Confessions of a Man's Man
***Get the popcorn because, in the spirit of being a true man’s man, I’m not going to open up about my thoughts and feelings very often. In fact, I even cringed in just coming up with the title. It’s almost like the two subjects are not meant to be together. Why is that? To me, Confessions sounds like the beginning of a book that I would see on my mom’s nightstand or lining the shelves of a Barnes and Noble aisle that I accidentally walked down. And, Man’s Man has the flavor of beards, football, beer, chainsaws, and wrestling. I have much experience in each of those categories so it seems only fitting.
***What would there be to confess and why? Am I seeking attention? Have I been swept up in the feminist movement? Or, have I just gone soft? No. Even though I could make a case for why there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, that’s not what I’m seeking. It seems to me, after working with mostly men in the field of mental health for the last 9 years and being a devoted Man’s Man, that we’re bumping up against a new problem. By stepping out and voicing what I’m experiencing, my hope is that more men might face parts of themselves that they didn’t know existed and that women might better understand what their fathers, brothers, partners and friends may be going through. That being said, this is only my experience and I am aware that there are not clearly defined boxes that everyone fits into.
First Confession: I have emotional needs.
***For years, I thought that all I needed to be happy were my bros, some toys, a few hobbies, an awesome wife, a fulfilling job, and some good ol’ food. That should get me by. Being simple and low-maintenance is a good thing so, basically, I’m going to shoot for about 7 things and if I do pretty good with most of them, then I’m going to be one carefree dude. So why, even when I’m doing well in most of these areas, am I still an irritable, blaming, pessimistic man-child sometimes? It’s because I have unrecognized emotional needs!
***And, because I don’t know what they are, I blame YOU for irrelevant stuff, I view other people as stupid, I spin in my head, I aggressively try to fix the situation, and/ or I shut the whole thing down and go distract myself. Meanwhile, my needs still go unexplored and I go about my business until they arise again and I find something or someone else to complain about. If it sounds lonely and depressing, it’s because it is. It hurts to live this way and it’s tiring. So, I confess. Sometimes, I want someone to tell me that they see all the hard work that I’m doing or that they’ll still love me if I fail. Maybe it seems like a given, but sometimes I still need to hear it. And, the most interesting part of it all, is that I believe a story that I’m weak, unmanly, or weird for having emotional needs so I develop strategies to stuff them down and pretend that everything is okay.
Second Confession: I’ve blamed women for my relationship problems.
***I can honestly say that I’ve gotten myself into a whole heap of trouble because I’ve made many assumptions about women in my life that were probably wrong. I might have been right or kind of right a few times, but my confidence in what I thought I knew about women has been shattered. For starters, I used to believe that women were a whole other species that were impossible to understand, hell to live with, and out-of-this-world crazy. Yep, I may not have said this on Facebook or out in public, but I certainly thought this way and engaged in some not-so-enlightening dialogue around the poker table.
***What’s sad is that these beliefs held me back from having a meaningful relationship with someone for quite a while. The reality is that my outward perception of women was really a reflection of how I related to myself and thus, I attracted women into my life who were also hurt, lost, and scared. This made it easy to blame them when things went south and then I moved on. When I realized that I could also be just as crazy, hell to live with, and impossible to understand, I opened myself up to real change. Because, as it turns out, we can all be pretty crazy, high-maintenance, and confused at times, and that’s okay. It’s my job to use my complaints to see into my own core issues.
Confession Three: I’m afraid to lose my Manliness.
***When I first started learning about this "explore my feelings business," I was intrigued yet, skeptical. I saw the masculine and the feminine as very separate and very different. The last thing I wanted to be was become a long-haired, wheatgrass-drinking, sensitive, tie-dye wearing hippy who bases his decisions off of the movement of the planets. NO! I will not! I did end up with long hair, though.
***There’s nothing wrong with any of the aforementioned, but the world needs manly men and I’m one of them! I can build things, hold my own in an argument, think logically, and I have the ability to protect myself and my family. Where is all that going to go if I start exploring my feminine side? I’ll lose respect. I’ll be easily offended. I’ll be soft. However, those are just stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. Maybe, they were helpful way back when, but they’re not helpful to me anymore. In many ways, I can see how I’ve gained respect by being transparent and by being more respectful of myself and others. My ego has been given a good gut punch and I’m probably less offended than I have ever been. And being soft?
***Yeah, I intend to use that newly discovered side of me to raise a child, be a supportive husband, and listen to people. So, I guess some of my fears did come true, but I’m not complaining.
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