Men are in a great deal of pain.
As a life coach and men’s group facilitator, I’ve seen the pain men experience in all of its myriad forms. Some men have unresolved childhood issues or have experienced trauma, others have abused substances, battled depression or have challenging relationships. Others are simply overwhelmed by the stress of providing for a family or trying to be a “good” man.
I’ve come to discover that in all of these circumstances, men seldom ask for help, and turn, rather, to self-medication and other ways to avoid their issues. The problem is that the problems don’t go away. What gets repressed gets expressed, eventually, and usually in destructive ways.
There are healthy ways, however, for men to deal with pain. Namely, by developing trusting relationships with other men.
I’ve seen the obstacles men face in developing trusting relationships with men. These obstacles come in all shapes and sizes, but what they have in common is their power to keep men stuck … right where they are. The key to getting unstuck — to becoming a better man, father, husband and leader — is to find a way through these obstacles by opening up to and fully trusting the men in your circle.
Why is developing these trusting relationships so important? Simply put, to become the best men we can be, we need to be in the company of other men. Many men feel far more comfortable in the company of women. That’s to be expected in our feminized culture. Most men from the last couple of generations were raised by women while their fathers were barely present. These boys didn’t receive their fair share of masculine modeling, guidance and nurturing. It stands to reason, then, that these men would feel more comfortable sharing their feelings, time and trust with women.
Women can teach us many things, but they cannot teach us to be the best men we can be. For that, we require other men — fathers and mentors — as we confront our doubts, fears and limitations as men, coupled with the challenges of long-term relationships, career choices, child rearing, mid-life, addictions, fidelity and mortality.
Men who have continued to rely on their female significant others as their sole source of guidance — their only sounding board — have seen their long-term relationships deteriorate. These men are asking too much of the women they love.
Those who have chosen to deal with these challenges alone have, more often than not, found themselves on the losing end of their own counsel. But those of us who have been fortunate enough to have strong male relationships have received the guidance, butt-kicking, love and mentoring needed to navigate the treacherous waters of our life.
I’ve seen the most unhappy, isolated and despondent men rediscover with their emotional worlds, connect for the first time with other men and develop strong bonds that have served them as they’ve continued to make changes in their lives.
These courageous men have revealed themselves to other men and invited them into their lives. They’ve learned to ask for help to become better fathers and husbands. They’ve owned up to their own fears and doubt, making it safe for others to do the same. And as they’ve come to know each other and help each other, the distance between them has diminished.
Change Your Life
How can you begin to develop trusting relationships with other men? Here are few suggestions to start with:
- Tell the truth to your friend.
- Ask your brother for help.
- Thank your dad for doing his best.
- Invite friends over for a good talk, rather than too many beers.
- Work with a male counselor to discover your masculine power.
- Join a men’s group.
- Start a men’s group.
- Read books about male psychology and get to know yourself.
- Replace old girlfriends with new male friends.
- Risk looking like a fool.
- Tell someone you’re sorry for having been such an idiot.
- Be vulnerable and let someone you care about know that you want and need to be closer.
- Be a man others look up to and trust.
We don’t live in a society that honors relationships between men. In fact, our current culture doesn’t care too much about its males at all. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take care of yourself and develop trusting relationships with a few good men.
Rather than feeling all alone when a relationship has hit a speed bump, a business transaction has turned bad, or a child has become impossibly defiant, you’ll have somewhere to turn, a man to call and an opportunity to get the help you need to turn things around, sometimes very quickly. Though it may sound a bit dramatic, this kind of support is literally life changing.
You have a choice. Sit in your pain or reach out to the men for help. What choice are you going to make?