They say that men are not interested in learning about relationships and that we are uninterested in self-development when it comes to matters of the heart. If that is true for you, it’s probably a good idea to stop reading now or else the rest of this column will give you the same sensation as eating sand. It is NOT true that men don’t want to learn how to have better relationships. In fact, I dare say that most men go into relationships being open to doing what they have to do within their power to keep the woman and the relationship happy.
I think that men do want to learn…just in a balanced narrative.
I meet so many great men who want to be great husband. I mean they really have great intentions, but then because of cultural, societal or environmental conditioning, they end up having a relationship or marriage filled with frustration and they turn into the very men they swore they wouldn’t become.
Now, all that said, the following information is for big boys only.
This is the follow up to the column “7 Ways Women Are Set up for Marriage Failure."
A few things before we get started:
A) As a man and as a husband, this is probably one of the toughest articles I have ever written because some of these points are staring me right in the face. But, I try to be more concerned about the success of my marriage than the maintenance of my ego. And, if you are a man reading this, that’s hopefully how you approach this, too.
B) I didn’t hold back for the ladies and most took it quite well and with an open mind. So fellas…we are going to have a candid conversation here. I will keep it 100 and won’t hold back because I know, hopefully, you checked all ego at the first line for the sake of your marital life.
C) This is not a short read. It’s a deep read. It’s the one you take the time to read because this area of your life matters to you. This is one of those reads that require you to think deeply about who you are as a man, what type of family you want to have and how much internal changing you are willing to go through to get it.
D) All your male and female friends – single and married – who are serious about having a good marriage should probably read this. If you ARE in a relationship, it will be a good subject of conversation that can actually deepen and grow your relationship
So, let’s go in. Here are 6 ways that men (even good ones) are set up for relationship and marriage frustration:
1) The notion of working hard at “GETTING the girl”:
Wait, what? How is this a set up for relationship or marriage frustration?
Well, the part about working hard to get a woman we want is not necessarily the bad part. It’s that we work hard in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons.
This set up is so sneaky.
There are a few ways that this sets us up:
a) The women who seem desirable seem “hard to get” …and many of the women who seem hard to get seem easy to get with material things.
So, instead of working hard to present his character as a man, instead of working hard to see her character as a woman, many men invest to impress her with things….the money…the nice dates, the nice restaurants, with his “potential,” his stability, his credit score …and so on.
Those things are fantastic but fellas…those things in themselves don’t tell you one single thing about her as a woman.
So, what happens is that we keep “”INVESTING”” and the more we “invest,” the more we seek a return on our investment BUT the problem is that:
- During dating, men don’t really express their needs and so their expectations and needs (the types of needs and the levels of intensity of those emotional/physical/spiritual/mental needs are ONLY in their heads. MEN!
- Most women don’t seek to know what these needs are but keep enjoying the investment of attention from men while putting him through her “vetting” process.
- Men then expect to cash in on needs that they never truly expressed to the woman.
It’s a catch 22. Because it’s understandable why a woman would have to make sure a guy is sure before she gives him access to her heart. It makes perfect sense.
The problem many men run into is telling the difference between the Rachel that is worth working for, and the Delilah that takes work but is not worth it.
That’s why it’s so important for a man to have his spiritual eyes wide open when it comes to this stuff.
I once heard of young man who was in love and went to see the parents of the girl he wanted to marry. They agreed but handed him a mountain of items he needed to bring for her bride price (dowry). He basically had to pay them back for raising her. He was working but he had to basically empty his savings just to be able to satisfy her family that he could hold his own.
A few months after they married, drowning in debt and financially stressed, having lost the standard of living he was used to, and still being looked down upon by her family (because they saw him struggle after the wedding), he came back late from work one day. He asked for dinner. She said she was tired. He beat her…hard.
He was wrong. What he did is not justifiable. The seeds of frustration, though, were planted long before the dinner request.
Pursuing the woman of his dreams should not feel like “work.” It should not feel like a deal his is trying to close at his job. It’s okay to feel like he made intentional sacrifices FOR her. But the harder a man feels he was forced to “work” for a woman who then doesn’t deliver on the expectations in his head, the more frustrated and trapped he will feel, and the more erratic he will be.
The man who has a good woman in his life and thinks he got her because of his money or things or expensive dates and gifts is a fool. IF…IF….IF you have a good woman, please be assured that your money and things didn’t get or buy her. She is a gift. We men become set up for frustration when we forget that.
