“Real Men” Can Be Hard To Relate To

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.

One comment on ““Real Men” Can Be Hard To Relate To

  1. Huh?

    I am a task orientated and results driven man. There is an expectation that a man will do the risky jobs like tree lopping, shed demolition, truck driving/loading or furniture removal among many other roles, when other people may not be skilled enough to do these task. It is not that I am emotionally aloof at this point or remote, I may be tired or cannot see the point in filling conversational space with useless words, I have my full attention on your needs, am sensitive to your emotions and I am reading what you want. I may not always show it, though I would like to.

    The problem goes deeper than that.

    The other bug a boo to effective relations in this culture is the fact that male character is constantly questioned, men are accused of being the arbiters of violence towards women and possessing perverted desires, especially around sex conduct. There is an implied lack of trust, this dynamic makes it hard for me to deal with some people and I often avoid getting involved with them as they are to quick to level an accusation of wrong doing (even if nothing has happened or would).

    Maybe the opposite needs to happen, we need to disengage from our emotions at times, we need to be responsible for managing our own emotional lives and not expect others to fill in the gaps. This society has become more childish, less emotionally independent and more selfish in recent history. While we have made strides to include others we forget that the problems of domestic violence or criminal behavior or just plain old bad character are best tackled as a group and include all of society.

    Political speak and rhetoric are not going to fix these problems. How men are depicted in the media, the family law system in relationship break ups; and the message that men are not needed also may cause men to become aloof. If a man is told he is worth nothing by a certain segment of the population then he will be withdraw as there is simply no need to engage with these type of people unless absolutely necessary.

    I would like to engage on a deeper level with society, though with all the perceived restrictions on me that hamper my ability to fully explore my character, compete, find a suitable job role or a mate among white some white Australians. I have made friends with the African community and also made friendships with old school style people in the local church. Where there are rules of give and take, appreciation for making an effort; and they never impose on you unless there is a real problem and they exchange friendship.

    There is a glass wall between men and the broader society you see this in corporate culture, public service policy and the coldness of some people toward each other. So called liberal society just does not work any more, to much entitlement mentality driving people away, with an entrenched victim culture, but never allowing anyone in to help, it will pass eventually and maybe old fashioned common sense and purposefulness will return? No I am not sentimental alot of awful things have happened in history, human nature can be cruel.

    There are many, many men who are loving fathers, caring, hard working, diligent and noble in our society. They are ready willing and able to help. If you just let them, it is a myth that men do not feel, or are hard, or insensitive, Being overly sensitive is an impediment to being an effective human being and is a liability to exercising impartial judgement. A balance needs to be achieved to maintain a healthy relationship between people. If I am a crying mess, spineless jelly fish then how can I respect myself or get things done?

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