I have spent several years doing couples therapy with men and women and I have begun to notice a theme. The men in relationships are actually quite sensitive, naturally emotionally connected (some are quite insecure), and dance to the rhythm of their partner (they play off of their partner's emotions). I am also seeing more men who struggle with characteristics that resemble the over-used term: codependent. But are they too dependent, too needy? Or is this actually a natural state of interdependence that society has shunned in an effort to make men into unemotional, detached robots? Men, after all, have feelings too. Men deserve to experience love, to connect on a deeply intimate level and share affection beyond the sexual intimacy in the bedroom. Some women may struggle with a man that is connected to his emotions, open with his feelings and willing to share intimately. To these women, I would invite them to explore whatever stories they learned from childhood regarding men showing emotions (specifically stories related to their fathers).
In my opinion, if men were allowed by our society to fully embrace what I believe is their innate connection to their emotions, and not be labeled or belittled as being less than a real man, a lot of relationships would look really different. I also wonder if certain addictions (sex, porn, substance abuse) might decrease in some way for men, if they were allowed to share who they are, connect with their emotions, and to be fully congruent with their truth. I do not believe that men are unemotional, detached, and inherently rough around the edges. They may be socialized to be this way, but I don't believe this is how they were born.
I recently encouraged a friend of mine to approach her partner in a new way. She and her husband have been having marital struggles for quite some time. After listening to her describe their recent interactions, I offered her some of my thoughts on relationships and men. Maybe her husband's self esteem is low because he feels disconnected from her emotionally? Maybe his love language (reference: Gary Chapman's book) isn't being acknowledged and therefore he feels rejected? Maybe she is not giving him any or enough appreciation, or 8-10 non-sexual touches to connect with him during the day (which by the way increases the chances of sexual intimacy)?
She admitted to not doing any of these things but instead criticizing him in front of the kids, ridiculing him in front of others, and consistently negatively reacting to his behavior. I suggested that she do some or all of these new techniques and notice what he does as a response. She said through tears "I bet he would cry." She thanked me for offering her this different insight into some possible ways her husband might be feeling, and admitted to having been stuck in a rigid notion of how she thought he was acting based on her own stories as a child (specifically watching her own parents negative interactions).
Moral of this blog: If you are in a relationship, be sensitive to your partner, and avoid getting stuck in the rigid gender roles that we each have been taught. Women can be strong, unemotional, detached at times, while men can be emotional, insecure, and needy. If we can embrace each other completely in relationship, maybe our divorce rates will begin to decrease, and longlasting intimacy will prevail.
That is my note about men.