Can you imagine how you would feel if you were forced to compete your whole life and had hundreds and hundreds of small and large rejections, many of them crushing? Women, of course, have their own issues to deal with, but see if you can let yourself feel the shame that haunts men.
A man's basic need is for respect, just as a woman's basic need is to be cherished. He needs to feel like a winner, that he can beat the competition and be the chosen one. From the time he is born until the day he dies, he is vulnerable to shame and loss of face.
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5. A woman's fear triggers a man's shame and vice versa. Here's an experience many people have had that can serve to introduce us to this critically important topic. A man and his wife are in the car together on their way to visit family for the holidays. As he drives around a curve, the wife suddenly puts her hand on the dashboard to brace herself. He gives her a hostile look, clenches his jaw and turns back to the road. Within minutes they get into a fight about some inconsequential issue that neither can remember. What happened?
Both are a bit on edge as the drive begins since it is holiday time and they are visiting family. When the man drives through the curve, the wheels hit the divider bumps briefly. The woman is startled and she feels a jolt of fear. She braces herself — a reflexive attempt to protect herself. The man does not realize she is afraid. Instead, he interprets her reaction as a judgment of his driving and his ability to protect her from harm. He has a jolt of shame. In an attempt to protect himself from feeling inadequate, he gets angry. His anger triggers more fear in his wife, which triggers more shame in him.
Further, he is not only ashamed, but he is ashamed of being ashamed. As a result he blocks the shame from his awareness and focuses instead on something he imagines his wife did or didn't do. His wife may be more aware of her fear, but may also deny her fear to herself, thinking "He's a really good driver, I don't have to worry." All of this goes on in a matter of seconds and is out of the awareness of both partners. But the result is that they both act as though they were engaged in a life or death struggle over something that is so inconsequential they can't believe it is causing them to "lose it" with each other.
6. Don't be afraid to talk things out. When problems arise in a relationship, the best thing to do is talk it out. Most everyone, including therapists, believe that talking through a problem is essential for solving an issue and improving a relationship. However, most men resist talking like the plague. For men the five most horrible words in the English language are, "Honey, we need to talk." The words can be said with anger or with love, with disdain or compassion, with despair or with hope. It seems no matter how they are presented, they are met with a resistance bordering on terror by most men. Why should a woman's desire to talk be met with such opposition?
What most people don't realize is that men have a strong need to protect and to serve and they base a great deal of their sense of self-esteem and pride on their ability to make their partner happy. When a woman wants to talk to a man about things that are bothering her about their relationship, she is seeking to overcome her fears of disconnection. However, he interprets her unhappiness as a judgment of his competence as a male provider and protector.
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The man will often think to himself, "Here we go again, she wants to tell me what I'm doing wrong. I feel like a failure. I can't do anything right and nothing I do can please this woman." Rarely, does a woman say, "Honey, we need to talk! It's just been way too long since I told you how wonderful you are. You satisfy me in ways I've longed for all my life. You're the best."