The Problems Men Face Today
© 2000 Author – Psychologist: Toby Green
If I believe what I see in my office, men are a mess. They’re jumping off of buildings, dropping dead of heart attacks. They’re depressed, emotionally numb, spiritually unhappy, confused about what’s expected of them, and their women are tossing them out at a rate of knots.
What’s going on?
My women clients are an average age of 35. They’re going our there in the world and earning significant money, they’re CEOs of companies. They own the company. And they’re saying that if they can make it in a man’s world out there, I want him to be able to be my equal partner in the emotional world of our home. And he’s not.
They’re complaining that their men are emotionally too dependant, that they can’t be intimate, that they aren’t committed to them or to themselves.
The most popular female exit lines are “I already have two children. I don’t need a third.” Or “If you aren’t part of my solution, you’re part of my problem. Get out!”
What’s the problem with these men? Is there anything I can find that they have in common?
Seven things come to mind.
They appear needy. – How does this come about?
A bouncing baby boy gets born. He goes from being his mother’s son, to his girlfriend’s hero, to his wife’s husband, to his children’s father. There is always someone’s pedestal he’s on. Men always seem to get to see themselves reflected in the mirror of someone else’s approval. He always seems attached to an emotional unbiblical cord. Therefore separation from that input can be spooky, fear of emptiness abhorrent, autonomy unknown.
1.They need to be able to stand on their own two feet emotionally.
2. They need to de-bogeyman feelings of emptiness.
He should spend time alone either literally if he’s been kicked out or in his mind and imagination to visualize himself flying on his own wings.
He needs to see that if he turns his wife into his mother, she’s going to feel about as sexy around him at the end of the day as she does around her 2-year-old. It’s such a bad look.
5. They need to fake it till they make it.
I ask my clients the ultimate neediness test question. You adore your wife. She’s fallen out of love with you and wants out the relationship. Are you emotionally strong enough to handle the devastation you’re going to feel and wish her God’s speed? Worse. Not only has she fallen out of love with you, but she’s fallen in love with your best friend. Same question. Are you emotionally strong enough to handle the devastation you’re going to feel and wish her God’s speed?
What makes it so hard for them?
I think it’s because These men don’t seem to know who they are.
How can a person lose himself? I was there a minute ago. I can look in a mirror. I can see a familiar face. I can pinch myself and I feel something. But somehow I don’t feel connected to what’s inside.
Here’s how a person can go missing:
He’s 7,8,9 years old, kicking a football around the back yard. Unknown to him his father is watching from the veranda. He yells down to him, “Hey dummy. What’s the matter with you? Are you clumsy or stupid or both? You kick like a girl. (Oh God not that!)”
Or his teacher humiliates him “Jones, you might want to think about taking up woodcraft.” or his first girlfriend dumps him. He’s hurt or humiliated. What does he say to himself? “Oh oh who I am is not ok. I better become someone else.” They make a decision. They devise an act.
1. “I’m never going to trust anyone with my feelings ever again.” And he becomes ‘Mr. Loner’.
2. “I’m always going to pretend that what people think of me doesn’t matter to me then they won’t get the better of me.” Mr. cool hand luke.
3. “What a silly idiot I am.” I’ll always send myself up first then I can be in control of people laughing at me.” Mr. clown
“I’ll hurt you before you hurt me.” Mr. bully
Or “I’ll just put on this limp or stutter to demonstrate what effect they’re painful action has had on me and then everyone will know what a bad person they are.” Mr. victim.
They hide, they pretend, devise masks or acts to hide emotional pain and vulnerability. All solutions or defenses to “Who I really am is not enough.”
How do they get back their real selves?
Who would they be if they weren’t avoiding rejection, conflict or afraid of meeting someone else’s expectations?
How do they get back their real selves? We have two voices the voice of ‘should do-should be’. I should do this. I shouldn’t do that. They should do this. They shouldn’t do that. Constantly judging and assessing, judging and assessing. Then there’s the voice of ‘The truth for me’. The voice of the gut or the heart.
