Relationship Resource Center
RELATIONSHIP REFLECTIONS

Men and Women: Equal Opportunity Offenders

Men and women, when behaving badly with each other, are basically “equal opportunity offenders.”

That’s right!

They will each get their digs in and twist the knife a little bit when they get the opportunity.

However, there is a basic difference.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When behaving poorly, men usually scare women and women shame men. Take your choice? Both suck! The difference is that it takes much longer to recover from being scared than it does from being shamed.

Here’s how this seems to work: Men hate being shamed. It reminds many men of how they were controlled as children by parents, teachers or other adults in their lives. Usually when the shaming stops (“Oh no, John, it never stops,” I can hear some men saying), men recover relatively quickly. When women are scared by the men in their lives, the recovery time generally takes much longer. It just takes longer to recover from fear.

This helps to explain why, when both individuals are behaving better, the woman may hold on to her hesitation or reluctance to be close again a lot longer than the man does. It can be very difficult for the man to understand that even though he has ceased his scary behavior, she is still holding him off. She just may need more time to recover than he does.

Hang in there, guys. More often than not your patience will be rewarded, and your changed behavior will be much appreciated.

Chime in with your thoughts: When behaving poorly, do you agree men tend to scare women and women typically shame men?

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

How To Get Your Needs Met Without Asking

Since men learn in “Guy School” to think that they don’t have any needs and to be needy is weak, but men really do have needs for affection and nurturing and connection – we have a situation!

Most women are trained in “Girl School” (Oh yes, there is a school for girls, too) to take care of this problem for men. They are trained to put men’s needs and wants before their own. They see the needy, hurt, little boy side of the man that they fall in love with as well as the strong, capable, needless side and may move right in to take care of us.

Red Alert!

Unless a man has done or is doing his work of becoming conscious of his needs and feelings and is taking responsibility for them, she may be stepping into a trap. She has to meet his needs without him asking or implying or stating that he is needy! And heaven help her if she says anything about him taking responsibility for his needs, asking for what he needs or even asking her about her needs.

couple with kidsThe reality is that it’s OK to have needs; to be needy at times is to come to recognize that men and women alike are vulnerable, as well being strong and capable. The sooner we accept the fullness of our humanity, the better.

Share your opinion: Do you feel men need to take more responsibility for their feelings and asking for what they need?

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Guy School: Enculturation of Raising Boys Into Men

I recently came across an article from The Meadows that stated “trauma is anything less than nurturing.”

man learning to recognize emotionsWow!

This led me to think about how “guy school,” the almost universal cultural training for the raising of boys into men, is in many ways traumatic. Boys learn, from early on, that they can be mad or they can be glad, but it is not OK to be sad or scared.

The latter feelings are not manly. So a man may think he is in touch with his feelings because he can get angry easily.

Not so fast!

Unless a man can also be in touch with his sad feelings and is able to admit when he is scared, he is still very much under the influence of his “guy school” training.

I was recently talking to a man who said he hates the idea of being in therapy, but he could deal a lot better with the idea of being in recovery. I said yeah, we are both “recovering guys,” learning to embrace all of our feelings: in particular, feelings of being sad and scared. And in the process leaving guy school, healing our trauma and becoming more human.

What are your thoughts about “guy school?”  Share your comments below.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker