-“Doctor…After so many years, my husband still doesn’t open up to me.”

One of the commonest concerns of ladies in steady relationships is the one expressed by Jane X. in my office a while ago. Their partners do not show the same willingness to share their innermost feelings as they are with their bodies in the bedroom’s intimacy. And they have emotional frustration.

It is far more difficult for men, especially of mature age, to confide their most intimate secrets, fears, desires as they had been often reared with the silly motto that “men don’t cry” or that “men must toughen up at all times.” Well, we all know that men do cry and it has nothing to do with our sense of manhood as there are many circumstances in life that alter our equilibrium.

For many years I’ve been pondering whether the fabled “secret trigger” that makes males forfeit their usual defensiveness and open their hearts to a particular person exist as a constitutional feature. I know I have one. But do men of all stripes and backgrounds possess such a hidden emotional lever?

Wandering the magical streets of Venice I had the sudden inspiration to write a scene of my novel where two characters inebriated with love find it. If science cannot yet confirm our assumption of its existence, the women’s sentimentality and writers’ imagination can start to shape it in our minds.

“Chiara and Saul arrived at the ‘Ponte della Donna Onesta’, a small bridge that spans the ‘Rio della Frescada’, uniting Dorsoduro with San Polo. A legend affirms that a cutler lived with his beautiful wife nearby; a young patrician ordered a knife so he could get close to her. When the artisan was absent, he raped her. Full of shame, she took her own life with the same tool.

As they were crossing it, Chiara suddenly stopped and turned around.

-“Tell me…Can a woman love a man so much as to die for him?”

-“Hu-huh…Don’t really know…It could have been more plausible in other times when women were less empowered—much more dependent on men.“

-“What do finances have to do with a woman’s feelings?”

-“ C’mon, Chiara…. I’m not the right one to answer that—”

-“What? Can’t you appreciate the devotion of a woman in love?”

Saul averted his eyes, watching the slowly moving brackish watercourse.

-“Forget it,” Chiara said, tearing a piece of krapfen. “Open your mouth—“

Caressing his face, she gently placed the morsel inside. He closed his eyes.

A Swann moment paralyzed the neural networks of his sensory grid.

Saul is tightly holding his mother Rebecca’s hand, shopping together for groceries in the Venetian quarter, right after the Sabbath ended. After they left the bakery, she pauses. “Wait, dear… Have a bite.”

She takes a crisp pastry out of the bag and gives it to her eager son. No futile words or judgements. Only categorical motherly affection. Opening his eyes, Saul grabs Chiara by her waist and kisses her.

Chiara, the bookish spinster with little life experience, finds what his late wife did not in their twenty years of marriage: his secret trigger.

Nature’s sentimental ruse that forever attaches a man to a woman.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

14 thoughts on “The secret trigger

  1. I loved this post, dottore.

    It is hard for some partners to be emotionally open, paradoxically, we might think. Shouldn’t they feel most liberated precisely with their significant other?
    Often, couples who have experienced years of emotional abuse — judgment, ridicule, humiliation, and condemnation — in previous relationships find it difficult to open up. Established borders and boundaries make it almost impossible to penetrate. Real emotional openness, I read once, can be experienced as a death sentence because it implies being too exposed, too naked, too vulnerable. Then, there’s insecurity and low self-esteem often rooted in childhood wounds. What about fear of talking about emotional traumas? What is more, if you don’t engage in introspection and practice self-care yourself, the likelihood of opening up to your partner is pretty slim. Next, practice makes perfect, right? The more we talk, and share, the better we’ll feel about ourselves and consequently the more willing we’ll be to share. The role of the partner who should show support and understanding is therefore crucial.
    One more thing is the baggage lots of people bring into their relationship. Traditional roles of man and woman, expectations, patriarchal values. Woman is obedient, a good wife and a mother. Man is the bread-winner who’s no cry baby. In such cases, it’s hard to expect emotional and sexual openness.
    To sum up, we come to the same conclusion as many a time before. Help your partner feel more comfortable about themselves (body and soul) so that they could feel comfortable with you. Only then can and will they share their innermost desires, thoughts and emotions.

