5. Quit Demeaning Men
At the height of the “women’s movement” there was a joke circulating around, attributed to Gloria Steinem. “A woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle.” The sentiment may have been that women need to learn to stand on their own feet and take care of themselves. They have to stop making their identity dependent on having a man in their lives.
But the impact on men was devastating. If I am as irrelevant to my woman as a bicycle is to a fish, then why stay? Most men have a strong desire to protect and serve a woman. However, if we are not needed or wanted, or if our offers of support are seen as a big joke, well…”screw you” we say to ourselves. Our shame and rage get expressed in our cheating.
Few women consciously shame or demean the men in their lives. I’ve found that this most often happens when women are afraid. It’s a vicious cycle. If a woman feels that she can’t trust the man to be there for her, she distances herself a little bit. The man, feeling her distance, becomes irritable and angry. The woman, feeling the brunt of his anger, becomes even more afraid that he’ll leave. The result is that we create the very thing we are most afraid of.
Women are constantly telling me that they want their man to open up to her, to share his true feelings. However, what I’ve found (and many men have told me), when we do open up and share our feelings, the woman often rejects us. Usually when they say they want to know how we feel, they mean “I want you to shower me with love and affection.” When they hear how angry, hurt, and frightened we are, they often run and hide.
Mark Brady had a professor in graduate school, a wise woman who understood these things. She told the women in her class, “Ladies,” she said, “if you want your partners to be emotionally available to you, you can’t cut their balls off every time they show some vulnerability.”
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6. Get Thee to a Men’s Group
I've been in the same men's group for 33 years—7 guys who are committed to supporting each other through life. We came together at a men’s conference in April, 1979 and have been together ever since.
During our get-togethers, what will we talk about? What will we do? Well, I can’t say. Not because it’s a big secret, but because I won’t know until we get there. What I can say is that it will be real. It will be loving. We trust each other enough to let our feelings out—the good, the bad, and the ugly. But most of all we are there for each other.
I believe that few long term relationships can survive unless men get away together. If you don’t have men who are there for you and who you can be there for, you will have a difficult time being there for women. You will always be hungry, always be needy, always be restless, always be looking for someone or something to fill the void you feel inside.
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7. Grow Up Guys. The World Needs You.