I walk a fine line in my work. I want to honor and support all my clients. Most couples I see are heterosexual so that means there are two women in my office and one guy. And I know therapy is based in more traditionally female skill sets- vulnerability, communicating about feelings, focusing on relationships are not always an easy choice for men. But I also know that 2/3rds of divorces are filed by women. I know that marriage is a huge health asset to men in a way it isn’t to women. I know that men are at higher risk for most stress related illnesses. I know that men are more socially isolated. I know that men were raised in a culture of toxic masculinity that damages their emotional and sexual health. I know that men want and need connection and love just as much as women do.
In therapy, I have to push them and support them and challenge them and fight with them and fight for them. Men have some consciousness raising to do and it isn’t an easy task.
What happened in Las Vegas is beyond our understanding but it has something to do with the worship of power and guns and revenge.
What is happening with Harvey Weinstein isn’t about Hollywood. The stories are salacious and intriguing and “sexier” than the same crap that is happening in gas stations, in banks, in restaurants and sadly in our schools. Women aren’t shocked. We know how many men with so much less power have known they could get away with their bad behavior.
We are in this together. The dance between male and female power impacts our relationships, our parenting, our community. We can fight this fight daily in our own homes but we have to be willing to look at our gender bias. We were all raised in a sexist society that negatively impacts men and women in very different ways.
How do we support the men in our lives?
Step in. Most of us were raised to believe that women are the sensitive ones, women need more emotional support but that’s crap. Men need more affection, recognition, and nurturance than most of them have ever received. They have learned to survive on little, ask for less, suck it up, walk it off but the needs are there. Initiate contact. Be generous.
Coach Emotional Intelligence. You seem frustrated. Since you’ve gotten home, nothing seems to be right. Where are you? You seem distant. Any idea what you need right now? Sometimes when the kids are pushing my buttons, I find it helps to take a time out. Many men were so emotionally stunted as children that their emotional vocabulary is limited to “fine” and some undifferentiated grey mass of negativity that at least to women always seems angry.
Check Your Bias. We were all raised to ignore men’s feelings. We were taught that boys don’t cry or complain or ask for support. We highly value independent strength in men. We assume that their need for connection is only about sex and they only want one thing. We fear their vulnerability, we discount their worries.
Hold Them Accountable. This doesn’t work for me. I need you to get some help. I want more from us. This is not the kind of dad you wanted to be. Your drinking is impacting our family. I can’t connect with you when you treat me like this. Your tone shuts me down.
I have a couple of great resources for the men in our community. First of all I want to welcome a new therapist to my practice. Ryan Plasch is accepting new clients on BCBS, Preferred One and sliding fee scale. See more here at marriagegeek.com/ryan
Michele Michaelson has a great workshop coming up October 24th Secrets Great Husbands Know- she shares the best research on sex, marriage, gender roles and creating powerful relationships in today’s complex world.
And my best stuff!!! Amazing Marriage 101 November 8th.