You go to the restaurant and the waiter says tonight’s specials are macaroni and cheese or Duck l’orange. Where do you go to find the answer? Usually you go to the truth for you. “Hmm what do I feel like? Macaroni and cheese, you beauty.” But on this particular night you’re entertaining the M.D. from New York. You think, “Bing. You shouldn’t order the macaroni and cheese. He’ll think you’re an unsophisticated, country bumpkin. “I’ll be the Duck l’orange. Thank you.” Mr. Smart Gourmet.
1. They need to listen to which voice they’re listening to.
Are they saying what they really mean or are they trying to please or avoid conflict.
3. They may need time out to stop vibrating off other’s expectations.
4. Who would they be if they weren’t wearing their acts?
5. They need to get to a place of what you see is what you get. ‘Who I am is good enough.’
Having found that lost self, they need to commit to it.
A handy skill for this is knowing the difference between compromise and prostitution. Compromise is when she asks him to come with her to visit her deaf aunt Moira. It’s an afternoon of mind numbing boredom in stereophonic sound. It’s an exhausting, frustrating, guaranteed dud afternoon of missed sport, soggy lemmingtons, and luke warm tea, with a case of laryngitis thrown in. And as much as he hates it, he’s agreed to it. But, by doing it, he doesn’t lose any of his real self. He’s still him.
In prostitution, she says she thinks their sex life is a bit flat and what about inviting in the chap down the hall for a menage trios. This isn’t up his ally at all. It’s just not what he’s into. But he says yes.
Why? He’s mad about her. If he says no, she may reject him, start a fight, worse, leave him, Now he’s agreed to something where he does lose himself. After the event he is no longer his real self. Out of fear of rejection or conflict, he pretends that something that is not ok with him, is ok.
They need to check out before they sign on whether they’re giving up too much.
They need to ask themselves. Can I really do this?
Am I balking because I’m lazy or being obstinate or the ask will make me pretend that something that is not ok with me and never will be ok, is ok.
Commitment to themselves is what keeps them safe if the price of losing a person they adore is themselves.
Once they’ve committed to themselves, now they can afford to commit to her.
What is this thing called commitment women keep carrying on about?
The confusion is that a lot of people think love and commitment are the same thing. Like lovemittment or comlovement. Love is an emotion. Commitment is what we do about loving someone.
In long term relationships you can bet you’re bippy there are times when love flies out the window. There are days when you feel bored, numb, annoyed pressured, like you want to bop them over head with a frying pan. Love and passion are the last things you’re in touch with. Commitment is the glue that keeps it all together when nothing else would. It’s knowing that at the end of being bored or pressured or angry, love will flow back. Love is fluid. It comes and goes. It changes in nature and intensity. Commitment is the constant that rides out the bad times.
Why is this so important to women? Because when a man isn’t committed it feels like when he walks out the door he takes the relationship with him. There are no guarantees he’ll be back. It’s unsettling and causes insecurity. It brings out the worst in her. She either becomes a nagger trying to get the sense of security she needs, or she becomes a performer on her best behavior in fear that if she isn’t, he’ll use that as an excuse to leave. So, he’s not getting the real woman, and certainly not her best.
If he’s unsure the woman he’s picked is the right life-partner, he needs to commit to her. This will tell him what he needs to know. Commitment isn’t about staying or leaving. It’s about giving something a %100. Then he can sign on or walk away, knowing he’s given it everything and he’s got everything and either this relationship is enough or it’s not.
Under the umbrella of commitment is monogamy. It seems to me that for men Monogamy is like deciding to have your stomach stapled at the smorgasbord of life.
Monogamy entails a conscious decision that they will spend a lifetime of the ‘wannas’. They’re going to wanna have it off with the check out chick at Woolworth’s, they’re gonna want to bonk the flight attendant, their personal trainer, the new account assistant, and they’ve made an agreement with themselves not to.
Here’s the monogamy test I give them. He’s sharing a first class row with Michelle Phiffer. The attendants have dimmed the lights and disappeared. As Michelle leans over heading for his zipper, faster than a speeding bullet, he reaches into his wallet, flips to the photos and say, “Here’s my darling Alice. That’s Buddy the oldest and that there is little Derrick, the spitting image of his mum. And it’s about how committed I am to Alice that I’m going to have to knock you back, Michelle. Nothing personal. Does he pass?
