How would you go about attaining good health?
Chances are you’d consider diet, exercise, not smoking, meditation, and rest and relaxation. I couldn’t agree more!
But in a holistic view of health, and considering the overwhelming evidence of the mind-body connection, I’d have to add relationships to that list. As most of you know, when you’re unhappy in a relationship, personal or professional, your body is unhappy, as well.
They may appear as headaches, intestinal issues, fatigue, or a whole host of other physical symptoms, but the consequences of an unhappy relationship go much deeper, and can have devastating long-term results.
Many of you have witnessed or experienced the debilitating effects of loneliness, prolonged conflict or arguing, depression, divorce, or litigation. The physical impact is oftentimes immediate.
Having coached men for years, I’ve seen the toll poor relationships can have on men, women, kids, businesses, and communities. In fact, if you follow the news, you, too, are aware of the negative impact that unhealthy, unhappy, and destructive relationships have on our families, neighborhoods, and communities. Domestic violence. Substance abuse. Gangs. Divorce. And worse.
Over those same years, I’ve seen the amazing turnaround that can happen when men address their relationship challenges, accept responsibility, learn new skills, make commitments to be better men, fathers, and husbands, and learn to be held accountable by a circle of men.
The first step is asking for help.
More often than not, men come to this work after being clobbered, either with divorce or the threat of divorce, kids disowning them, run-ins with authorities, or watching their businesses deteriorate for lack of committed leadership. Whatever the situation, these men have either hit or have come close to hitting bottom.
Then there are the lucky men whose wives care so much about them, and their relationships, that they reach out themselves to find a way to get their men the support they need. Our women are usually way ahead of us in that they see, feel, and experience their men struggling with marriages, businesses, parents, children, and themselves.
Themselves. That’s usually the culprit. When we figure out what’s going on for us as men, it becomes possible to solve what once seemed to be intractable problems.
So what does help look like?
Sometimes it begins with a book, like mine, “Hold On to Your N.U.T.s—The Relationship Manual for Men.” (N.U.T.s stands for non-negotiable, unalterable terms.) Reading something that speaks directly to men and their relationships can often open up a man to the potential for change. When he reads about himself and his own issues, and realizes he’s not alone, he can break through his resistance to receiving support.
The obstacle is shame. It prevents many men from opening up and taking action. But when men do take that step, their options reveal themselves, hope is restored, and change actually can take place.
When I work with men, the support begins with individual coaching where we very quickly identify the problem. Now, this isn’t necessarily the complaint he walked in with—that’s often about her. It’s usually NEVER about her. It’s about him, how he’s dealing with his feelings and how he’s choosing—though usually unconsciously—to act on those feelings. He quickly hears the truth, and we move on from there.
Men have often lived with decades of resentment, anger, pain, and sadness. There are many men, who haven’t shown any emotion besides anger for years, who find themselves grieving before their first coaching session is over. They’re finally in a place where they feel the permission and safety to be real, to take off the mask, and to be vulnerable with another man. Usually, it’s a totally involuntary response. The men just can’t keep it in anymore. And it’s beautiful. Now the real work can begin.
To be the best man you can be you have to be in the company of other men. Women, no matter how loving and insightful, cannot teach men to be the best men they can be. Though women can share much wisdom with their men and sons, it takes masculine energy, examples, and wisdom to guide men into manhood. And even if you or a man in your life is middle aged and still acting like a boy, the power of the men—and a well-placed men’s retreat—can initiate that big boy into manhood.
You’re never too old to grow up, and it’s always a good time to be the healthiest man, husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, employee, or employer you can be.