    1. Good morning and thanks for this excellent commentary. Indeed we are all reluctant “to open up” because we are afraid of becoming exposed. But if you cannot trust your loving partner to respect and understand your weaknesses and failings, then what is a life in common worth after all? It’s hard but necessary. By the way, when are you going to start reading my novel, eh? And commenting it?
      Un baccione. Arrivederci?

  2. vul·ner·a·bil·i·ty
    the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.
    Men do “default” to a version of their mothers in hopes of not having to be vulnerable. Mothers typically show unconditional love to their sons and they seek out the qualities that led to the feelings of unconditionality in the women they choose to be close to. This type of a woman (in his mind) is not one he needs to explain his feelings to as she already knows.

    1. Thank you very much my dear Roxy for illuminating us about tbe issue of men’s emotional vulnerability, which has not been properly discussed in the social media. As we are less emotionally developped we have less capacity to mount the kind of fancy defenses that women, in view of their centennary oppresion by patriarcal institutions, had to design in order to survive so much effrontery and brigandage against their core values. Now that the tables have turned in our modern societies, we are completely at a loss and usually take some refuge in a “motherly figure.” It’s not a question of working less. On the contrary we work more for such a woman(if only the femi-fascists knew it)

      1. I’m no fan of the femi-fascists. This is a category of women that factually give other strong women a bad name. A woman who can be assertive in the workplace and fight for justice with her feminine wiles is ten times the prize of an overbearing, overlooked, woman who wants something the men have without putting in the same effort.

      2. Right on! That’s our girl! If the femi-fascists come looking for moi, I will take refuge in any available little cave in your island…Un baccione. Arrivederci!

  3. Women must be detectives and mind- readers plus all things to all men forever more……
    Senior FRAGILE is to be molly-coddled , catered to hand and foot while being fed seedless white grapes soaked overnight in a crisp Pouilly Fuisse de Louis Jadot no less!!!
    Since Ms Germaine Greer -the wild and crazy “bra burning” advocate of Women’s liberation enlightened us ladies in the early 1970’s, Men have had an excruciating time trying their very best to hold on to the relationship structure of times past.
    Equal pay = Equal rights.
    Couples have to chart their own course in today’s complex ever-changing environment. Relationships are destined to disappoint if COMMUNICATION is not at the top of the list.
    Yes, as a woman, I want my partner to mirror my indulgent Dad and so many men “marry” their Mothers but hey at some stage we have to leave childish things behind and Carpe Diem.
    What’s so wrong with either party asking…..
    “Dearest Darling, what can I do to caress your very soul?”

    1. Dear Island Woman, thanks fo your commentary but it could not come at a more inoportune time. I am watching the Champions League final with my son and I have always been a rabid fan of Juventus. I will respond calmly to you tomorrow. Un baccione. Arrivederci!

    2. Good morning and Happy Sunday dear Island Woman; thanks for your comprehensive and interesting response. Please allow me to point out that there are 3 caveats though to your response.
      Number 1- usually we,men, are much less emotionally developped than women are. That’s why our triggers are usually related to childhood memories (please visit Proust and his novel “Du cote de chez Swann”)
      Number 2- for strong socio-cultural reasons Italians, and by extension Italian-Americans as myself, are strongly attached to the powerful figure of “la mamma” and in general we’re all “mammones”, i.e.”mamma’s boys.”
      Number 3- we’re not discussing the need for men to be more sensitive to womens’ needs but we’re critical of some of the unyielding post-feminist discourse that disparages men all the time and poisons the modern dating scene(please read the guest blog of Phicklephilly in my page)
      As a dutiful parent that cleans, does the laundry, cooks, sews and even knits for his children(while their mother enjoys a well deserved retirement from homely duties) I would advise some of the incredibly demanding, lonely ladies looking for an extremely pliable partner that they should stop scouring the dating apps and instead click “Craig’s list” (or,even better,Sally’s) where it says “valet services offered.”
      Un grosso baccione. Arrivederci!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.