If I were the president of marriage vows here’s what I’d devise. “I Harold Glutzh agree that I have studied the rules of marriage very carefully and I know that this means that I will never ever ever have sex with another woman again as long as I shall live and that I throughout my life I am going to be plagued with the ‘wannas’. But I know that my love and commitment to Alice and my trust in myself is great enough to get me through. That would put a few reception centers and celebrants out of business.
Now that they’ve committed her next ask is intimacy.
Herein lies the greatest gender complication there is. Men get feelings. Women have feelings. When a man gets a feeling, it’s a call to action. Oh Oh I feel something. Something must be wrong. Something must be done so I can stop feeling and get back to normal, which is when I’m not feeling anything.
On the other hand women spend most of their lives feeling and are in no hurry to stop feeling. As a matter of fact, a lot of women define themselves by what they’re feeling.
Given, men find feelings something that needs to be fixed and got rid of.
Given, women find feelings a part of life and just fine to stay.
Given, men’s greatest relationship-need is to be adored.
Given, women’s greatest relationship-need is different. She needs to be understood.
Given, who a woman is how she feels and on top of that she wants to be understood for who she is.
Given all this, how on earth do any of us make it work?!
He needs to be able to be still with her feelings and do nothing. Which seems to fly in the face of every instinct a man has.
Linda and Gary. Linda’s complaint was that although Gary didn’t get up and walk away when she was communicating with him, she often wondered if what she was talking about was getting through. She would ask, “Are you interested in what I’m saying? Would you rather I talk to you about this later?” Then Gary would get angry and snap, ‘What more do you want me to do? I’m listening.”
Gary explained, “Well you told me that women don’t want their problem ‘fixed’, that they just want us to listen. So I’ve been good. I’ve stopped offering solutions. It makes me cranky when she asks if I understand what she’s talking about. I’ve sat there with my mouth shut, which I admit sometimes I don’t find easy. I’m often wondering why she’s worried about what she says she’s worrying about and doesn’t just get on with life, but I don’t interrupt and I am listening. Can’t she see that?”
Gary only has part one of intimacy handled. Linda could be talking to the picture on the wall. It also wouldn’t interrupt and could look like it was listening. ‘Listening’ with his ears only, is passive. It isn’t interactive. ‘Hearing’ on the inside with his mind and heart is what is needed. I explained to Gary that added to not interrupting and listening there was another dimension needed. He needed to let what Linda was saying ‘in’. He had to take her information into his mind and heart and pretend that what she was describing was happening to him. He needs to ‘walk a mile in her moccasins’. Only then can he relate to what she is communicating. This is what ‘empathy’ is. This is what sharing is. It is an inter-active perception, acknowledgement and response to another person’s experience.
Out of doing this he will know what an appropriate response should be. Gary looked confused. He said, “I’m not really good at responding on the spot. Sometimes I need to sit with information for a while until the penny drops before I know what to say.”
He is looking in the wrong place. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. He has switched his focus from her to himself. All she needs is for him to ‘get’ what she’s said. That’s all. While he’s listening to her he’s been more focused on what he’s supposed to say back when she stops talking, ‘what do I need to say?. It’s not about him. It’s about her. The answer to ‘what to say’ always lies with what experience she is describing, not with what a right answer would be.
Linda and Gary have a 9-month-old baby and she is pregnant with their second child. She was trying to communicate that she felt terrible. The baby was sick and had been up all night screaming. She’s breast-feeding, feeling early-pregnancy-miserable, and her back is playing up. After delivering this to Gary, she felt he’d tuned out.
He admitted that although he listened, he didn’t see what the solution to that was. He offered to stay home from work and take care of the baby. Linda said she didn’t want him to do that. She just wanted to share with another human being how she felt. When he realized there was nothing he could do, he admitted that he zoned out.
