It wasn't until the age of 30 that I - smart, successful rising marketing executive and m.b.a. student - realized that men were supposed to be nice to me. Three weeks into dating the man, Noah, I am married to today, he said to me, "Christine you can't like a guy because he's nice to you, he's supposed to be nice to you." With that one sentence Noah changed my life and made me painfully aware that I had come to expect men to be controlling, short-tempered, hypercritical and unpredictable and with that my boundaries of what I considered acceptable behavior by my partner were extremely 'messed up.'
I learned to turn the cheek when he swore at me, when he got really angry at me for using the grill the wrong way, or when he grabbed my wrist harder than felt good. I learned to get by doing activities I loved by myself, to look to my friends for emotional support, and to put my bigger dreams on hold. And I came to find it totally normal to become a crazy banshee during our fights, to fall asleep to Roseanne Barr instead of snuggling with him, and to let the business contract of our relationship - which worked well - be enough.
Fast forward 9 years, lots of personal work, good boundaries re-established, and married to Noah, a good, loving and sexy man, I found myself in a conversation with Noah that brought another deep, and frankly shocking belief about men to the surface of my conscious awareness.
Noah has been part of men's group for over 3 years. They meet weekly for a few hours on Thursday nights and talk. Not about sports, business or the latest playboy pin up, but about their lives, their dreams, and their problems. Each of the men supports the other men to break through whatever is holding them back. While I knew Noah couldn't tell me what these men talk about specifically, I found myself curious about what kinds of things they talked about the most, so I asked him.
I expected him to say something like "Their careers, work or money." When he said, "What these men talk about more than anything is their relationships," my mouth dropped to the floor in disbelief. And inside my head this sarcastic voice said, "Really men, care about relationships, c'mon. Men don't care about having intimate, close, fulfilling relationships."
"Wow! Where did that come from," another voice shockingly replied in my head. What I didn't realize is that my lips were also conveying these thoughts out loud to Noah, who looked at me back, a little shocked, as I was that I would have these kinds of feelings about men - especially given that I had such a close, intimate relationship with Noah. Why would I believe that there weren't other men like Noah who were both caring and loving as well as masculine and sexy? Why wouldn't I believe that men, just like women, wanted to be deeply loved, seen and supported by their partners.
The why goes back to the fact that other than Noah, my gay male friends, my two best, straight male friends (both good guys who married not good girls), and my spiritual teachers (all over the age of 50), I hadn't experienced the 'imprint' of these good, heterosexual men. And therefore I didn't really believe they existed. It was like 'good men' were an endangered species or something.