Threat to society
Seven things your guy wishes you knew about him
but doesn't know how to tell you
"Is something bothering you?" my wife, Lois, asked as I absent-mindedly channel surfed.
"Nope," I replied as I continued to click the TV remote.
"Are you sure? You look kind of down," she persisted.
"Nothing is bothering me. Okay!?"
Wait a minute! My wife left out half the line. She's supposed to say, "Okay, but if something's bothering you, I'll be glad to listen." And then, I'm supposed to answer, "Well . . . [dramatic pause] . . . well, there's this one thing.
. . At least that's how the scene was played from kindergarten to community college in the Watkins family. I would be upset; my mother would persist in her questioning; and finally, I would tell her what was wrong. Unfortunately, I carried the well-worn script into marriage. And so, many times in our early marriage, what I was really thinking was never expressed.
Deep inside, I wanted to tell my wife what kind of a day I really had at the office, what I really felt when she seemed unsatisfied during love-making, and what I really feared about turning forty. But more times than not, real sharing was cut short with the click of the TV remote and a "nothing's bothering me."
And I've discovered I'm not alone. We men don't always express the way we feel, and yet there's that desire to let someone know what's really beneath our poker-faced exteriors.
1. We want to express our emotions more.
For most of our lives, we men have been indoctrinated that "big boys don't cry," "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me," and "be a man" (which translated means, "don't show emotions.") And so, even though we feel like crying and words do hurt, we inflict an emotional lobotomy on ourselves. Instead of shedding tears, we secrete stomach acid.
When I would "lose it" during public speaking and the tears would begin to form, I feared I was losing the respect of the men in the audience. I would quickly add, "I'm not crying. My head's just leaking." But in speaking at various conferences, I continue to discover that men want to be able to express emotion. One conferee admitted, "I admire your ability to expose yourself in public." He quickly added, "That's not what I really mean. You know, it's just that we'd probably be healthier if we could be honest about our feelings."
Jesus provides a positive model of a man who could be tough and tender. He grabs a whip and clears out the dishonest temple merchants, and yet sheds tears of grief with his female friends at the tomb of Lazarus.
We need a safe haven to express our hopes and fears, our moments of pride and humiliation, or loves and our loathings.
And we need to let you know we're not only sometimes scared, but scarred. Each of us carry into marriage such wounds as physical or emotional abuse, or failures of not living up to our parents or others' expectations. But because we have spent our childhood playing the role of tough little guys who never cry, it's often difficult for us to let you know those scars.
For instance, it took my friend Bob five years to tell his wife about his abusive childhood. He was afraid she would think he would abuse their children. But once it was out, Bob sensed relief and freedom to express the years of pent up feelings.
I continue to be amazed--and maybe a bit envious--that two women can meet as total strangers and within five minutes can be discussing the intimacies of their love life! Somehow, we guys don't often get past, "What do you do for a living?" So be patient with us. And keep gently responding to our "Nothing's bothering me" line with "Okay, but if something's bothering you, I'll be glad to listen." Then wait for the dramatic pause.
2. We want to express our sexual feelings more.
Men are notorious for refusing to ask for directions. Part of it is our pride in map reading or navigating by the stars. It's just too humiliating to stop by the 7-11 and admit to some pimply-faced clerk that we--a mature adult--are hopelessly lost.
Unfortunately, we males carry that attitude into the bedroom. We know there's a "spot" somewhere that will send our spouse into orgasmic orbit. So after groping around in the dark for the first year of marriage, I finally broke down and asked Lois for directions. Wow! I wish I had asked her on our wedding night.
Your husband, too, may be completely lost, but unwilling to read How to Satisfy a Woman Every Time. And he's probably as frustrated as you, so next time purr, "You know what would really turn me on?" Another time ask, "What would really turn you on?"
Lois and I have discovered honest talk about sex is great, and putting it into practice is even better.
(Jim has provided an easy to understand article that even "car guys" can understand: Fast cars and hot sex.)
3. We want to develop more male friendships.
During an especially animated discussion, I blurted out to my wife, "You don't want a husband, you want a wife!" She was expecting me to respond to her concern like her women friends would react. And because men tend to express concern by actions or at least plans of action, Lois felt I wasn't empathizing with her.
"I don't want an answer, I just want you to listen," she shouted.
