by: Logan Cohen, LMFT-S
As a man that happens to be both a North Carolina Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), as well as an Approved Supervisor for American Association of Marriage & Family Therapy (AAMFT) in Charlotte and the founder of New Leaf Counseling Group, I have been working with relationships ALL DAY for a LONG TIME both as a practitioner and a trainer/supervisor. Over the course of my professional work, I have noticed how many aspects of traditional masculinity, while oftentimes wonderfully well-intending, oftentimes gets us Men STUCK in our most important intimate relationships.
Check out this short but informative video series to learn more about how as Men, we must be careful not to get "stuck in our Man-Ness" if we expect to have the most satisfying personal relationships with our Loved Ones.
One of the cornerstones of traditional masculinity is "Independence". This can be great for standing up for Ourselves and Loved Ones, however what about when we need to stand WITH them? I regularly see Men in my practice who are experiencing Relationship problems in large part due to their insistence that they "do it themselves", or at least have a really hard time asking for help. This can REALLY hurt a Relationship because it cuts off the ability to work as a Team and as social creatures, us Human Beings are programmed to depend on one another to some degree.
In part due to our basic social nature, Humans (us Mans included) rely on those social connections in good times and in bad; in times of celebration and in times of despair. Part of what bonds social connections together is an ability to maintain vulnerable emotional space between parties. Unfortunately, us Men are all too often socialized to believe that speaking to our Loved Ones about our fears and insecurities makes us look "clingy", "lame", or any other synonym of "weak". Case in point: think back to an incredibly bad or uncomfortable experience in your life. I want you to not only recall the experience, but also the people you shared it with. When you think back to the individuals you shared this experience with, I want you to also consider your relationships with those individuals today. I'll bet you are still really close with at least one of them...How did I know that? Bad experiences are often noted as such because they freak -us - out = VULNERABLE + People that provide security = BONDING.
As Humans, but again especially as Men, we have to accept that we also have a fundamentally social nature. This is NOT "dependent". Its just Human.
The expectation to "be decisive", "make it happen" and generally be successful is something Men and Boys are often socialized to do at a significantly higher intensity than Girls & Women. This level of success or achievement can be hard to measure, so we are oftentimes given the false impression that this ideal level of achievement as been reached "once everything is just how we would like it." But how does this bode for us Men once we development long-term partnerships, and even more so if we choose to have children??
This area of perceived "influence" by a Man in his Romantic Relationship can come into direct competition with a Relationship's need for mutual engagement, reciprocity, fairness, and expectations for day-to-day tasks around the Home. When this occurs, it is common for couples to struggle with resentment, distrust, and either BIG fights or the avoidance of conflict, which only allows the resentment and distrust to GROW.
The ability of a Man to provide for himself and Dependents is also a central aspect of traditional masculinity that can add stress to a Relationship if not managed deliberately and effectively. Look...insuring financial security is important for every individual and for every Family. We live in a Society where if financial health is not actively managed responsibly, things can get BAD and QUICKLY. As Men, we oftentimes undergo ENORMOUS pressure to fulfill and exceed expectations regarding our ability to create economic wealth. As a professional therapist and marriage counselor, I have seen more Men virtually brought to their knees with Despair around getting fired, unemployment, problematic gambling, or even just professional stagnation. It cannot be understated how much vocational/financial disruption can make a Man second guess himself, and especially when his Loved Ones are depending on him and We don't believe we are rising to the occasion.
A couple who struggles with issues relating to this often deal with recurring issues around financial responsibilities, debt, or consistent tension when a Male Lover's professional life is spoken about relative to His Family/Personal Life.
4) Emotional Stoicism
"Wipe your tears away and come back and talk to me when you are ready to talk like a MAN."
While this might seem harsh to our Female counterparts, this is oftentimes an unavoidable experience of growing up if not in one's immediate home-life, at least in an extracurricular setting or with extended family. We are taught that it is ALWAYS OK to be angry and happy is OK too, as long as you don't look "too happy", at which point someone will question our sexuality with included micro-aggression inside of the inquiry ("What are you light on your feet?").
Not only is this REALLY bad for our own emotional and psychological well-being, it also blocks intimacy and deeper connection from occurring at a very basic level and leaves our closest intimate relationships at risk for growing cold and falling apart into distance or infidelity.
Remember those "awesome" aspects of masculinity I spoke to earlier? Well one of those perks is that we are told VERY clearly it is OK and even preferred as Men to pursue a sexual partner. This means we get to have the utmost consent in who we pursue and why. While this is a beautiful thing from our position, this will get a bit problematic if that choice/consent comes at the cost of our Lover's.
When couples are dealing with these types of issues, it is common for the couple to complain of difference in libido, an erectile issue or vaginal pain during sexual activity, or even uncertainty about each others' preference sexually for attaining the utmost satisfaction in their sex lives.
Care to learn more about Professional Counselors and Therapists in Charlotte, NC who specialize in treating Relationships with a down-to-earth approach? Find a therapist near you , or just click here for more information designed to support You AND Your most important relationships. Are you ready to take the plunge? Click here to BOOK NOW!