What Gary was indicating was that he was having a problem focusing. I asked him, as a computer programmer, to picture what his mind is like when a computer he is working on crashes. He answered that he blocks out everything and goes through in his mind what could possibly have been the cause and what might be the solution and then he starts to implement those procedures until he’s found the right solution. I ask him if he would be capable of wondering who was winning the Australian Open at that moment. He said no. He’d be too absorbed.
I explained that it was the same degree of intensity of focus he was going to have to bring to his listening skills in order to understand Linda. It’s simply a matter of discipline.
I asked Gary what an appropriate response would have been this morning. He played it back in his head. His penny dropped. He said, ‘You poor thing. I’d hate it if I were saddled with that. I wish I could have it for you. If I could, I would.’ Without having to go away and think about it, he reached over and put his hand on hers. He got it. Linda looked like she just pulled the ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card. Bingo!
I explain that intimacy calls for:
Turning the volume of listening with their ears up to ‘hearing’ on the inside.
It takes intense focus of attention.
It takes the willingness to take her information in and process it as though it were happening to him.
It takes letting her in. Letting her happen to him, like he’d do with children or pets or sports results.
He needs to learn to focus, like he would if his computer crashed. Or his accountant was explaining a tax loophole to save him thousands.
He shouldn’t try to figure out the ‘right’ thing to say. The answer is in the computer. What is it trying to tell him?
He needs to say what comes naturally in answer to how he would feel if he were going through what she’s going through.
Walk a mile in her moccasins.
I told my men’s room group that a good default line if they experience paralysis about a response is, “What a bummer.” Or “That must have been terrible for you.” “Of course you feel bad. I don’t blame you.” “You poor thing.” Ph.D. grads get to say. “Is there any more? Anything else you need to get off your chest? Go ahead. I’m here. I’m hearing you.”
6. Ok she’s happy. Now lets get some benefits for him. How to win with women in conflict.
Here’s the story of Doug and Anne. (insert story)
(947) I have been seeing Doug and Anne for a while. We’ve worked through their issues like peeling an onion. Anne is a wordsmith from way back. She’s one of the best fisherwomen I know. She knows exactly the mood of the fish, what bait they will snap at, how to wind it on the hook in a way that no matter how resistant the fish, she’ll snare it in the end. In response to feeling snared with a hook through his lip, Doug will at times snap. Doug is a big guy, who’s fought a few battles on the sports field in his day and no doubt won most. He’s a gentleman, but not used to losing. So when Anne works him to snap point his default defense mechanism is to say quite forcefully, “P… off, you bitch!” He’s not proud of this and we all agree there is a better way. Slowly but surely he has been able to curb his temper and Anne has learned not to bait as much.
She’s telling me their most recent argument is about his failure to put the alarm system on before following her to bed after she’s explained a million times how important it is to her. They were recently burgled while he was away on a business trip. In the morning when she discovered he hadn’t done it, she exploded. “You never listen to what I say. Because it’s not important to you and only important to me you won’t do it. I’ve explained how I feel about feeling unsafe. You never give a damn about how I feel only how you feel. Etc. Etc.”
Doug is listening to her retell me this story and seems pretty calm. He even has a smile on his face. I ask him how he responded. He says he didn’t ‘snap’.
What he related, explained my question of why a man is willing to get killed on a battlefield, is willing to allow a team of huge men to jump on him with the intention of inflicting bodily harm if he doesn’t relinquish an oval pig skin, but turns either to jelly or Rambo when being yelled at by a 7 stone female.
He explained, ‘The trouble has been working out the enormous difference between the kind of conflict that happens between men and between a man and a woman. Men fight for an outcome. At the end of the battle one army gets to put their flag on the mountaintop. At the end of the game one team wins. At the end of the fight one man is left standing. We fight for a result.
When a 7 stone female is verbally thundering down on you, you know you are in danger of some sort. The ferocity of her demeanor makes you automatically go into ‘fight or flight’. You feel frightened, threatened, frustrated, impotent, confused, and angry. You are fighting a battle on a strange battlefield. She’s using weapons you’ve never used before and don’t understand. You know no physical damage is going to happen to you, so don’t necessarily want to run, but you also know that you are not allowed to use any of your natural, given abilities to stave off the damage. You have to sit on your hands. And you can’t figure out what the result is supposed to be other than to make me wrong, punish me, and for me to feel bad about myself.
