EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS IS THE SECOND OF A THREE-PART SERIES
The way men love and what they need in a relationship are different and often the opposite of what women need.
Because of their conditioning, many men have learned to suppress and deny their vulnerability and personal needs in order to perform, compete, achieve and succeed. His inner self, or personal self, frequently stays undeveloped or underdeveloped. So he has less access to and knowledge of his feelings, less finely honed sensitivity to other people’s feelings, and less understanding and empathy for emotions in general. As a result, the more a man appears to be a “man,” the harder he is to relate to in a relationship.
Little boys are most appealing and admired when they are independent, feisty, ambitious, goal-directed, fearless, responsible and active, says Herb Goldberg in “What Men Really Want.” But the qualities that make him “all boy” are the same ones that will make him an insensitive man.
These early experiences do not promote the learning and development of intimate behaviors for later life. When boys grow up and become men, those same behaviors will draw criticism from the women they are emotionally involved with. They will be accused of shutting down, keeping to themselves, not sharing, not communicating and being closed and remote.
Men are conditioned to pull outside themselves. They can compete and achieve no matter how they feel inside. In fact, we frequently hear about sports figures that stay in the game and play to the end with a broken hand or separated shoulder.
The inner experience of being a man is sometimes to shut out feelings, body sensations and emotions to stay focused and task-oriented. The notion is to allow nothing to interfere with reaching a goal. A man could not go to war if he was in touch with his warm and tender feelings, and all cultures throughout history have expected men to go to war.
So the more a man is a “real man,” the more externalized and disconnected he will. But then significant problems will arise for him, especially in his intimate relationships. The logical, objective communication skills that work so well for men in their professional lives are ineffective with women and children, and will frequently alienate men from closeness and intimacy in their personal relationships.
Many such men find themselves isolated as they become more successful and powerful, because of the drive that propels a man increasingly outside himself, a drive that women and children frequently interpret as a lack of caring.
Women who are intimately involved with such men erroneously believe they have been singled out. They feel such men do not love or care about them—because they work too much, pay too little attention, are not affectionate, do not want to talk, seem preoccupied and lack desire to be close and intimate.
If the man is going to alter this dynamic, he is going to have to develop and honor his (and other’s) feelings, emotions, fears, vulnerabilities and dependency needs. He’s going to have to learn how to stay verbally open, non-domineering, emotionally sensitive and “tuned in,” and he’s going to have to learn how to access and share his inner emotions with others, especially the woman and children he’s trying to be close and intimate with.