I Think My Husband Is The Tin Man.

A few years back I saw a husband and wife for marriage counseling. During our sessions they would both jokingly (but seriously) refer to the husband as…The Tin Man.

Yep, you got the right reference. The Wizard of Oz. The guy with no heart.

This name came about after many arguments over the years between them. The wife would be feeling angry, hurt, sad, etc. and the husband would appear as if he didn’t have much emotion at all. The funny thing is that the husband didn’t take offense to this name. In fact, I think it helped him be able to say, “Yep, I don’t have any feelings about this and you know that about me so let’s move on.” He would go on to say that he also didn’t see why his wife had to be so emotional about things all the time.

This comes up in my office repeatedly. It comes in many forms. It might look like, “He walks away or leaves when we have an argument.”  “She never lets it go and move on!” “I think he just doesn’t care.” “She gets overly emotional about everything we talk about.”

Age old argument. For thousands of couples. For thousands of years.

One day I was flipping through the TV channels and came across a documentary about transgender individuals. The segment of it that I caught was interviewing a man who was born as a female but had made the complete biological change into a male. He was stating that the biggest difference he found was that now as a man he could feel emotion but not have to tend to it if he didn’t want to. He could put it aside. Compartmentalize it if you will. He said that as a woman he wasn’t able to do that. As a woman he wasn’t able to ignore the feelings. He had to do something about them. The physician working with these individuals said that this is the biggest reported difference he hears about the transformation.


This implies that these differences between men and women are biological. This is directly aligned with what I repeatedly see in my office. The husbands I see aren’t emotionless. They just don’t always want to discuss how they are feeling, or they have to go to work and don’t have time to let the emotions impact them there, or they don’t like the fight that is going to come when they do say how they are feeling. So, they put the emotion in a compartment off to the side to be addressed later…or not. The wives in my office aren’t overly hysterical women. When emotion comes up for them (if we made it a visual thing) it’s almost as if there is a misty fog in front of them. They can’t move it or go around it. They have to go right through it in order to get to the other side. Biologically they need to attend to the emotion in order to move on. Now, do some men like to swim in their emotion and some women shut down and don’t share? Of course. There is a spectrum. However, what I see the most is exactly this.

So now you are thinking, “Great…it’s biological and can’t be changed. Now what?”

The key here is understanding. You now understand what your partner is doing and why. We no longer have to take these behaviors personally. They aren’t an attack on us. Their behavior is not an attempt to make you crazy or force you to do something uncomfortable. They are going about things the way that biologically feels right for them. This allows a wife to understand her husband better and say, “Let’s take a break in talking about this to cool off and agree to come back to it tonight.” or a husband to say, “I know you need to talk about this in order to let it go so let’s talk.” It allows you to find a middle ground where you can compromise. You no longer have to fight about who does it right and who does it wrong.

So the next time you find yourself thinking, “How can he go off to work after our fight seemingly just fine when I’m a wreck?” or “Why does she always want to talk about how it makes us feel?” remember it’s their natural way of handling emo