Note: I am referring to heterosexual cisgendered couples in this article because that’s where my experience lies. Not exclusively or on purpose, but so far that’s just who comes to my door.
After people read my article, Portrait Of A Marriage. (Yes, It’s Mine.), a good number of them reach out to me and ask if I work with couples.
For a while, because I wanted to help, I said “yes”.
But very quickly I realized that the best way I could support a couple was to work with the male partner.
It’s a wonderful and necessary thing when men realize they are suffering from abandonment and attachment wounds, and that patriarchy is a real thing that sucks for both men and women.
It’s so critical for men to have support and guidance and empathy as they learn to feel and process at deeper levels.
It’s important that they learn how to feel, self-regulate, self-soothe, and create safe and secure bonds with others. These are the skills of human relationships and community that everyone needs and few people truly have. But men are particularly discouraged from having them and are systematically conditioned against them.
The bottom line is, there aren’t many places in the world where a man can be vulnerable. And very often, being vulnerable with his partner does not feel like an option.
It’s not just that it’s uncomfortable for many men, but also because whatever he shares in a vulnerable moment may, consciously or unconsciously, be weaponized against him.
A lot of woman claim they want their man to feel and emote more. But many women do weaponize patriarchy against men who are stepping out of line (ie: men wanting emotional mutuality and reciprocity instead of presenting a reserved stoicism). After all, women were raised in the patriarchy, too. Many women have the same conditioning towards preference of the “strong male with a stiff upper lip” archetype.
That said, what I also notice time and time again, is that many men do not have any real friends.
Like, true friends they would talk to about feeling abandoned, or feeling lost, or feeling small inside, or yearning for connection, or confusion, or remorse, regret, grief.
They may have friends, even friends they call their “best” friends, that they hang out with and have deep conversations with sometimes.
Friends that if they were in an emotional crisis or pit of despair, they feel they probably could call if they had to, but they just…wouldn’t.
So their entire emotional life is held by their female partner.
Which is less than awesome for her.
So now he’s waking up to patriarchy and how emotionally repressed he has been, and how his abandonment wound has been left unattended since childhood and is playing out in his marriage, but everything he might want to do to heal is shunned by the patriarchy…
But it’s quite reasonably really fucking triggering and exhausting for the female partner because she’s been living the struggle her entire life and very likely really, really not being heard by or empathized with by her male partner. For years.
He has to learn to access more emotional resources than just his partner. I help him with that. And that helps the partnership.
The first thing I ask of any man who’d like to work with me on relationship issues is to read The Will To Change: Man, Masculinity, and Love, by bell hooks.
Then he and I can get to work.