The Big Mistake
There is a basic issue that men struggle with that I would say turns into a huge mistake when it comes to making a relationship work long term...
and it is how men ignore--and at times even celebrate--their emotional immaturity!
Creating intimacy with a woman requires some kind of emotional participation from men...
and emotional immaturity makes it virtually impossible for men to become equal intimate partners with a woman.
We all know that the basic challenge for most guys is that we are not as familiar with our emotional world as we are with our intellectual and physical worlds.
And because of this, any guy trying to articulate and reveal his feelings to another person is an experience that goes against all that is manly, because it is a vulnerable thing to do.
The whole guys-don't-talk-about-their-feelings characteristic of being a man is actually a huge burden on any relationship that aspires to be a partnership.
The idea of a healthy partnership is one that usually requires equal participation in how both people "feed"
all aspects of a relationship.
This means that the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a relationship must be "fed" by both in order for the partnership to feel balanced.
No matter which one of these aspects is "starving" from input by either member of a couple...
that is where one or both people feel alone in the relationship.
This is especially felt when the emotional connection is not being attended to.
Hey, a single guy can get away with not being familiar with his emotional world and do just fine, but the moment he gets into an intimate relationship and tries to get by without sharing his feelings with his partner...
as he remains emotionally disconnected from himself...
it means he will stay emotionally disconnected from her...
and he essentially bails out on his half of the job of feeding the relationship.
The reality of the last 40 years is that women have been addressing the issue of becoming more self-sufficient and financially independent...so that they don't have to depend so much on a guy.
Because of this, men have for the past 40 years been wrestling with their sense of masculine identity as a result of having women being less and less dependent on them.
One of the most challenging pieces for men to "grow into" in this reconfiguration of gender identity has been to explore the unknown territory of their emotional world.
And unfortunately most men don't get the importance of this until...
they get an ultimatum from their wife or girlfriend who threatens to leave the relationship.
Feeling A Feeling
There are, however, two feelings that men are already familiar with:
Most men can talk about what makes them happy.
This is a good thing...except when talking about happiness is a way to cover up the fact that he may be feeling sad, or hurt, or scared, or ashamed.
Most men are also familiar with their anger.
Again, this is a good thing...except when their anger is expressed in a way that is aggressive toward the other person...
or when their anger is expressed as a way to avoid feeling some hurt or fear that sparked the anger in the first place.
Anger is the least emotionally vulnerable feeling for men to feel and express...
that doesn't challenge the whole strong and silent, manly-man stereotype.
When it comes to talking about or feeling fear, pain, sadness, shame, or even confusion, however...
we fumble around and stare at our feet because we don't know how to identify and talk about those very real feelings.
From my perspective, authenticity is a crucial piece of what healthy and mature masculinity means.
Personal integrity as a man can only come from a truthful and accurate representation of how we feel and what we believe to be true for ourselves.
"Showing up" authentically in any situation is a two step process:
The first part calls for us to courageously look into our hearts and become aware of whatever is in there, as in...
how do I feel, what is really True for me, and what is my gut telling me right now.
The second part of "showing up" calls for us put words to that Truth...even in the face of disagreement or disapproval from the other person.
What Get's In The Way
There are a couple of things that get in the way of us being real and authentic with our partners:
One big obstacle is how we as men not only protect the woman in our lives physically...
but how we also "protect her" from any information (including from us) that may hurt her feelings or make her angry.
Of course, what we are really doing in these cases is protecting ourselves from her disappointment in us for not being able to insulate her from the pain of what we have to say to her.
The other obstacle that hinders us from being truly authentic with our mates is...
because we are not familiar with the terrain of our own emotional landscape...
we basically do not trust our own abilities to get our emotional needs met--especially if we reveal them to somebody!!
This makes us tentative--if not downright scared--to venture forth let someone else see what is inside us.
Because of these obstacles:
There are ways that we may still feel alone, even when we are in a relationship.
There are ways that we may still feel unfulfilled--even if we make a lot of money and have successful careers.
There are ways that we don't know who we really are or what we really are passionate about.
Expressing Needs Without
Most men I work with want to know why women always want to talk about their feelings.
What I try and get them to understand is that...
emotional intimacy really is the glue of a relationship, and women are acutely aware of this fact.
Because women are more familiar with their emotional world, they are by definition more aware of their emotional needs.
And having needs is NOT the same thing as being needy!
All men and all women have needs.
As humans, we have physical needs, we have intellectual needs, we have spiritual needs, and yes...we have emotional needs!
But being needy??
...that is something altogether different.
Being needy means that a person looks to--and even expects--some other person, place, or thing to fulfill their own personal needs...
as opposed to taking the time, energy, and courage to learn how to satisfy and "fill in" one's own sense of wholeness
It is a healthy thing for a woman and a man to look to their intimate relationship as the place to get emotional needs met...
as long as there is no emotional dependency created where it is just expected by both people that their "job" is to be the sole resource of getting each other's needs met.
Again, because women have more of a working relationship with their feelings, their need for emotional intimacy and depth is usually way different than men's.
Women search for deep intimacy with their girlfriends, then they look for that same level of intimacy with their relationships with guys.
But that's when most guys start to get confused about how to do that, and then they start to feel inadequate because she reminds him that she isn't getting her emotional needs met with him.
Men and women have to understand that they have different levels of need for emotional intimacy in their romantic relationships.
The trick is how men and women learn to dialog about these differences without freaking out about them.
Men don't have to talk about their feelings the same way that women do.
Men just have to understand that until they get better at doing it, their ability to be real is VERY limited, and their ability to create and sustain intimacy is VERY limited.
The emotional needs of a relationship (there's a phrase that brings a quizzical and confused look to every guy's face) really is the glue that not only defines the quality of a relationship, but also keeps that relationship together.
And the emotional connection of every relationship needs to be forged equally by both people.
This puts guys in the unenviable position of having to "play catch up" in terms of what they have to contribute emotionally.
A lot of times it comes as too little, too late for the woman because she has usually gotten past her limit of frustration and loneliness to try to save the relationship.
Most guys try to get help to save a troubled relationship only after a wife or girlfriend threatens to leave.
Many of you reading this right now may be doing so because your wife or girlfriend shoved this into your hands and said, "Read this web site, or go get some therapy, or go to some seminar to figure out your stuff, or else I'll be gone."
What is both sad and amusing about this is that, the one thing that men get relatively little information about as we grow up is how emotional maturity can help a man succeed when it comes to creating intimacy in a relationship.
The biggest reason for this is that the one thing that men get relatively zero information about is how to recognize and acknowledge their own emotional world.
It's not any one guy's fault, but it is a condition that pretty much every guy has to deal with sooner or later.
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