, a landscape of magic and mystery…...

Cost: $325 – includes food

Where:
Putney, VT  05346


Sponsor: Circles of Air and Stone
Telephone: 802-387-6624
Contact Name: Sparrow Hart
Website »

More information

Designed to prepare individuals who are interested in helping themselves and others in a rewarding career as a Professional Certified Hypnotist/Hypnotherapist. Live demonstration, supervised...

Cost: $1995 ppd. (Early Bird by 5/14 - $1795)

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Dominic Boag is one of the UK’s finest psychic mediums. Dominic has been taking his events to audiences across Scotland. He is the Scottish Sun’s Psychic and writes his own column named...

Where:
American Legion Post 440
295 California St.
Newton, MA  02458
View map »


Sponsor: Greater Boston Church of Spiritualism
Telephone: 617-861-1440
Website »

More information

May 25 - 28, 2018 Save the date! Four days of learning, earth healing, music, meditation, dance and delicious organic food! All are welcome!

Where:
Old King Farm
567 Money Hole Road
Benson, VT  05743
View map »


Telephone: 802-537-3460
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags