Jim writes, “I see a lot of men need to be more like women being promoted these days.” Tim writes that “Perhaps 2012 truly is the end of the world (as we know it). Lies and facts are now indistinguishable from each other and to call this out is perceived as a negative.” These are a few of the comments I received from my blog on Care2 that was reprinted on the Good Men Project website about why men have difficulty with intimacy. Clearly I hit a nerve, so I thought it might be a good idea to lend some more of my thinking to this very hot topic.
Am I truly off base, out to lunch, and not in touch with the male hubris, while shamelessly promoting the feminization of the American male? Nothing could be further from the truth. First off, I am a heterosexual male with some maturity, and my experience has taught me that men have trouble expressing what is going on in their lives. If I ask a male friend how he is doing, most often I will get a pat answer: “great.” If I have ever had an actual open conversation with a man, we are usually friends for life. This in no way detracts from the fact that men have a full range of emotions; they just don’t usually have the vocabulary or the interest in expressing it. I find men amiable, hardworking, and interesting, but often remote. I grew up with a bunch of them, starting with my father, who I never saw cry or talk about pain, insecurities or struggles. He had them, I could see them—but he never told me about them. I would have loved to hear about it.
So, what’s the point of all this? I am not suggesting that men become more like women, or that men have some real or imagined deficit, but if they could learn to tell someone about their travails, they might feel a whole lot better and make some friends along the way. This is not to say that men don’t ever do this, but to suggest that it is not a bad thing to be able to represent ourselves as we truly are. Everyone has to make their own way and determine for themselves what is important and meaningful to them. There is no right way to live life. But I think we men have been sold a bill of goods about being this hyper-masculine caricature of ourselves and not the real thing.
To answer Tim, regarding the quote in my earlier article that 80% of divorces are based on men not accepting the influence of women, this came out of the research that John Gottman did with 12,000 couples. If either member of a couple will not listen and allow themselves to be influenced by the other person, it’s usually curtains for an intimate relationship. The reason for this is that relationships have to move on from the same old conversations to new ones if they are to remain viable and vital. If one person won’t listen, then the relationship just dies in the water. Men usually have a more difficult time with being influenced by women because they feel like it’s a sign of weakness. Women don’t have a problem being weak; they commonly listen better. These are generalizations and do not pertain to ALL couples. There are many shades of grey here.
To address Jim’s comment about the feminization of men, I think that says it all. It feels like expressing emotions are the bastion of women: to show vulnerability, tenderness, willingness to change or be seen are signs of being feminine. I would like to make a case for those expressions being open to both genders and not trying so hard to divide one from the other. We can feel the worry that men have about not being men anymore, not being different, strong and in charge. We fear losing our dominance to women, becoming mere chattels of their desires. I feel very strongly that we don’t have to hold everything in, not listen, and be tough guys to be men. We can have opinions, strong points of view, talk firmly about what we want, and still be masculine. It also means that it’s not a sign of losing our position as men if we show some receptivity and vulnerability. This is a call for men to take a beat, and stop and consider what it is that we really want out of life. We don’t have to be cut off and alone to be men; we can be connected and involved with others in (may I say it) a loving way as a sign of great strength.
I believe we all yearn to be a part of something, to be included in the world of others and to belong to something that may be more important than ourselves. We don’t have to be brutes to be respected by other men. We just need to be who we really are, that’s all.