The one that kills even good men out there is that.
b) Good Men always try to go above and beyond…and desperately need validation for their “extra credit work.” So, they do all these little things that they think their wives will like, and get crushed when they don’t get the validation and response they were hoping for.
Men…as leaders in the home, we have to get better at getting the feedback and validation for the good we do for our wives…from GOD not just from them.
Most women (many unintentionally) take that good behavior from their men for granted and don’t quickly reciprocate. Why? Well, women (including good ones) are socially raised to expect and receive good behavior from men – whether she is interested in him or not.
So, the door opening, paying attention to her, treating her like a queen…that’s something she has expected, gotten and continues to get from several men, including those she is not interested in. So, it takes a conscious effort for a woman to not take her man for granted.
Men, on the other hand, experience that “good treatment” only from a woman who is interested in him.
Women tend to have shorter emotional memories. Janet Jackson wasn’t playing. “What have you done for me LATELY?” is how it goes.
Men handle emotional memories very different from women. Do something great for a guy last year and he is still buying you gifts and feeling like he owes you one this year.
Capture the sun for a woman on Monday, and on Tuesday, she might remind you that the moon is up for grabs.
For men, it’s all about the density…for women; it’s all about the frequency. I digress.
By the way… the point about women having a short emotional memory is not entirely a bad thing. It can actually work as an advantage if you flip it. How? Well, it’s that same short term emotional memory that lets her forgive you for your foolishness on Monday and make love to you on Tuesday.
2) The submission drug
Leadership and respect are needs and roles that are innate to men and there is no need to apologize for that if you are a good man that is working every day to manage those roles and needs as best as you can.
a) We forget that submission is no easy task. What we ask of a woman is a tall order….to submit…in all things. (Especially when we don’t always have it figured out ourselves)
We men sometimes forget that a woman is NOT born with an inferior bone in her body. She is not born less than a man. We forget that when God created a woman and called her our helper, it didn’t mean that she was less than us. After all, not everyone that is a helper to you is inferior to you.
b) We are especially set up for frustration because we forget that, in a new marriage, the total submission from a woman may take a little while as she settles in to her new existence.
c) We demand respect and submission BACKWARDS.
God used a particular strategy to get us to submit to him. God, himself, even though he had every right to demand our submission, decided to do what he must to EARN our submission, and tells us men to follow that example.
But what do we men… (even “God-fearing men”) do? We decide we want ours backwards. We want her to submit first…to be lesser…. before she can deserve us.
We men ask the woman to submit first and then she is rewarded for her submission. Christ…the example we are to follow, proved his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, HE died for us. In other words, even GOD himself came down to die in the form of Jesus…to show his love, BEFORE he asked us to submit to him. He did what he had to do to EARN our submission.
It’s simple. Be a servant.
He tells us that: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” - Matthew 20:26–28
We men get set up for frustration when we demand submission without being WORTHY of that submission. This is especially true of us men who say we are Christians.
Just because God tells our wives to submit to us in all things does not abdicate us from the responsibility of working on BEING worthy of that submission.
Many men blur the lines by using submission as an excuse to lord ourselves over women. It’s the truth. Again, no need to apologize for this need we have. It’s innate.
What God is trying to tell us men is that even though we feel that submission is a right, what GIVES us that right is that we treat our wives as though we are trying to EARN that right.
In fact, the type of frustration a man will encounter in life if he abuses his wife’s submission, is not just physical…but spiritual.
(Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. - 1 Peter 3:7)
Did you catch that last part?
You know how you go to the doctor, and you get a drug or pill for your whatever condition you have and the doctor tells you to specifically and explicitly NOT to take the pill on an empty stomach?
Well, submission is the pill that meets this innate need we have, and treating our women in a way that makes it easier for them to do so, is the meal before the pill. When we demand submission without working to be worthy of it, we are like a patient that takes a powerful drug on an empty stomach. The pill that was supposed to make our body better now becomes toxic to it. The submission that is supposed to make our home better now becomes toxic to our home.
3) Fathers talk to sons about everything BUT women:
One thing the mothers seem to do a bit better job of is to tell their daughters about men. Even though the narrative is often negative towards men (in an attempt to build an emotional defensive wall around her), at least they have a conversation about men.
Father and sons, on the other hand? Money, career, politics, the economy…..even God has a better chance of making it into the conversation than women.
Tell me fellas…growing up as a teenager or as a young man, did your fathers pull you aside and have conversations about women, sex, how to understand women and so on? And, no, I am not talking about the occasional shaking of the head about “how women can’t drive” or “how women just want to take your money” or “how women are stubborn” or even the one that alludes to “the more women you have in the bag, the more of a man you are.” NO.
