Men rarely show up, emotionally, relegating women to compete for the few who know that in the tech age emotionally savvy guys are the new musclemen. For the rest, relationships remain a flabby mismatch. Just as physical flab indicates physical laziness, emotional flab suggests emotional laziness. Men have no training in the emotional arena, which means that they are either going to face up to their shortcomings, or continue to lag behind women.
One-sided relationships, one in which only one partner is emotionally savvy, never move to a higher level of intimacy. Absent deepening intimacy, relationships stagnate, and like a stagnant pond, begin to smell of decay. Not a very pretty image, but an appropriate one.
The old masculinity died with the start of The Industrial Revolution, 150 years ago, creating a vacuum in which boys never become men, and men behave like boys. There’s no balance between macho and wimpy. Men who lean too heavily on their emotions become sobbing basket cases. They are no more desirable than men who are completely out of touch with their feelings. So where’s the balance?
Women no longer seem willing to ignore men’s dysfunctional behavior. While they are rapidly evolving in business, medicine, and government, men are devolving. Men are lost, and women are frustrated because, for lack of a better term, amateur men, are unable or unwilling to meet their relationship needs.
Men are going to have to ramp up their game, just to catch-up to women on an emotional level. In practical terms, that means men have to stop being afraid of their feelings and learn to understand and control them. An angry guy becomes tedious and exhausting, and strains a relationship to the breaking point quickly. Unless, or until he can figure out why he’s angry, and begin to work through his issue, a woman shouldn’t feel responsible for moving on without him.
It might help if men could watch other men on television in particular, behaving appropriately. Sadly, the men on television are the opposite. They’re shown to be stupid, foolish, and incapable of acting like men who set the bar higher. I suppose some people find that guy funny. I don’t, and I doubt most women do either.
Alternatively, men in public life have set an even worse example. Every male politician who lies to the public becomes just another man who can’t be trusted. Every thieving businessman suggests that men are not trustworthy. Every male celebrity who ends up in rehab suggests men can’t even take care of themselves, let alone a woman in a relationship.
So where are the good guys? Where are the men who are making a difference because they’re making an effort to relate to women, emotionally? One place to find men on the right path is in small, confidential men’s groups. There aren’t a lot of these men, yet, but their numbers are growing. I’ve been working with men in small groups for over twenty years, and in that time, every single man who dug deep and faced his issues, was able to overcome them, in time.
Men carry a tremendous amount of fear around with them, and it acts like an anchor. It’s heavy and severely limits a man’s maneuverability. Fear of not making enough money, of looking less manly, of being betrayed, of failing in career, of being unemployed, and last, but not least, of other men, all contribute to a dysfunctional man whose behavior reflects fear more than anything else.
An evolving man is one who understands his emotional shortcomings and works to overcome them. He understands that absent getting on top of his emotions and taking control of them, he will remain a victim of his emotions. When a man challenges his emotional issues by talking about them with other men, he begins the process of leaving them behind, like any excess baggage. Once he lightens his emotional load, he’s better prepared to work with his partner to deepen the intimacy in their relationship.
Women are drawn to his authentic power, because he wields his newly developed emotional strength with dignity and fairness. Other men want to emulate him, because he represents the new male paradigm; confident, courageous, emotionally strong, and with a clear sense of cultural position.
Do men’s groups really make that much of a difference? More than I could ever explain. I was an angry guy who raged in every relationship I was ever in, until I began my men’s group two decades ago. I talked about my anger and received helpful feedback from other men who had overcome their anger. I haven’t raged for years, and when I got married four years ago, I was grateful for the help I got from other, like-minded men. I never could have married if I was still wielding my anger like a weapon.
Individual therapy is always an option, but a better one, for most issues men face, is working those issues out with the help from other men. Once a man faces his biggest fear, fear of other men, change begins. There is no judgment, advice, or opinions offered in men’s groups. Men share their experiences instead, what they did that worked, and what they did that didn’t work. A woman’s support can make the difference between whether or not a man chooses the right path.