When we started therapy with you I could only get to a point of going numb. I’d freeze. I worked out that if I just stood still and nodded she would eventually stop. Of course all this time I was simply surviving. I didn’t hear one word she said. All I knew was that I at least hadn’t told her to “P… off”.
Now I’ve become a lot calmer. It’s like lifting above the battlefield. I can be objective when she’s rampaging. I see her as a wave. She builds and builds and eventually crashes on the sand. I know she will run out of sound and fury and abate. While that is happening I can look down on it and separate my emotional response to what is going on from my intellectual response, like stepping back and seeing what’s happening. I can separate out her rage from what she is saying and can hear her. Now that I’ve got that the purpose is to punish me for not doing what she wanted me to do, I find it easier just to apologize and be willing to be wrong. Hell, if that’s all it takes, why not.
I asked him, “How do you feel about what you’ve mastered up to this point? Do you think it’s meaningless and just one more thing a guy has to do to ‘keep the little missus happy’? Doug said, “No I’m proud of myself. I feel more adult and in control. I also feel much closer to Anne.”
Stay present. Don’t disappear mentally or physically.
Rise above the battlefield.
Separate their emotional response from their intellectual response.
Validate her argument. Try to understand what she’s talking about. Repeat back to her his understanding of what she’s saying. “What you’re saying is it really annoyed you is that I left my wet towel on the bathroom floor, that I take you for granted, that I don’t respect you.”
Don’t turn it into a contest or get defensive. If he’s wrong, be wrong. Apologize. “I’m really sorry.”
Don’t get stuck being right about the issue. It’s better to win by having the argument over than to fight on in order to be right. I’m not guaranteeing if he picks up his towel she’ll feel respected and loved until he does the next thoughtless deed. I really do empathize with the joke, “If a man is alone in the forest, is he still wrong?” That degree of sense of humor goes a fair way.
And finally 7. For those who wonder if it’s always the male who has to back pedal.
This is about setting limits.
Many of my male clients have serious deal breaking issues in their relationships. They can feel undervalued, used, taken for granted, undermined in front of children, overly criticized, put down, as though they can never get it right.
Do they say anything forceful to her about this? No. Do their women respect them for this? No.
He has all of the skills in place we discussed above. He still feels like he’s in a no-win situation. He needs to define what issues are deal breakers and if confronted with one, be able to take a definitive and non-negotiable stand.
I show them a place I call the solarplexis, the power base, the engine room. This also has a voice. They need to be able to go there and what they’ll find is that sometimes what’s called for is, “Stop! That’s enough!”
They may never need to access that button, but just think how powerful they’d feel if they could.
They’ve found themselves and committed to that.
They’ve committed to her and found out who she’d be if she were the best she could be.
They know how to meet her need for intimacy.
They can stay centered in combat.
And now the icing on the cake. They can find that place inside themselves that’s able to say, ‘That’s enough!’
They have found the courage it takes to commit to that line in the sand that enables them to say, “This is as far as I go. I don’t go one step further than this. Even is the price of that is the woman I adore. If the cost is my real self, it’s simply too high a price to pay.”
With these 7 skills mastered, they regain their dignity, their integrity, her respect, his own self-respect.
They’ll get their needs met while at the same time meeting hers.
It will make their relationships greater than the sum of its parts.
It will help create a new era of gender equilibrium.
It will give men a role model to pass on to their sons.
It will give them their balls back.
Are my clients unique? Do they have these issues on their own? I don’t think so.
I really feel for men. The male gender has copped the most unrelenting hiding over the past 30 years. You’ve been criticized, ridiculed, put down and underestimated long enough. Truly, what’s needed is manpower.
Gentlemen start your engines!
How to contact Toby Green:
194 Military Rd
Neutral Bay, NSW, 2089
Australia Ph: 02-9908-4461