In yesterday’s blog, I celebrated the gifts of men and the unique way in which they are possessing of these gifts for their own enjoyment, but more importantly, for the benefit of all. Today I continue to focus on the midlife discussion on men and the unique way in which they experience this life transition and the ways in which their partners can be supportive of this process, while at the same time, holding men accountable for doing something to support themselves through this transition (other than having an affair or buying a sports car).
The Complaints of Women
In the past twenty years of mentoring women (mostly) and men through their journey of birthing their Soul, I have heard an enormous amount of complaining from women about their frustrations with their (mostly male) partners. While this discussion is not limited to men (lesbian partners are equally guilty of this), it will be the complaints against men that I will share here. Here’s is what their female partners are saying: “He doesn’t hear me. He won’t spend time with me. He’s too busy with work to care about what is going on at home. He doesn’t understand me. I want him to open up to me. He doesn’t understand that when I say no to sex, it isn’t about him, I’m just so damn tired.” Sound familiar? For all the guys out there….before you throw your hands up in frustration and stomp off, refusing to read the rest of this blog….hang on….I’m about to cut you a break.
In Defense of Men
Ladies, here is something you need to know about your partners:
The extent to which they are unable to hear, understand, be present, open up to, spend time, be compassionate to YOU, is the extent to which they are unable to do these things for themselves.
Most men are not jerks, and most men DO want to be able to be and do these things. The problem is that we live in a culture that does not give men permission or teach them how to do these things for themselves let alone how to do them for another. Of course many men are really good at all these things, but based on the complaints I hear from women, it sounds like many are not. The good news is that this is in the process of changing, but we still have a long way to go.
The Male Dilemma
I believe that there is a deep longing in every man’s heart to be able to be vulnerable enough to open up to another person and to enjoy the same depth of intimacy that women often enjoy with each other and want from their men. Unfortunately, the patriarchal, hierarchical cultural paradigm puts men between a rock and a hard place. Instead of empowering men to hear the quiet whispering voice of their truth (which includes the voice of their REAL needs, their hidden hurts, their past wounds, and their unacknowledged shame), they are taught to listen to the patriarchal voices which say:
- It’s your job to work.
- It’s your job to protect and provide for your family.
- It’s your job to make money.
- It’s your job to compete.
- It doesn’t matter if you like what you are doing, because what matters in the money and the work.
- It’s your job to be in charge, the boss, to have power over those around you.
- It’s your job to know it all.
- It’s your job to know how to do everything.
- Don’t ask for help. Don’t show vulnerability. Don’t feel. If bad things happen, get over it and move on.
- It’s your job to be the best and in anything less than this, you have failed.
- It’s your job to be a “manly” man.
- It’s not ok to be afraid and even if you are, DO NOT admit it.
- It’s your job to be strong in the midst of EVERYTHING.
Nowhere in this patriarchal formula is there room for the man’s TRUTH, how he really feels, what he really wants out of life, how he really wants to spend his time. There is no room for the deep longing to know oneself and to be known. There is no room for loss, disappointment, grief, failure, fear or pain. And if a man dare to question his truth or say what he really needs, there is the every-imposing risk of losing his man-card. And ladies, we are not helping! Every time we step in and question the way our partner is doing something that is in his area of expertise, we just kicked him where it counts. When we scold him in front of others for a mistake or failure, we have castrated him. When we fail to appreciate him for the work he is doing to provide for and protect our families, we have insulted him. When we mock his need for competition, achievement and to just plain be silly, we are emasculating him. We need to let our men be men, and get the heck out of their way. That doesn’t mean, however, that as women we can’t model compassion, empathy, vulnerability, naming and claiming our needs, setting healthy boundaries and encourage our partners to do the same. But, all our whining, complaining, scolding and chastising is not going to wake him up to the person he really wants to and is capable of being. No, men typically have to find this on their own.
Men, you are not off the hook!
Before holding men accountable to their truth, I want to offer an enthusiastic CONGRATULATIONS to those who have learned to silence the voice of the imprisoning, patriarchal culture and have learned how to listen and heed their own voice. Way to go for listening to your deeper needs and learning how to ask for them to be met. High-five for coming to know your deepest vulnerabilities and another high five if you have found someone with whom you can freely share your vulnerability and for the support you have discovered in doing so. The difficult truth, however, is that many of you had to have the rug pulled out from under your feet, or the ceiling fall in before you were willing and able to do this. Maybe you lost the job of your dreams. Perhaps you were diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness. Maybe your wife left you. Perhaps you had a devastating injury which changed the course of your life. Maybe you lost everything and had to start anew. Now, what would happen if instead of waiting for the bottom to fall out, you learned another way of being – one that transcends the patriarchal, hierarchical paradigm without undermining your inherent gifts as men? Ultimately, I believe it is this call that is the cause of what we often refer to as the male midlife crisis, and the topic of which will be covered in my next blog. Stay tuned for more…..