5 Myths That Keep Men Stuck: Part 1
I’m writing about five “myths” or beliefs or perceptions about men that keep us stuck in our relationships and in our lives. They are stereotypes that keep us disempowered and prevent us from fully expressing who we are in the world.
These beliefs have been around for a long time and like most generalizations, even when we dispute them, we still fear that there is some “grain of truth” in them. AND, it is even more hurtful for us when our loved ones buy into these limitations as well.
In no particular order, the “Five Male Myths” are:
1. Men don’t like to communicate or share their feelings.
2. Men are afraid of commitment
3. Men’s top priorities are power, success and money.
4. Men are only attracted to looks and are only interested sex.
5. Men don’t want to be with or are intimidated by powerful/smart/successful partners.
Do any of these sound familiar or strike a chord? Have you heard them before? Do you BELIEVE any or all of them? Have you heard them from your partner? Have any of them been the excuse behind the ending of a relationship?
Note: I am writing this series in the context of heterosexual men and couples. Much of what I am saying will also apply to homosexual relationships, but not necessarily everything. While half of my private counseling/coaching practice consists of couples and I have worked with many couples of various sexual orientations over the last twenty plus years, I wouldn’t classify myself as an “expert” when it comes to gay and lesbian relationships although I have supported many such couples and understand some of the key distinctions. As always, filter what I share here through your own experiences and apply what feels relevant and valid.
In this five-part series, I will explore and challenge each myth one by one, starting with:
MYTH #1: Men don’t like to communicate or share their feelings.
It’s NOT that men don’t like to communicate, it’s more that we have a different style of communication than our female partners. Whether there is a genetic/biological factor or it’s more anthropologically or socially based or some combination, men and women communicate for different purposes.
Men communicate with each other to define the power structure, the hierarchy and to maintain their status and independence. Sitting down and talking does not create connection with boys or men in the same way that sharing an activity, working on a project together and actually DOING something does.
Women on the other hand, communicate in order to build connection and intimacy. Women bond by getting together and sharing their lives, their problems, their concerns. This creates closeness and intimacy.
Now when women use this strategy on men, they are usually doomed to disappointment. Sharing problems with a man is a request (in his reality) to SOLVE the problem and deal with the issue. It’s not a request for INTIMACY, as the woman believes, it’s a request for ADVICE!
And when the woman rejects the advice, just wanting to be heard, it feels to the man like the woman is simply complaining or whining. “Why talk about it if you don’t want to take care of it?” is our thought.
A lot of my work as a couples counselor over the last twenty years has been to serve as a translator between men and women. We ALL want the same things, it just looks and feels different for each of us.
As far as men not sharing their feelings, that is certainly a myth that our society has helped to perpetuate. It’s not that we don’t want to share our feelings, it’s more that we have some strong reactions to sharing our feelings.
Women are more “designed” to benefit from sharing their feelings and are also more practiced and rewarded for doing so. Men seem to have a much lower tolerance for the language of feelings and are greatly challenged.
And the truth of the matter (in my personal and clinical experience) is that when we share our feelings beyond what a woman would consider a perfunctory level, we feel insecure and young and we begin to regress.
And while a psychotherapist can appreciate regression in a patient and deal with it skillfully and not take it personally, our romantic partners often do not. They really DON’T want a helpless child as a partner who turns them into mommy. It definitely puts a damper on romance and sex!
We’re men. We’re not comfortable talking about our feelings. Is it genetic or societal reinforcement? “Big boys don’t cry! Be the strong, silent type!” Perhaps it’s a mixture of both.
The truth though is that talking often makes us feel weak. Talking makes us feel vulnerable. Talking makes us feel anxious. Talking makes us feel shame. Talking makes us feel “less then”. And when we feel like that, we tend to act out our insecurities in our relationships and take it out on our loved ones!
Do we need to learn how to share our feelings and develop this skill set? Absolutely! Can we learn it? Definitely! I help couples and singles deal with this every week. But in the meantime, I truly believe that women should share and “process” the majority of their feelings with their friends and not their lovers.
In my experience, women could benefit from learning the 80/20 Rule: share 80% of your feelings with your friends and share the 20% that are REALLY important for your relationship with your partner.
As men, when we know that it’s TRULY important to our partner, we will make the effort, but if we feel put upon for every little thing, we WILL resent it and respond accordingly, usually in an aggressive or passive aggressive way.
Bottom line, we don’t have to be at the effect of this myth. The 80/20 Rule can give us the best of both worlds. To learn more about it, please read my blogpost, “Does The 80/20 Rule Apply To Your Relationship?”
If you’ve enjoyed this post on Myth 1, you may read about Myth 2 by Clicking Here. Or, you may view my thoughts on all five of the myths that keep men stuck by downloading that Special Report, available immediately when you subscribe to my complimentary Passion Doctor Newsletter at the box at the upper right of this page.
Dr. Adam Sheck
P.S., If you are a man interested in exploring these types of issues and more, I facilitate monthly Men’s Support Groups by teleconference line. Please contact me for more information on the Men’s Group or my other services by Clicking Here!