I am talking about healthy conversations that taught you about respecting a woman, the importance of picking the right woman, how to be patient with a woman, how to take care of a woman, how to get the best out of a woman, what God wants us men to do with women and so on?
If you ever had that, you were a lucky dog.
Even when they talk to sons, its mostly one-sided. Sex with her…warning against how a woman can destroy your destiny…how a woman can derail you and so on… but never about how a woman can build you up…can be a great helpmeet, how the right woman can help you realize your dreams, etc.
How many conversations have you had with your father where you walked away feeling respectful toward women or where you were looking forward to long years of marriage?
Now, is it true that a woman can utterly destroy you? Ha! Let’s not even start that conversation. BUT the conversation can’t be that one sided. There are amazing women out there whose husbands are…or would be lucky to have them. (Shout out to my amazing wife!)
Men are set up for relationship and marital frustration because fathers leave sons to think with only their **”head”** when they should be thinking with their HEAD and HEART.
For “mostly” right reasons, we put the burden of the family’s financial well-being in the hands of the man. No problem. The problem is that this financial-provision area is just about the only way we measure him and give him credit.
A woman can be a good home maker, highly involved in the children’s lives AND career woman and we credit all areas to her worth. A man juggles both his home/children and his money…and we say he is “struggling.” In other words, we acknowledge her multi-faceted nature. We see her impact in nurturing and home-making, we see her impact as a working woman, and we respect her for each of those areas. So much so that she has the flexibility of moving into any of those spaces.
For men, it’s a bit different. The only way many men get that acknowledgement is if he is successful financially and in his career. Any other arrangement and he is a failure. Any other value he is adding to the family is not really that acknowledged.
Let him take the paternity leave to raise his child and he is still a failure. Let him be the one in the park to play with the kids and he is a pedophile or a loser who should be at work instead.
While we celebrate women who cross gender roles, we look down on men who even remotely look like they may be thinking of attempting to consider the thought of mentally processing the possibility of crossing gender roles. And, by the way, that points to an even BIGGER issue …and that is:
“As a society, we don’t respect the role or process of home-making anymore. It is no wonder that women are jumping ship.”
In fact, from childhood, most boys (and girls) are convinced that men are only financial providers and cannot be caregivers. Even the court systems believe that a man is incapable of being responsible for a child. Just look at the custody battles out there.
We tell boys that they should NOT know how to take care of a home and yet there will be times when his pregnant, tired or overwhelmed wife needs him to be “Mr. Domesticated” at home.
My mum had just boys and I remember her having us do EVERYTHING at home…dishes, sweeping, bathroom-scrubbing and all. I hated it then but nothing scores me more points…more quickly…with my wife than domestic help.
So what does this have to do with marital frustration?
Well, if a man feels or is subconsciously told that his importance or his value is summed up as his net worth, then he will put that over everything else, including his family. He will not be comfortable with his wife making more money than him, he will not encourage her to be the best she can be. In fact, he will not give up that money or that career for anything for any reason. He will not seek to participate in the home, and especially if he is successful, try asking him to help change diapers and wash dishes and he is going to tell you “he has done his part.” See where this is going?
The other piece of this is POWER.
So many of us know the verse: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.”
Well, there is a notion out there that “Without money and power, it is impossible to please a woman.”
I am not even going to get into the possibility that many ladies reading this may say it’s not true but how many men reading this will attest that this is what their experience is out there dealing with women.
A man who goes into marriage with the notion (or doesn’t have a woman that helps him manage the notion) that he cannot please his wife or be respected by her unless he brings power, money or status to the table, will never be vulnerable to his wife. He will never share his fears or concerns with her…he will seek power over her and wear it like a badge of honor.
Let me end this with this point:
There is a notion that the things that make a man attractive enough for most women to give him the time of day, are OUTSIDE of himself. (What he has, what he does, what he drives, where he lives…etc.)
This is, of course, not always true…but if a man goes into marriage believing this, he won’t totally believe that his wife can be with him for WHO he is as opposed to WHAT he is or can be.
Men, don’t do that to yourselves. Really work on that INTERNAL confidence. Understand that your duty to provide for, manage and protect your family still stands, but money is not the totality of it. Work your tail off…but not at the expense of your soul.
5) When it comes to women, we are taught Volume over Weight:
The more women you get, the more of a man you are. The more women you can get to like you, the more of a man you are.