"So you're saying," I snapped back. "If you're lying in a pool of blood, you don't want me to call 911. You want me to say, 'Gee, Lois, that must really hurt. Tell me how you feel about being run over by a Mac truck?'"
I'm finally realizing after twenty years of marriage and misunderstandings, that I can't meet Lois's every need and she can't meet all of mine. Many times when I have a problem, I want to know what to do, not how to feel--and that often takes a male friend.
The recent "men's movement" with its Christian expression in the "Promise Keepers" phenomenon, underscores the need we have for men friends and for deeper relationships than simply spending an afternoon at Builders Square. Allow us time to be with other men and develop deeper relationships. Sometimes we just need a man's perspective on our problem.
4. We want to parent more.
While Lois was in graduate school, I took on more of the parenting responsibilities of our two children, ages twelve and eight. I loved it! But I also learned quickly that dads were not expected to do much more than bring home a paycheck and occasionally fix broken toys. The McDonald's billboard showed two kids asking, "Are we there yet, Mom?" When I took Anne and James to get there pictures taken at K-mart the sign read, "Mom, stand here while your child is being photographed." When I showed up at school functions, teachers and moms stared at me as if I was a child molester staking out the place.
Fortunately, TV sit-coms are highlighting more and more actively parenting males. Tim Taylor, from "Home Improvement," reveals that fathers parent very differently than mothers. Men tend to provide the models of strength ("More power! Arrgh! Arrgh!") and problem solving, while moms tend to provide the more nurturing roles. And men need (and want) to show their emotional and spiritual sides, as well as their skills in hunting and grunting. Both male and female models are essential for a child's balanced development.
There are many resources available today in print or video to help men know how to provide not only for their children's physical needs, but to be a positive impact on them socially, emotionally, and spiritually.
But the best way is to encourage us to spend both quality and quantity time with them. So, jump in the car and head for the mall while we baby-sit. (Isn't that a great idea?)
5. We want to find more meaning in our work.
Because God has created men as "doers," we love to set goals, design charts, assign tasks, and get the job done. And so, we often tend to derive our sense of satisfaction by what we do.
As a result, we men often agonize about job satisfaction. Am I doing the right thing? Will working on an assembly line, building up an investment business, driving an over-the-road truck, selling real estate, or writing articles give me a sense of satisfaction? Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? And if I'd rather do something else, can I afford to give up the great fringe benefits in my present job?
And, so, sometime in our work life, we'll probably have a mid-life career crisis. Don't let us do something totally irresponsible such as moving the whole family to Australia to run a sheep ranch if the closest we've been to a "ranch" is the dressing at the salad bar. (My brother-in-law actually did that--and went under financially "down under.")
But do support us emotionally as we go through career confusion. Suggest volunteer work that might provide satisfying variety apart from the "real job." Get us into career counseling. Help us sort out our goals and gifts and come to a decision we all can live with.
6. We want to heal relationships and be reconciled with those we love.
Contrary to the "take no prisoners" attitude that men express in work and play--my wife still refuses to play board games with me--inwardly men have a strong desire to reconcile relationships.
I find that my whole work day is a waste if I leave the house with unresolved conflict with Lois or my, now, two teenaged kids. Worse, if there are unresolved issues between God and me, I'm not going to accomplish anything until there is confession and forgiveness.
You can help us by subtly asking, "I sensed some tension. Is there some conflict between you and the kids?" "You seem distracted. Is there something bothering you?" (And remember to wait for that dramatic pause.)
7. Finally, we want to remain young and virile forever.
Okay, it's an unrealistic goal! But we men tend to think of ourselves as that handsome young Army private in the faded photo when, in reality, we may look more like Colonel Sanders! I'll be the first to admit, it's not a pretty sight to see an aging man wearing Speedo's with a pot belly, and a toupee that looks like road-kill.
But please, don't make any comments about all the hair in the drain or the extra pounds on our frame. Just love us, make us feel we're still sexually desirable, cook us low fat meals, and suggest a romantic (and aerobic) walk around the block. And give the Speedo's to the Goodwill! Please.
So, there you have it! A peek behind the curtain of your husband's heart. But whatever you do, don't let him know you looked! That will spoil all the fun of helping him deal with these seven issues.
Copyright © 1994 James N. Watkins
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