When it comes to love, men often get a bad rap.
“You only hear about the guys who are abusive or cheat, but how about the tons of men who are faithful and kind?” ~John
“I’ve been married for over twenty years. I know I’m not perfect, but I can honestly say that I do my best to be a good husband I care about what my wife thinks of me as a husband and father.” ~Hale
“It scares me to admit this, but I’d be totally lost without my wife. She’s my best friend and she tells me that I’m hers. Making her happy is everything to me…” ~Luis
These are some of the messages several men shared with me while discussing their thoughts about intimacy, their partners and spouses. Before long, a theme arose: What especially bothered these men were the rampant myths about men and love.
Men and Intimacy:
Myth 1: Men do not value emotional connection.
Myth 2: Men do not care about their partners’/spouses’ feelings.
Myth 3: Men only want sex (rather than emotional connection).
Myth 4: Men are controlling and tell women what to do (and therefore prefer passive women).
Myth 5: Men would rather spend time with their guy friends than their wives/girlfriends.
Let’s take a closer look at the first myth, the one that claims that men do not value emotional closeness. This myth arises out of the difficulty some men have with emotions: in particular, talking about and sharing their feelings. This reality is rooted in the way in which many men are socialized. Emotional self-expression is not considered an important and useful trait for many men.
Of particular importance is the way in which fathers (and other male mentors) act as role-models for their sons. While many fathers are becoming more comfortable with their sons’ emotional lives, some fathers continue to hold the expectation that once their male child hits a certain age, this emotionality will give way to stoic control.
Why are feelings difficult for men?
Feelings of vulnerability (tenderness, sadness, fear, feeling “less than,” embarrassment and shame) conflict with the ideal of masculinitycentral to this ideal is the trait of masculine strength. Men value power and in the arena of love, power and strength equate to being able to take care of your loved ones. As the requirements of relationships change and men are asked to be more emotionally available, the guiding questions for many men are:
How can masculinity and vulnerability exist side by side?
How can I be tender while still seen as strong?
Unfortunately, the mentality that emotional vulnerability equals weakness is alive and well in many cultures and held by too many men. This deep-seated attitude is often triggered in relationships that require and demand greater intimacy. Faced with the challenges of intimacy, men may shut down and withdraw, rather than allow themselves to feel confused and emotionally impotent.
But men still value connection!
Difficulty sharing emotions does not necessarily mean that emotional connection isn’t important to men. Think of it this way: You can deeply enjoy music and yet not know how to play an instrument. How men go about creating connection has less to do with emotional sharing and more to do with actions that validate their masculine identity–providing for their loved ones, tangential giving that leads to concrete results.
As Roger recently said:
“My wife didn’t like the color of our bedroom and when she was out with her sister, I painted the entire room her favorite color. I couldn’t wait to see her reaction. When she got home she gave me this big hug and I felt like a million bucks ”
In other words, Roger felt emotionally connected to his wife. He experienced intimacy through doing for his wife, rather than emotional expression.
The important point to remember is that “myth” does not equate to “fact.” No matter how ingrained a preconceived notion might be in a society, we are all free-thinking individuals who can choose to look beneath the surface and appreciate our partners for what they have to offer and the unique way in which they try to offer it…regardless of what prevailing assumptions about gender might tell us.