Now…this applies to women too, so it is not a “male” thing. We all want to feel like we are desirable. But, for the men, here is the truth.
It is bitter…it is raw and coming from one man to another, I admit it is easier said than done…but here it is:
The first type of man is like a beach shell collector. The other…is like a petroleum refinery.
It’s so easy to appeal to a woman when they don’t know how nasty you are when you are upset, how inconsiderate you are as a partner, how insecure you are about your biceps, how you make less money than you look like, how much you have failed in the past, how loud you snore, how selfish you are and so on.
There is no strength in a man “getting” many women to fall for him as he reveals convenient bits and pieces of himself to them. The TRUE strength and work comes when he can get ONE woman to love him EVERYDAY as he reveals ALL of himself to her.
It so easy to “get” women when you present the part of yourself that is “well packaged.”
When you are married to a woman for 3 years..7 years…20 years and she still wakes up to thank God that it was you…now THAT’S where the trophy is….that’s where the man card is.
How does it apply to men’s frustration in marriage? Well, many of us spend the majority of our pre-married adult lives trying to “get” girls or even “THE” girl…BUT THEN….we succeed and soon realize that we have to win her constantly…that “working to GET the girl” never truly ends…it just turns into “working to KEEP the girl.”
The set-up for frustration comes when we men forget that what it took to “GET her to marry us” might be different from what it will take to “KEEP the girl happy with us.”
6) Limited permission for expression:
This can break up your home or relationship. It’s that serious.
Men are conditioned to suppress their feelings….and it starts from the “boys don’t cry” training.
The problem is that there are a thousand emotions between punching a wall (aggression) and weeping…and what we do to men is that once a negative emotion is expressed, we associate it with the extreme version of that emotion.
He raises his voice and we think he is going to shoot everyone next. He sheds a tear and we think he is weak.
Expressing emotion caused by pain or hurt is either aggression or weakness. No in-between.
Not just that, since the beginning of time till now, men are more severely punished or expressing THE SAME emotion in THE SAME way as women…. and it’s not just that…it’s also how disproportionate the punishment is.
So, men either just don’t express pain/hurt to their wives OR they express to other women OR they suppress what they feel (and STILL end up exploding 2 weeks later).
Women have social and emotional permission to express the total range of their emotions and men do not. A woman can get very angry and hit her man with a pot and society says, “She was clearly upset…what did HE do?” A man as much as throws a spoon AT THE WALL and it’s “He is a wife beater and she is next.” (i.e Solange Knowles (Beyoncé’s sister) literally attacking and beating on Jay Z. My jaw was on the floor. I have to say that I was pretty impressed with how Jay Z handled things.)
One day…if I drink a whole case of Red Bull, I might summon the juice to write about domestic violence against men with women as the aggressors.
- A woman can share with her man that she is not comfortable with how he is relating with other women (regardless of how unfounded it is) and it’s “He is so disrespectful…watch him.” A man shares with his woman that he is not comfortable with how she is relating with other men, and it’s “Why is he acting like a little sissy? He is weak and secure.”
- A woman can share with her man that he is not spending enough time at home and is putting his career before the family and it’s “Go girl, good, you told him…he is probably cheating too.” A man shares with his wife that he needs her to be home more and that she is putting her career before the family and it’s “Leave him. He is controlling and trying to hold you back!”
So, what do men do? We shut down…we suppress…we internalize…we grit our teeth…because it’s the lesser of two evils. The other option of sharing how we really feel is either going to be considered aggressive or maybe make us look like weak sissies….but nothing in between. This obviously is not true but this is how a lot of us men are conditioned to think.
What we men (and our women) should keep in mind is that the emotions we men suppress are not GONE. They will come out somehow. They will show up in road rage, they will show up in our disposition towards our women, they will make us more susceptible to the tongue of shameless and adulterous women out there, they will make us disconnected fathers, they will make us more aggressive and volatile and unchecked, those suppressed emotions will frustrate us enough to do something stupid.
Tobi Atte is a certified Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner, motivational speaker and the writer behind IJustMetMe, a lifestyle website for young adults who need a good dose of daily inspiration to tackle tough life issues. Tobi is also the author of the new book How to Make Sure Your Values are Aligned: A Guide to Avoiding Relationship Frustration. For more on relationships, motivation, fresh perspectives on faith, personal improvement and more, read/learn more at www.ijustmetme.com, watch him on YouTube HERE and download his free e-book HERE.